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Seniors prove WeChat is not just for young

Updated: 2015-04-02 07:44
By Cao Yin and Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

Zhang Yunmei's family members did not return home for Spring Festival, but she says the celebration was still full of love thanks to WeChat.

"I knew my son and granddaughter had a wonderful holiday in Singapore because of WeChat, I was moved when I watched the videos and photos they sent me," said Zhang, 52, who is retired and lives in Hebei province. She formerly ran small businesses in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital.

She uses WeChat, the country's most popular instant messaging tool, to keep in touch with her son, who lives in another city in the province.

"I like to send him voice messages because it's cheap and convenient," she said. "I also use the Moments feature to share pictures and text with friends."

Zhang is not alone, as many members of her generation are demonstrating. According to a new survey, nearly 70 percent of people aged over 50 in cities surf the Internet, and more than 25 percent regard the Web as their major source of information.

The survey was conducted by Horizonkey, a Beijing-based consultancy company. The researchers found that 67.2 percent of more than 1,300 participants aged over 50 use the Internet, spending almost three hours a day online on average.

"More older people would like to embrace the Internet, and the number of users is rising," said Wang You, the executive responsible for the survey. "They use it to obtain information and contact their children

"The Internet has also become an entertainment platform for retired people, who listen to music and watch videos online."

China has 177 million residents aged over 60, about 13.2 percent of the total population, according to the country's sixth census.

Horizonkey carried out a second survey among 1,125 retired people in seven cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang in Liaoning province. The researchers found that 57.4 percent of them did not make new friends in the six months after retirement.

"But in fact they wanted to learn new things and catch up with the pace of development in society," Wang added.

Zhang Kaiti, director of the China Research Center on Aging, said the Internet meets the needs of older people who wish to feel relevant in the modern world.

Services such as WeChat and microblogging platforms help them to keep in touch more effectively than traditional methods, Zhang said, and their use is spreading from the cities to rural areas.

"Older people in villages are concerned about their quality of life," he added.

However, Liu Yurong, 69, who lives in Beijing's Dongcheng district, said she does not use services such as WeChat "because it's too complicated to learn".

"I prefer to call my children directly instead of typing words on the phone, as the buttons on the screen are too small to see clearly," she said.

Zhang said he understands this point of view, and added: "Some older people think the Internet will bring them trouble, such as fraud and attempts to obtain confidential information.

"Authorities should introduce policies to help and guide them when they surf the Internet."

Contact the writers at caoyin@chinadaily.com.cn and zhengjinran@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 04/02/2015 page5)

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