Helping seniors to be smart device users

When retiree Chua Nam Mai bought a tablet two months ago, she wanted to use it to WeChat with her son and his family, who live in Xiamen, China.

But the 68-year-old former Chinese teacher did not know how.

To help seniors being left behind in this digital world of smartphones and other mobile devices, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) yesterday launched workshops for those aged 50 and above to acquaint themselves with the different gadgets and apps available.

The workshops will be conducted at various ITE campuses and Temasek Polytechnic over this week, and at other venues after that.

The IDA is also enhancing its Silver Infocomm Initiative, which was launched in 2007 to promote IT know-how among seniors, by adding lessons on how to use free applications that help the elderly get around Singapore. These could include applications such as SBS Transit's iris NextBus, which informs users when a bus is expected to arrive.

"The lifestyle today revolves around smart, mobile gadgets. Seniors cannot be left out, we want to give them a chance to catch up," Ms Wong Shiow Pyng, deputy director of digital inclusion at IDA, told The Sunday Times at the launch of the week-long annual Silver Infocomm Day at ITE College West.

"The goal is to build a digitally inclusive society. Sometimes they are not savvy enough to self-learn, even though they look around and see everyone using a smartphone."

According to the latest Household Expenditure Survey released last week, 97 per cent of households now own a mobile phone, compared to 94.5 per cent five years ago and 88.8 per cent a decade ago.

Engineering officer Chiam Heng Jee, 59, owns an older Nokia phone, but is planning to upgrade to a smartphone. "The lessons will hopefully help me decide which is better and easier to use," he said.

Madam Chua also plans to sign up for the workshops to familiarise herself with her new tablet.

"My friends helped me to download WeChat but I still don't know to use it," she said, clutching to her old Samsung clamshell tightly.

But she insisted: "I'm not scared of technology. It's just changing too quickly and I want to keep up."


This article was first published on Sep 21, 2014.
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