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The irony of seniors ‘playing around with’ social media



The irony of seniors 'playing around with' social media

An old person uses a smartphone. Photo by Shutterstock/mrmohock.

When it comes to social networks, aging women and men with more free time but less IT skills than youngsters, tend to be more vulnerable to virtual “accidents.”

In 2019, Nguyen Cong Thanh, 58, in Central Highlands Dak Lak Province, after returning from a trip with his former high school friends, made up his mind to spend VND4 million ($172) from his coffee crop earnings on a smartphone. He had his daughter install social networking apps and registered for several accounts.

“I have made friends with people of all ages. There are people I haven’t been in touch with in decades, since my childhood. I got to reconnect with them,” he beamed.

Thanh’s life has since seen some drastic changes. In particular, he started grooming himself more often after getting hooked on selfies.

He likes and comments on all his children and grandchildren’s status updates. He gets to see how his grandson is faring in Japan, if he is happy or not. If he misses him, all he has to do is make a video call without having to rely on anyone, Thanh’s 30-year-old daughter Thanh Giang maintained.

One night, he suddenly woke up to tell everybody in the house: “Hey guys, look, (comedian) Hoai Linh talked to me!”

Thanh has followed many of his favorite singers and actors whom he had previously only “met” on TV. Now, with everyone using social media, dropping someone a line is child’s play. Thanks to social networking sites, he has even created his own social circle based on shared interests and hobbies. Thanh could go on forever about cultivating bonsai trees in one group before jumping to another to discuss optimal pH levels for aquariums.

A survey by Pennsylvania State University of the U.S. shows seniors, from 60 to 86, have the habit of using social media like the young, mostly to reconnect with old time friends and those with shared interests. They also like to keep track of beloved ones. Thanh is one of many elderly Vietnamese to find amusement via social media.

According to statistics from the British marketing and advertising agency We Are Social, in 2019, over-45s were the biggest demographic of social media users in Vietnam. This group has increased up to 60 percent this year. A report from Vietnam Digital Advertising 2019 also reveals Vietnamese spend on average six hours and 42 minutes online daily.

Family members do not keep track of Thanh’s time dedicated to social apps but his devotion to the virtual world has been troublesome at times.

Thanh no longer looks forward to playing with his toddler grandchild or taking the elder one to school. His eyes are glued to his phone even when he has guests over. The account bearing username Nguyen Cong Thanh posts at least 5-6 times per day. Posts could include a selfie in front of a coffee farm, a blooming flower in front of a house, or a chicken coop.

“Sometimes he did not even notice the kid was crying out loud because he was busy thinking up attention-grabbing content,” Thanh’s daughter lamented.

There was this one time Thanh had seen a photograph of five brothers uploaded by the eldest. However, the three brothers were all tagged except for him. He thought he was looked down upon as the uneducated, far-flung black sheep of the family while they were all officials.

In bitter resentment, he commented: “I guess this ‘Thanh’ already died then.” After the incident, he did not take any calls from his family.

“Your uncle despises me. He did not tag me in the photo, nor think of me as a brother. From now on, I will cut myself out of their lives so they won’t feel humiliated,” Thanh Giang recalled him saying.

It turned out that unlike his brothers, auto-tagging did not work for Thanh only because he was a new “Facebooker”. The eldest was as new to the process as Thanh and could not tag Thanh in the photo. After an explanation, Thanh finally agreed to make up with his brothers.

Parents encountering “accidents” on social platforms is something Phuong Thu is used to but what really worries her is that her mother, Hoang Hong Ha, in northern midland Phu Tho Province could unwittingly fall victim to scams and fake news.

As a social network user, Hong Ha developed a sudden addiction to shopping and watching commercial live stream videos. With plenty of products available at a mere click, she could buy nearly anything from pot plants to clothing and footwear, with quality “not guaranteed.”

The other day, Phuong woke up to see her mother crying in desperation. She had ordered more than 10 lily bulbs and already transferred a deposit of VND100,000 ($4.3) but had still not received the shipment. Familiar with such scams, she texted the shop owner later only to be bombarded with insults.

“I was up all night being angry and arguing with her,” a frustrated Hong Ha told her daughter.

At the beginning of this year, she and her social circle became propagators for “eating hard-boiled eggs at midnight to fight Covid-19.” Hong Ha did not only share the information but make sure her cousins and children also knew about it by telling everyone to eat eggs to counter the pandemic. Her daughter, Phuong Thu, was unable to sleep that night because people kept calling her to ask if her mother was mentally sound.

“The elderly are addicted to their phones mostly because of biological, psychological and social factors. Social network abuse might be a sign of loneliness,” Malaysian psychologist Yap Chee Khong commented.

