Noah gears seniors for digital age

Cecil Barendse works as switchboard operator at Noah’s Woodstock office.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Older Persons, on October 1, was “digital equity for all ages”, and an organisation in Woodstock says it is putting those words into action for senior citizens.

The Neighbourhood Old Age Homes (NOAH) was established in 1981 by Catholic Welfare and Development, in response to the need for safe, affordable accommodation for the elderly poor.

Jane Mills, Noah’s social enterprise development manager, says the organisation has also long championed for the seniors living in the organisation’s homes and working in its social enterprises, to be digitally savvy.

“We look at the demand and need from our members who stay in our homes. We embark on digital-literacy training workshops from occupational therapy students.”

The homes have laptops and seniors have learned how to do video-conferencing calls, she says.

“We encouraged our houses to buy enough data packages to ensure that our seniors are able to do WhatsApp messaging on their smartphones.”

Cecil Barendse, 68, formerly from Kensington, is a Noah resident and a switchboard operator at the Woodstock office. “I have been working on their switchboard for two years and Noah gave me training,” he says.

He was already computer literate, he says, because he worked as a manager in retail for 30 years.

Mr Barendse says it is a great idea for Noah to give residents training so they can work for the organisation during their stay.

Noah resident Doreen Stoltenkamp, 74, is a cashier at Noah’s Selling Seconds store and uses a touch-system point-of-sales machine. “For me, it was easy to learn working on the system as Noah helped me, and I am naturally a fast learner.”

Previously, they had to write out the receipts for cash payments, she says. “It’s very rewarding working in this store, as you meet and interact with a lot of people on a daily basis.”

Ms Mills says it is important that seniors are digitally savvy as this is where the world is going. “It doesn’t mean because you are over 60 and reliant on a social grant that you should be excluded from economic and work opportunities.”

Visit or call 021 447 6334 to learn more about Noah.

Doreen Stoltenkamp works as cashier at NOAH’s Selling Seconds store.