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Tech support for seniors

Tech support for seniors

A recent Silver IT Fest roadshow drew thousands of elderly citizens keen to learn about technology – and prepare for the digital future.

The Silver IT Fest 2017 Roadshow was held at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub Atrium over three days from 22 to 24 Sep. (Image credit: MCI)


By Yamini Chinnuswamy


Mobile apps are a strange new world for Madam Jennifer Tai, 63, but with Singapore’s rapid ongoing transformation into a Smart Nation, she is determined not to be left behind. “I want to learn about all the different mobile apps out there because I am very poor at using them,” she said.


While some of the apps can be “quite difficult to understand (to her)”, Madam Tai felt that she needed to learn how to use them. “The Silver IT Fest Roadshow is helpful for that,” she added.


She was one of thousands of seniors who visited the event, held at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub Atrium between 22 and 24 September, and part of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s Digital Inclusion initiative to empower and encourage seniors to embrace technology. 


A big draw were the entertainment services booths such as those by Singtel, Samsung and Toggle, with outreach staff on hand to explain the companies’ respective products and services to seniors.


One of these included the digital TV (DTV) booth, where a crowd of seniors, including Madam Tai, had gathered. With Singapore planning to switch fully to DTV, IMDA staff were present at the booth to explain what DTV is, and how qualifying households can apply for the DTV Assistance Scheme for help in making the switch.


Mr Raymond Oh, 56, found the DTV booth particularly useful. “This digital TV thing, I don’t think a lot of people know what it is,” said Mr Oh, who’s also a Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassador (SIWA). “In that sense, these roadshows help seniors understand what’s happening.”


SIWAs are tech-savvy seniors who seek to help their peers understand and embrace technology. The initiative, which is jointly driven by IMDA and People’s Association, is part of the digital inclusion drive that aims to ensure no Singaporean is left behind in the city-state’s Smart Nation journey.


Becoming digital makers


At the Tutorials@Learning Islands, seniors were introduced to other useful lifestyle, communications, entertainment and transport apps, such as Facebook and Uber, in a series of free mass tutorials conducted in English and Mandarin.


Participants were first taught to install the apps; they then followed the tutorials on how to use them. Like Madam Tai, 55-year-old Madam Zainah came to further her knowledge of mobile apps. “I know the simple apps but I want to learn about the advanced ones, such as photo and video editing. I’m quite interested in signing up for those courses,” she said.


In fact, Madam Zainah hoped to take part in a Digital Maker workshop. The workshops, which are part of IMDA’s Digital Maker programme, aim to teach basic coding and digital making to the public.


Madam Zainah is also interested in signing up for the Silver IT Fest IT Classes which are slated to be held in October. While these classes are not free, Singaporeans can use their SkillsFuture Credit to pay for some of them.


SIWA Madam Norolhuda Bte Padillah, 60, who attended the Digital Maker Boombox workshop, learnt how to make and code a micro:bit “boombox” using block-based coding and found it a fun challenge.


“I chose the ‘Happy Birthday’ song for my boombox as my granddaughter’s birthday is coming soon,” she said. “I’m not very creative, so coding the music was difficult but it’s interesting to learn about it. I can’t wait to go home and show my children and grandchildren what I learnt!” she said.


Accessibility was also an important component of the workshop; participants were given earphones so they would be able to hear the instructor clearly regardless of the noise at the event or whether they suffered from hearing problems.


Madam Norolhuda added, “Overall, it was interesting but challenging. Thankfully, we were given notes and clear instructions. The staff were also very helpful; they made sure everyone could learn no matter the language they spoke or even if they were slow.”


Closing the digital divide


At the Digital Maker workshop on 22 September, participants were briefly joined by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Communications and Information.


“The pace of change is accelerating, which means our effectiveness of including the elderly and all our citizens must be stepped up to ensure that everyone is on board [Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative],” said Dr Janil (left).


He also lauded the Silver Infocomm Initative. “The fact [that the Silver IT Fest] has been running for 11 years now makes it clear that the initiative has been working for some time in helping the elderly access various tech products.”


The Silver IT Fest is an annual event organised by IMDA together with institutes of higher learning, and industry and community partners. The event shares the latest infocomm trends and happenings with seniors through seminars, workshops, tutorials and exhibitions.


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