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When it comes to digital skills, age is just a number

last updated 12 June 2017

Thanks to the Silver Infocomm Junction, a retiree proves that it’s never too late for senior citizens to bridge the digital divide.

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Madam Ng Ah Hoon continues to learn new IT skills to stay relevant in today's digital age.

By Suresh Nair

Retiree Ng Ah Hoon is a smart cookie. A self-confessed belated IT learner, she’s picking up digital skills to surprise her three-year-old granddaughter.

After working a “busy schedule” at Immigration & Customs Authority (ICA) for more than 30 years, the 67-year-old now has the time to dabble with technology. She’s a role model of how seniors can continue to live actively and age confidently.

“I enjoy baby-sitting my three-year-old granddaughter but I want to be ready in a few years when she will be IT-savvy, and I can cope with her new lifestyle,” said Madam Ng.

She feels that the outreach initiatives offered by the Silver Infocomm Junction (SIJ) at Kreta Ayer Residents’ Committee (RC) benefit seniors like her, to be competent in digital technology. Kreta Ayer RC is among 31 SIJs – senior-friendly learning hubs appointed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) – which leverage the specially curated IT curriculum and training resources to make learning more enriching and meaningful for seniors.

Digital Divide

Launched in 2007, the Silver Infocomm Initiative encourages seniors aged 50 and above to bridge the digital divide, regardless of educational background, language and infocomm competencies.

Madam Ng recalled how she was initially fearful of technology and had to depend on her two children to use a computer. After undergoing training and through self-practice, she can now independently use a computer and smartphone as well as applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Now, she also keeps up with the latest trends in IT and even does online shopping.

She said she picked up Facebook to “connect with her family and friends”. “I started as a passive user of Facebook but over the past few months, I grew in confidence and became more active through regular practice,” she added.

She also enjoys online shopping and uses the internet to search for travel information and make travel bookings online.

Madam Ng’s goal now is to inspire and encourage those around her to use social networking, blogging and i-banking to help enhance their livelihoods. 

Having herself made the transition into today’s digital age, she can relate to the struggles her peers may face when learning new IT skills. “I can give them inspiration: ‘If I can do it, why can’t you?’ I’m living proof of all this. If I didn’t know something, I'd find out more about it and learn on my own,” she said.

Continuous Learning

As an advocate of continuous learning, Madam Ng hopes to see more seniors be receptive in picking up IT skills that are now increasingly becoming essential.

“It is very important that everyone moves in tandem with change. Everything you do nowadays, you have to make use of technology. If you're slow, you can still learn but if you refuse to learn, nobody can help you,” she said.

Eager to share her ICT knowledge, Madam Ng is pleased that the IT courses are conducted by experienced volunteer trainers, like 68-year-old retired junior college teacher Chia Keng Hian, who are also seniors themselves, and able to teach their peers at a comfortable pace.

The SIJs offer a diverse suite of IT classes including basic computing skills, social media, e-lifestyle, government digital services, video and photography editing, and latest tech trends. More than 80,000 seniors have benefitted from courses offered at the SIJs.

Mr Chia said the topics he covered with seniors include “Basic Computer and Internet Skills”, “Getting Started on Facebook” and “Infocomm Tools for Health Management”. He also introduces new apps, digital quizzes and interesting software to the group members. The group meets up once a week, and members of the public who are keen to learn more about IT are welcome to join the group.

He is confident of the lifelong-learning starts made to promote IT literacy and enhance the lives of seniors. This includes seminars, hands-on workshops and exhibitions, and a wide range of technologies such as augmented reality and 3D printing, smartphone applications and games that promote healthy living. 

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“Technology is ever-changing, and we must always catch up,” said Special Guest of Honour Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information at the “Banda Goes Digital” event at the Kreta Ayer Square. Held on 26 May, the community event was organised by PwC, Kreta Ayer RC and People’s Association (PA).

Minister Yaacob praised the action-plan programmes, which aim to build “A Nation for All Ages”, with its initiatives focused on three key areas. First, at the individual level, helping Singaporeans live long, live well and age confidently; second, at the community level, to build a cohesive society with inter-generational harmony; and third, at the city level, to build an age-friendly city that enables seniors to live actively and age-in-place confidently.

He said IT can play an important role in helping the elderly continue to contribute meaningfully to society, stay actively connected with their family and the community, and not be left behind in our digital society. 

“As Singapore moves towards being a Smart Nation, we must ensure that our seniors can continue to keep up with technology and benefit from it,” said Minister Yaacob.

For more updates on where seniors can learn tech or join in fun activities at roadshows, follow the Silver IT Fest Facebook here.

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