The internet and social media are changing how today’s seniors are commemorating the Lenten season. While some are using it to document their Holy Week experience, others prefer to ‘fast’ from it. This Holy Week, seniors like Buena Umali of Magdalena, Laguna are also turning to Facebook and Messenger, this time to update friends and family about activities in their area.

“Every year here in Magdalena, we hold the ‘pabasa’ every Friday before Palm Sunday, and we already went on Visita Iglesia last month,” she said.

In fact, Buena and her fellow seniors shared a video of their Visita Iglesia in Rizal. Uploaded on Facebook, it showed their group of seniors walking hand-in-hand, praying inside the Antipolo and Taytay church and participating in the Stations of the Cross.

The video was a mix of both light and serious moments, with smiling seniors posing by the scenery outside the church, before turning more solemn when it was time for prayer.

“I am thankful that I now know how to use social media, and that I am able to share all of this with my friends and family, using my smartphone,” added Buena.

Virtual Catholic community

For fellow Magdalena senior Lita Rubina, Facebook is an opportunity for Catholic communities all over to come together and commemorate Holy Week.

“With Facebook, I am able to see how other Catholic communities in other places in the Philippines mark Holy Week,” she said. “I view it as an opportunity to show how strong our faith is in God by showing our participation in Visita Iglesia and visiting different churches in different provinces, for example.”

For her, social media does not change the message at the heart of the season: “Commemorating Holy Week means remembering how Christ suffered for us and our sins,” she said. “Facebook is just another channel where we could show our devotion.”

Facebook fasting

But for seniors like Amparo Catina of Marikina City, devotees can also mark Holy Week by not going on Facebook: “Like we do when we fast and lessen food intake during Holy Week, we can also do this with our other habits, like shopping or social media,” she said. “Discipline can be next to charity toward the sick, needy, abandoned and elderly,” she added.

Buena, Lita and Amparo are among the graduates of the Smart Millenniors sessions held in Magdalena and Marikina this year. The program, spearheaded by PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, enlists the help of youth volunteers in teaching senior citizens about technology, particularly how to use their smartphones, mobile data, social media and video to enrich their lives.

“The Smart Millenniors program is part of Smart’s thrust to make the Internet accessible to all, especially our seniors,” said Ramon Isberto, PLDT-Smart Public Affairs head. “Our seniors have so much to share to the world, and by empowering them with the skills they need to participate in social media, we are making sure that their voices are continually heard and that they are not left behind.”

For its efforts in expanding the technological know-how of seniors across the country, the Smart Millenniors program was recently awarded a Silver Anvil at the recent 54th Anvil Awards. Since its launch in 2017, it has already conducted sessions with seniors around Metro Manila, Laguna, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.

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