A man practices using a digital kiosk during an education program on the use of digital devices for elderly people at a senior center in Eunpyeong District, Seoul, in this March 22 photo. Korea Times photo by Park Seo-kang
By Bahk Eun-ji
When Lee Sun-hwa, 68, who lives in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, recently took her grandson to his favorite curry restaurant, she was embarrassed when a clerk hurriedly came to her with a bill.
This was because Lee, who was not familiar with using a digital kiosk, ordered 14 dishes by mistakenly pushing different buttons on the screen.
Fortunately, the clerk at the restaurant noticed something wrong and helped her cancel the order, and she was able to buy food for just two people. But what happened at the restaurant has made her reluctant to go to others that only have “self-service” machines.
“Until the clerk came to me and checked my order, I didn’t notice I made a mistake because the tiny letters on the menu and numbers were so difficult to read for someone like me with poor eyesight,” Lee said.
Lee said she knew it was nothing to be ashamed of, but still felt self-conscious and out of touch.
“Kiosks are so complicated to use, and they’re all different at each shop. But now almost all restaurants and stores have them.”
Lee is not the only elderly person who has had a hard time getting used to the automated equipment.
Kim So-ra, 29, living in Jongno District in Seoul, recently noticed her grandfather, who lives next door, rarely going outside during the day.
“My grandfather used to go for walks and drink a cup of coffee at a fast food restaurant on his way back home almost every day, but one day he stopped doing that and I asked him why. His answer almost made me cry,” she said.
Kim said her grandfather stopped going to the fast food restaurant, because it began to take orders from automated kiosks that only accepted credit or debit card payments.
A participant of an education course on using digital devices takes notes on how to use smartphones at a senior citizens center in Eunpyeong District, Seoul, in this March 18 photo. Korea Times photo by Park Seo-kang
“He never carries a credit card, and only uses cash. He said he just can’t get accustomed to using the machine and reading the small letters on the screen, and it kind of hurts his pride. So he gave up and decided not to go there.”
The number of eateries and shops installing such automated kiosks has been rising rapidly in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, in order to reduce contact between people. But such changes are leaving many elderly people like Lee and Kim’s grandfathers feeling left behind.
In order to bridge the digital divide for senior citizens, the government has decided to run educational programs for the elderly on how to use automated devices.
Last month, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae held a meeting with the heads of relevant ministries to discuss ways to help the elderly participate in social activities in a society replete with digital technology.
The ministry plans to offer lessons on how to use digital devices that are becoming more commonly used in daily lives. The educational programs will be available at district offices, community centers and regional cultural centers.
Participants can learn how to operate tablet PCs and smartphones, and how to use mobile apps in their daily lives, such as mobile banking, train ticket reservations, and online shopping.
Media literacy education will also be provided to prevent senior citizens to prevent them from being misled by fake news or being scammed by internet criminals.