Senior citizens in Israel stuck in their homes by the Covid-19 epidemic are taking advantage of an online course on how to use smartphones to overcome social isolation.
Three technology innovators set up the free lessons, which begin by explaining how the WhatsApp video and Zoom video-conferencing apps can help keep in touch with families and friends all over the world, The Times of Israel news site reports.
Two of the course founders - Gabi Arnovitz and Uriel Shuraki - were already running classes in person on smartphone use for the elderly in and around Jerusalem when Covid-19 hit, then Uriel's cousin David Suraqui joined them to devise the online course, which Gabi narrates.
All three work from home to post five video lessons a week to YouTube, each lasting three to seven minutes, and accessible via WhatsApp.
'A whole curriculum'
The clips show a phone screen and a moving cursor, while Gabi explains exactly what he is doing to install and operate apps. The initiative has already met with considerable success, as more than a thousand people have signed up for the course in a fortnight.
Many of the early joiners were from the Jerusalem area, but as news of the course spread people started signing up from Dimona in the south to Haifa in the north.
"We have a whole curriculum, from WhatsApp and Facebook to Google Drive - we already have four WhatsApp groups, and we keep opening more," Gabi Arnovitz told The Times of Israel.
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As to whether the remote lessons work, the team says they tried a test by sending out two Zoom invitations to use the application.
A total of 75 people joined up on the first invitation, and another 90 on the second.
"We talked and it was incredible!" said Gabi, adding that many of the pensioners plan to see each other in person once the lockdown ends: "This is creating a community - people are saying they'd like to meet when they finish."
The course is only available in Hebrew at present, but there are plans to launch an English-language version soon.
Reporting by Martin Morgan
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