Feature: Jerusalem Municipality remotely trains elderly for digital world amid COVID-19 lockdown

Xinhua News Agency | Sep 15, 2020 at 6:13 PM

by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Yaakov Abergil, a senior Israeli citizen who retired just weeks ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, has learned to use internet and mobile applications under the remote guidance of the Jerusalem Municipality during the long period of lockdown that isolated him from his five children and 13 grandchildren.

"In the beginning, the coronavirus outbreak made it very difficult for me ... But suddenly I was exposed to society and got to talk to my grandchildren and my children. I was connected to the world," Abergil told Xinhua, referring to the municipality's plan to train the elderly for the digital world.

At the beginning of the lockdown in March, the Jerusalem Municipality made more than 40,000 phone calls, mapped the needs of those who wanted technical assistance, and started to teach them how to use mobile software such as email through a call center.

"During this period when everything is so dramatic, especially for the elderly, a solution like this (brings) a change here," said Avi Mulian, head of community services at the Jerusalem Municipality.

As the senior citizens get more experience, the center offers webinars to teach them more advanced skills, said Mulian, adding the Municipality tries to divide the participants of the webinars according to geographic proximity in order to foster ties between neighbors.

"We bring them from zero knowledge, from being disconnected from the world ... to having contact with the world," said Jasmin Perez, who runs the call center.

Meanwhile, the younger instructors also feel a sense of fulfillment in guiding the elderly, some of them even aged over 90, through the digital world.

"Bonds are created here between our younger instructors and the older people (who) tell them about their lives, their history and what they know. And our guys, they feel lucky to be exposed to such pieces of history," said Perez, noting the call center will be manned at least until the end of 2020.

As part of the National Digital Israel Initiative, the Jerusalem Municipality is the first in the country to establish a call center that offers different levels of service to citizens in need. Such move is expected to start in other cities in the near future.