Phuong Thu believes this holds true for her mother who, used to the countryside lifestyle, moved to Hanoi to care for her sister’s kid. She spends every day with her grandchild who has yet to talk. Her only connection to the outside world is via social networks.

“I sometimes resent her but upon reflection, as her child, I might be ignorant of her feelings,” she said.

Thanh Giang in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak admitted to “leaving her parents behind.”

During meals, inside jokes formerly confused seniors. But now they have become an “updated version” of themselves and can keep up with pretty much anything, just like their younger family members,” she said.

Communications specialist Le Quoc Vinh, chairman of LeBros, a marketing agency, commented that social platforms are appealing to both young and old. However, seniors with more leisure time tend to access them more frequently. They are usually biased and vulnerable to online con artists and scammers.

“Many of my acquaintances easily share information without fact-checking, fork out money to join groups and unknowingly get entangled with scams,” he affirmed.

Vinh suggests youngsters spend more time with their parents and seniors to combat loneliness and actively engage with credible sources of information to avoid “virtual traps.”



Hanoi woman runs business producing bags from plastic waste



Fashioning new from the old, a Vietnamese woman in Hanoi has established a business producing bags from recycled plastic and cloth, leaving behind no waste.

As a person having practiced eco-friendly lifestyle for several years, 35-year-old Do Dieu Linh has always prioritized canvas bags, cloth bags, and reusable personal containers, while restricting single-use plastic ones.

Linh has always wished to replace plastic bags that people often take from daily shopping with cloth or recycled plastic alternatives.

“Each shopper can reduce about 2,000 plastic bags every year if they use cloth or recycled plastic bags,” she estimated.

Linh was suggested by her friends to create cloth shopping bags in 2019, taking advantage of rags in the fabric production process in combination with waterproof materials that she collected.

At the beginning of the business, she contacted local printing houses to collect their faulty products made from hiflex — a loosely woven material from strips of polypropylene plastic also known as tarpaulin, including backdrops, banners, umbrellas, outdoor light boxes and billboards.

However, as the printing houses’ defective products were not of good quality, the woman started sourcing the material from agencies specializing in organizing events, fairs, and exhibitions.

So far, those agencies have become Linh’s ‘close suppliers.’

The collected plastic materials will then be cleaned and dried before merged with cloth and tailored and cut into sturdy, attractive bags.

“No words can describe my feelings when successfully transforming discarded materials into usable things,” Linh said.  

“It is the motivation for me to collect leftover plastic wherever I can.

“Sometimes I don’t see it as trash anymore, but more like a resource.

Along the run of her business under the brand Gaea, Linh produced and sold about 1,000 recycled-material bags at low prices to attract customers.

The business has also expanded to include 20 different products, such as passport and other personal document covers, headphone containers, and cup pads, which are put on sale at eco-friendly product stores across Hanoi.

It is estimated that after more than a year, the Gaea brand has recycled more than 10,000 square meters of hiflex material and produced over 5,000 products of all kinds to the market. 

Its production facility, which is located in northern Thai Binh Province, has also created jobs for several rural female tailors.

“I want to recycle until no more hiflex is released into the environment,” Linh said.

One of the challenges for Linh’s business is that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for her to source used plastic materials as fewer events are organized.

However, the businesswoman sees this as good luck.

“They don’t use tarpaulins anymore, so the amount of tarpaulin released into the environment has shrunk,” Linh said.

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How to plan and keep New Year resolutions



Psychologist Matthew Ryan. Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice

Matthew Ryan*

It is not too late to plan your New Year’s resolutions especially as Tết (Lunar New Year) is still approaching.

Last year my partner and I put two whole days aside to enter into a deep reflection on what we wanted to accomplish together and also as separate human beings in the new year.

The reason for deliberately carving out such a long time of preparation was our understanding that New Year’s resolutions as a general rule fall apart very soon after the beginning of the new year.

In fact, there have been many research studies conducted on this practice of making New Year’s resolutions and it seems that only about 8 per cent of them are ever successful in the long term.

Gym instructors have told me that there is always a huge influx of new members in January, but by February or March, there are very noticeably fewer new members working out regularly.

If you don’t give sufficient thought and time to making resolutions they will inevitably fail and this can cause all sorts of negative feelings such as self-disappointment, hopelessness regarding the possibility of change and a feeling of being out of control and directionless, to name a few.

So my partner and I put two days aside. You may not have the luxury of that amount of time or stamina but the point is you will be more than likely one of the 92 per cent who fail to implement their New Year’s resolutions if you don’t set aside some period of time of preparing.

