Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 29 January 2016


Find out what happens at a fun and educational technology bootcamp for seniors.

More than 450 senior citizens are learning basic computer and Internet skills aided by student volunteers as part of the North East Eldersurf Intergen Bootcamp organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the North East Community Development Council and POSB Bank. 

Bootcamp group

The North East Eldersurf Intergen Bootcamp organised by IDA, the North East Community Development Council and POSB Bank.

One of the participants was Mr Alan Loh, 69, a retired technical officer who felt he needed a refresher course on using the Internet. “I used computers when I worked many years ago but back then, it was mainly email and reading office documents. I had forgotten some of the skills. Now there are so many other things you can do online like instant messaging, phone banking and watching movies so I wanted to get my skills updated.”

Along with about 25 fellow seniors from the Pasir Ris Elias Wellness Centre, Mr Loh enrolled in the Bootcamp. Spread over five three-hour sessions, the course covered computer fundamentals, safe internet surfing and online entertainment. 

Participants also visited a POSB branch to learn about self-service automated banking procedures and online banking options.

Bootcamp Help

Mr Alan Loh, 69, getting a hands-on IT refresher course from friendly student volunteer Rheann Chin, 10.

Mr Loh was full of praise for the course and the student volunteers who were paired up with each elder participant. “There was a lot to learn but the volunteers were very patient,” he said. “For me, the most beneficial part was learning about Internet searches and staying in touch with friends online. All of us who attended the course even have our own WhatsApp group now to stay in touch. So the programme was certainly educational and fun.”

Student volunteer Rheann Chin, 10, from Elias Park Primary said some of the elder participants took a while to become familiar with the Windows operating system that they were being taught. “Working the mouse and locating stuff on the computer screen was a challenge at first but soon they became more comfortable with the Internet environment and they didn’t get lost so much!”

One area that the volunteers stressed was online safety. “We taught them to be wary of sites that asked for personal information and of some of the Internet scams that may target the elderly.”

“Technology can be very daunting for seniors but events like these show how simple and useful it is,” said Ms Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director of IDA.

Elder MD

MD IDA Jacqueline Poh: Technology can be very daunting for seniors but events like these show how simple and useful it is.

The free course is part of the government’s initiative to build a digitally inclusive society as Singapore moves to become a Smart Nation using the advancements of technology to better the lives of all its citizens and ensure all enjoy the benefits that come with infocomm. 

Speaking to course participant and guests at the opening of a POSB Branch at White Sands shopping centre, the mayor of North East District Mr Teo Ser Luck said: “I am glad both the seniors and the younger generation are involved in this one. Eldersurf promotes picking up new skills while the two generations bond and the best thing to come out of this programme is the appreciation of what each other could offer.”

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was the guest of honour at the event, had fun chatting with the seniors, and even encouraged them to recommend this course to their friends as a way of getting more seniors to be computer-savvy. 

Elder DPM

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean chatting with some participants about the useful IT skills they have picked up.

Connecting people through infocomm media, in order to improve the quality of life, is one of the strategic thrusts of the Infocomm Media 2025 plan. And activities such as the Bootcamp are playing an important role in this area.

Since the Intergenerational IT Bootcamp was initiated in 2010, more than 2,800 seniors have picked up practical IT skills through the programme.

Other IDA programmes and activities aimed at ensuring that seniors are digitally connected include the Silver IT Festival, Silver Infocomm Junction and Silver Infocomm Hotspots. 

IDA also supports initiatives such as the Savvy Silvers, which was developed by four final-year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information of the Nanyang Technological University. The programme aims to help seniors make better use of their mobile phones. 

The undergraduates conducted a survey last year and found that while more than 90 per cent of the 194 respondents used smartphones, almost two-thirds admitted that they had little knowledge or skills in using these intelligent devices to their full potential.

Among other things, the free Savvy Silvers sessions will focus on helping seniors to understand the various functions of smartphones, such as watching video tutorials, monitoring data usage and learning specific apps. Initially four core apps were identified from the survey as important to seniors. 

They are: Facebook, SG Buses, Google Maps and MediaCorp Toggle. 

The group hopes to reach out to more than 300 seniors to familiarise them with these apps through this programme.