How technology is helping elderly Saudis reach out

A growing number of the Kingdom’s elderly are embracing technology

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A large number of grandparents in Saudi Arabia often find themselves alone even when they are surrounded by family members.

When younger members of the family are so engrossed with their smartphones that they rarely pay attention at family gatherings or bother to interact with others, grandparents find themselves in an increasingly shrinking pool of people who still prefer the traditional mode of face-to-face human interaction.


Al-Riyadh daily reports on how a growing number of the Kingdom’s elderly are embracing technology and trying to catch up with the times.

Al-Jawhrah Al-Omairi works in the private sector and while she supports the elderly in their drive to embrace technology, she criticized its misuse.

“It is a beautiful thing to see elderly women compete over who has the latest cell phone. The downside is that most use them to engage in idle chitchat.

Today, our grandmothers make voice and video calls to gossip about neighbors or other relatives. It’s wrong to use technology in this way.

The voice and video features are good for mothers whose sons or daughters are away in another country. Such features help mothers keep in touch with and see their children,” Al-Omairi said.

Omniah Al-Harbi, a high school student, said she noticed that her grandmother gets bored at family gatherings because the topic of conversation is often about cell phones or iPads.

When Al-Harbi suggested that everyone in the family pool money together and buy their grandmother the latest smart phone, everyone laughed at her.

“They thought that my grandmother wouldn’t be able to learn how to use such advanced devices because she is illiterate,” she said.

Undeterred, Al-Harbi got her grandmother a new cell phone, downloaded WhatsApp, the popular instant messaging app, and taught her how to send voice messages.

No cell phones

College student Al-Hanouf Saad said her grandmother is very strict about the use of cell phones at family gatherings.

“In my grandmother’s house, no one can use the cell phone during our gatherings. She doesn’t allow it.

Family members spend their time talking to one another without even looking at or checking their cell phones for any missed calls or unread messages,” Saad said, while adding that her grandmother refuses to learn how to make video calls or use popular messaging apps.

Latifah Al-Hamad, a family counselor, said most children today are hooked to using modern devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

The older generation, however, feel lonely and alienated. “Some grandmothers have given up on learning how to use these devices while others decided to take a step into this world and keep up with the latest developments.

Many grandmothers who entered this world are enjoying their time watching videos and killing boredom. Most of all, they are happy because they can stay in touch and keep up with their grandchildren,” she said.

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