I will outline my approach below.

First step: Meditation/reflection

If you immediately go into planning mode your ideas will most probably be warped by your anxieties and past regrets or experiences. Spend about 20 minutes meditating to clear your mind. By doing this you are also connecting with your inner wisdom and creativity.

Second step: Discovering your core values

After meditating, you now transfer your focus to the contemplation of your core values.

What are core values? Core values are the deepest guiding principles for your life – what you want to stand for; what you hope others see and appreciate about you. You know you have discovered a core value when you feel very excited or enthusiastic about some particular characteristic like standing up for the truth, the love of family and friends or the call of adventure and discovery.

So I invite you now to sit down and discover your own core values. Three to five core values are enough.

So ask yourself what activities bring you the most joy or what couldn’t you live without; what things/pursuits give your life meaning and purpose. The first two steps together provide a powerful meditative and inspirational foundation from which to now choose and develop action plans for your New Year’s resolutions.

Third step: Goals that express your core values

Having identified your core values or deep loves, you are now ready to select concrete goals that will ensure that the pregnant energy within your core values can flow into each goal you select.

So look at each of your core values and ask how you can practically bring into your life the energy of these values. Understandably, as a psychologist, one of my core values is the building of loving relationships.

So the practical question for me was, ‘How can I in the new year build deeper, more loving relationships?’

I divided my relationships into four main categories:

1. The intimate relationship with my partner.

2. The loving relationship with my children.

3. My close friendships.

4. My professional relationship with my clients.

So now I need to focus on the goal I have for each of these four categories.

Fourth step: Developing action plans to achieve chosen goals

Now that you have chosen goals that are the concrete expressions of your core values, you now need to devise detailed action plans that will help you as much as possible to achieve your goals. So I will continue to demonstrate this next step by developing an action plan for nourishing my intimate relationship with my partner. You need to develop action plans for each of the goals that you have chosen.

Good luck planning and keeping your New Year’s resolutions! – Family Medical Practice

*Matthew Ryan is a senior psychologist who has been supporting and assisting people to work through their personal and relational problems, for more than 30 years. As a couple’s and family psychologist, Matthew’s role is to help each person in the relationship see how they contribute to their dysfunctional ways of relating and what changes are necessary to resolve their difficulties. Matthew is also experienced in working with teenage males and females as they face the challenges of stepping into young adulthood. In addition, Matthew is experienced in providing counselling to people from the LGBT community.       

Family Medical Practice was the first foreign-owned primary healthcare provider in Việt Nam, and has consistently remained at the forefront of international-standard medicine since 1995. It offers extensive healthcare and emergency medical services nationwide to Vietnamese, expatriate and corporate customers.

For more advice on any medical topics, visit; or visit our clinics:

Family Medical Practice Hanoi on 298 I Kim Mã Street, Ba Đình District or call (024) 3843 0748. Email: [email protected]

FMP’s downtown HCM City location is at Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn Street, District 1; Other facilities are at: 95 Thảo Điền Street, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848. E: [email protected]

FMP Danang is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh Street, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E: [email protected]


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HCM City unveils proposed design for Tết Flower Street




Images of buffaloes will be put up at the entrance to the Flower Street from February 9 to 15 at Nguyễn Huệ Street, District 1. Photo courtesy of Saigontourist

HCM CITY — The HCM City administration has unveiled a draft design for the 18th annual Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street to celebrate the coming Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday.

Rural life featuring rice farming and buffaloes will be the theme for this year, the Year of the Buffalo, according to eastern zodiac.

Every year Nguyễn Huệ Street in District 1, which has a pedestrians-only square down its middle, transforms into a ‘flower street’ during Lunar New Year.

This year it will be open from February 9 to 15, with the decorations starting on January 25, according to the organisers.

Like in previous years environment-friendly materials will be used for the decorations.

According to organisers, the organic design and architecture this year would aim to send the message of environmental protection.

To usher in the Year of the Buffalo, most of the event’s concepts and decorations will pay homage to the animal, with 26 mascots being set up along the street.

The entrance will feature a family of movable buffaloes display.

The organisers said the street would have a more innovative layout than previous years, which would allow smoother traffic flow.

The annual flower show, which highlights the Tết culture, has become hugely popular and attracts more than a million visitors a year.

There are also other annual flower festivals and markets during the Lunar New Year.

There will be flower market in three major parks, September 23, Gia Định and Lê Văn Tám, while flowers will be sold at 174 spots across the city from February 4 to 11.

A flower market will be set up along Trần Xuân Soạn Street in District 7 from January 27 to February 11. —


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