“One of my students is a 69-year-old civil engineer. A chirpy, happy-go-lucky person, I took a class for him at The Social Paathshala to learn how to order food online. His wife loves pizza and he wanted to be able to order some in for her. He took the class particularly to learn how to order food online for his wife.”
Mahima Bhalotia has many such stories about her students at The Social Paathshala. From octogenarians who want to learn how to take pictures on their phones to those who are wary of making payments online; The Social Paathshala educates the elderly about technology and demystifies the world of the Internet for them.
Mahima asserted on the importance and necessity of digital education for the elderly when she said, “Digital empowerment, if not undertaken, can disconnect you from the rest of the world. It’s like a DIY project, unless you Do It Yourself, you will never fully know the world advantages it opens you up to.”
Apart from educating the elderly at The Social Paathshala, Mahima is often an ally and a friend to them. Especially during the pandemic, when a lot of elderly folks were separated from their families, children and grandchildren and found themselves at home by themselves, these classes allowed them a platform to engage and socialise virtually.
The fun, interactive sessions at The Social Paathshala aid in building connections, just as much they help with digital education. With classes that start at as low as INR 99, The Social Paathshala is accessible to many. With both online and offline formats, each class runs for nearly 1.5 hours, every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday, with the option for individual classes also available.
Apart from imparting knowledge about tech, these classes at The Social Paathshala are rife with life lessons, for Mahima included. “One of my favourite and most sincere students is Mr Jagpal Singh, a 75-year-old Sikh man from Kolkata. I look up to him because he has only one belief in life – live life as if there were no tomorrow. He attends all my sessions diligently and encourages everyone in his club to attend, as well. As a part of The Social Paathshala, I conduct a weekly Instagram live with my students and other senior citizen influencers. Jagpal uncle did not know how to operate Instagram until the day he took a class with us and now he often goes LIVE on Instagram and enjoys it. This is the most beautiful part of these classes – often learning from those I teach.”
With over 50 sessions conducted and 120 students taught, these classes at The Social Paathshala have done immense good for the elderly. Here is Dr Sushila Shah, speaking of her experience with the classes and how they have helped her be more technologically independent.
A lot of students at these classes attend to gain basic digital independence or to be able to do things more easily for their loves ones, but apart from this, these classes also make them aware of online safety and how to protect oneself digitally, especially when it comes to finances.
By equipping the elderly with the digital tools they need to engage in a technology-driven age, The Social Paathshala allows them to access spaces that would otherwise be inaccessible to them and it allows them to participate confidently in our tech-forward world.
Digital illiteracy in our times, especially with the pandemic forcing us to stay put indoors, is an insurmountable barrier. As our worlds get smaller and smaller, and more and more of it takes place online, the elderly being unaware about tech-use and digital tools leaves them behind; and often isolated because they are unconnected, and The Social Paathshala is changing that – not just by providing digital education to a whole generation, but digital empowerment.