100-year-old Lebanese becomes online diva

BEIRUT: A 100-year-old Lebanese woman from a small northern Lebanese village has become something of an online hit after she started using Skype around June. Driven by curiosity, Eugenie Aho Bitar, who lives in Andket village in Akkar, wanted to take part in the “game” her grandchildren used to play. She could see them chatting with friends via their computers, and she wanted to do the same.

“I was curious about what they were doing. They told me it was the Internet and I asked them to teach me how to use it,” says the gray-haired lady, talking to The Daily Star over Skype.

Bitar, the oldest woman in her town, says she talks with her nephews living overseas, mainly in countries such as Italy, Canada and Germany, using Skype.

Her grandchildren and family members have helped her connect online, setting up accounts and dealing with some of the more difficult technological aspects, as she can’t see clearly at her advanced age.

“I used to read and write and do everything, but now it is hard for me because I can’t see clearly, so I need help connecting online,” she says.

The laugh lines on Bitar’s face are a testament to a lifetime of experience, and her desire to embrace modern life, which means keeping pace with new technologies.

“She is in good health, a tough lady indeed ... she survived a heart attack about 18 years ago and she is doing fine,” Eugenie’s grandson Mazen Bitar says.

The young man says his grandmother still has a good memory.

“She is a focused and alert person. She can talk about everything,” he adds.

Bitar’s husband passed away in 1994, at the age of 97. Her family has taken care of her ever since, surrounding her with love and care, and in turn being nurtured by her presence.

She lost two of her six children during the Lebanese Civil War, while a third passed away last year due to health problems.

“I am happy, but still something in my heart aches,” she says, lamenting the loss of her three children.

Skype, she says, has given her a chance to communicate with family members who live in far-flung corners of the world, including those she thought she would never see again.

“It fills both our hearts with joy,” she says, emphasizing the importance of close family ties in the society she comes from.

Turning into something of a social media star in her old age, Bitar says she also intends to open a Facebook and Twitter account.

“Why not?! It’s a good pastime,” she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 02, 2012, on page 2.




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