Retiree's online skills put to great use in daily life - and during the lockdown.

Frank Hogg can't imagine a world in which he isn't learning something. Which is a bit unusual for an 88-year-old.

Except Hogg is far from your usual 88-year-old. A lifelong love of learning has sustained him and, when questioned as part of a Chorus survey on New Zealanders' connectedness through the internet, he said: "I feel sorry for those who have been left behind - the world is such a wonderful, interesting place and via the Internet I can indulge my interests to an extent my parents could never have imagined."

Hogg and wife Liz. Photo supplied.
Hogg and wife Liz. Photo supplied.

Now based in a retirement village, Hogg and wife Liz have an enthusiastic take on that life. "I often think how unfortunate it is that people move into retirement wondering what they will do all day."

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He eagerly embraced fibre broadband when it came to his village, having become a self-taught computer user and internet traveller from his days as a high school teacher in business subjects.

"My principal, it must have been back in 1993 or 1994, plonked down a great big box on my desk and said: "That's a computer, you'd better learn how to use one of those things."

His interest piqued, even though in his 60s (an age where many seniors are a little intimidated by new technology), he persevered with it – mainly using "primitive database functions" which he found made his life as a teacher, deputy principal (relieving) and then director of the Queen Elizabeth Night School in Palmerston North far easier as he got to grips with payrolls, spreadsheets and other business-based functions.

He sharpened his skills with an online course at the Open Polytech and, all the while, grew his love of, and ability in, negotiating the internet. It's a skill that has stood him in fine stead with the current coronavirus lockdown.

Frank Hogg with his camera. Photo supplied
Frank Hogg with his camera. Photo supplied

"I love steam trains," he says, "so it is a lot of fun zooming from a giant steam train in South Africa and then switching to a tiny steam train in Wales – and then you go to Switzerland to see one in the alps.

"Google Earth is great for seeing what's out in the countryside – all these places you can go without leaving your house, thanks to the lockdown."

He goes online for about an hour and half in the morning, again in the afternoon for about an hour and an hour at night – and is careful not to overdo it.

"I subscribe to a number of international sites, some of them technical sites where I like to keep up to date – but there is quite a lot of general information there too and I find that usually leads me into all sorts of interesting things. It's good fun following them through."

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One example is a website called Kanopy, a library-powered site hosting thousands of movies – but which also hosts online courses he is interested in – like earth sciences, algebra and history.

His thirst for knowledge – and a sense of fun in learning – stems not just from his background in education but also from his large family.

"I was the youngest and grew up without a father," he says, "and my older brother, one of three caught up in the Depression and then in the war, was the closest thing to a father I had. He spent so much of his life providing for his younger brother, sisters and an aged mother that he ended up with very little in the way of interests.

"He wasn't a great reader and I always used to think that he could have had a good mind if he'd had the same opportunities as I had; whenever I am pursuing my own interests, he often comes to mind."

That said, Hogg seems always to have had a zest for life – he and Liz eloped to get married six years ago and that zest probably serves him well when it comes to his health.

"I had a pacemaker installed a few months ago and recently went to the doctor for a check-up. The heart man had a look around and then said to me, "All right, we'll see you in 14 years for a new battery".

Don't bet against him making that appointment.