By Kami Navarro
Instantaneous connections around the world. Information anytime, anywhere. Tasks accomplished with just one tap. These three examples are just a few of the seemingly magical benefits offered by technology. As we lead more connected, more convenient and more virtual lives, the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) SG Digital Office is dedicated to ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to benefit from and meaningfully participate in Singapore’s rapidly arriving digital future.
Launched in June 2020, the SDO is a whole-of-nation initiative meant to accelerate digital adoption for both individuals and businesses across the Republic. Through SDO’s SG Digital community hubs set up across the island, IMDA is bringing the benefits of digital to seniors and stallholders as a start. To commemorate SDO’s first anniversary and celebrate its impact, read on to discover how two seniors embarked on their digital journeys through the SDO Digital community hubs.
Diving into an exciting digital life
Mdm Geraldine Kong was only an infant when she lost her ability to hear after a bout of high fever. Though silence was what she had grown accustomed to, the now-68 year old has led a life buzzing with excitement. When she was 9 years old, Mdm Kong arrived in Singapore with her family and has since grown into a prominent member of the local Deaf community.
Earlier this year, Mdm Kong received what would prove to be a life-changing email: an advertisement for the Seniors Go Digital programme from the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf). Given her lifelong zeal for learning and service, she jumped at the opportunity to pick up a new skill.
First embarking on her digital journey last March 2021, Mdm Kong quickly became a regular at the one-on-one engagements with SDO’s Digital Ambassadors (DAs)—largely thanks to the encouraging learning environment they cultivated. As a deaf senior, Mdm Goh was heartened to find that the DAs were understanding, polite and happy to communicate through writing and an interpreting service provided by SADeaf.
“I felt inspired and excited while learning about apps from the DAs,” shared Mdm Kong.
“In fact, I was very impressed with SDO staff when it came to teaching the Deaf and senior community. They were very kind and patient with us even though some of us may be uneducated.”
With her positive outlook and the DAs’ clear guidance, Mdm Kong discovered a whole new world of digital solutions. After learning how to use Grab Food, Zoom and PayNow, she even took the extra step of asking her assigned DA to teach her video editing tools and the AXS app.
Eager to continue her digital journey as an active participant, Mdm Kong has even created a list of apps she hopes could be included in future engagement sessions, with this list including mainstays like YouTube and administrative tools like the apps of SP Group, the Central Provident Fund and the Housing and Development Board. Today, she uses her newfound digital skills to not only accomplish administrative tasks with ease, but also to safely connect with students and friends in a post-pandemic era.
“I enjoy using video to record my signings, which I send to my students. I also enjoy designing birthday greetings digitally and sending them to my friends. Ultimately, one can never be too old to learn something new. It is never too late to change our lives and learn. Our brains still have an astonishing ability to learn and master new skills, whatever our age is.”
Leaping out of the well
Another regular attendee eager to stretch his digital muscles is 72-year old Mr Koh Soon Yong who has been attending sessions twice a week at the Sembawang Public Library. Much like Mdm Kong, Mr Koh learnt about the Seniors Go Digital programme earlier this year from a friend who was part of the Residents’ Committee.
Before coming onboard Seniors Go Digital, Mr Koh shared that he was completely at a loss when it came to technology. As a retired coffee shop employee, making and serving kopi was his bread and butter for decades, with little need for digital solutions. “Last time, I had to remember all orders and calculate everything manually,” he recalled. But as technology started permeating just about every aspect of life, Mr Koh knew he had to go digital too—or risk being left behind.
“I was like a frog stuck in a well and I feel like I met someone who pulled me out. I had good teachers to guide me through the Seniors Go Digital programme and I now understand how technology can help broaden my knowledge and understanding.”
With the help of the DAs, Mr Koh has already learnt a plethora of new skills within the past two months—citing YouTube and Zoom as his favourites so far. “I’m a Christian so I like to watch the Christian videos and channels online,” he shared. “Previously, I could only learn these things physically in church.”
Aside from having fun with his new digital skills, Mr Koh also firmly believes these skills are keeping him safe even as he connects with friends and family online amid the pandemic—and has even convinced his wife to join along in the sessions.
“Before COVID-19, my friends and I would meet conveniently. Now, there is social distancing so we keep in contact through phone and video calls,” he shared. ”Digital technology has benefitted all of us seniors tremendously. It has improved my quality of life and added new vigour.”
Motivated to keep learning and continue his digital journey, when faced with online difficulties, Mr Koh now simply heads to YouTube to find the answer—a trick he learnt at one of the sessions. Even then, he knows that the friendly DAs at the SG Digital community hubs in selected community clubs and public libraries are ready to assist should he need their help.
“I hope to invite senior citizens from all backgrounds who have not attended Seniors Go Digital to come along and join me in this journey of learning about the digital world. Do not give up or doubt. As long as we are willing to persevere, we can stay focused and keep learning.”
As seen so clearly from the journeys of Mdm Kong and Mr Koh, daring to go digital pays off. By embracing the possibilities offered by technology, with a little help from the SDO and their team of DAs, Singapore’s silver generation are now more empowered to live their lives to the fullest in the digital era.
When it comes to beginning your digital journey, age is just a number! Visit the SG Digital Office website for more details on Seniors Go Digital and other digitalisation initiatives.