Silver Tech and Golden Seniors
If your grandma is on Facebook, Skyping with her daughter-in-law in Australia and asking you to “Eat more, you’re so thin!” over WhatsApp, applaud her for her commitment to lifelong learning.
Tech savvy and basic IT skills are increasingly becoming essential today, and government agencies are rolling out several initiatives that seek to help seniors above 50 to learn them.
One of these initiatives is the Silver IT Fest, an annual weekend carnival organised by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore and partners, which took place from 10-11 September 2016.
Now in its tenth year, the event is aimed at sharing the latest in infocomm trends and happenings with seniors through seminars, workshops and tutorials.
There was even a Pokemon Go! Tour where, with the help of volunteers, carnival goers went on the hunt for Pikachus, Squirtles and the odd Magikarp.
“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 guest-of-honour Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, during the opening ceremony of the carnival.
“Technology is ever-changing, and we must always catch up.”
Learning IT Bit by Bit
During his speech, Dr Yaacob announced a new partnership between IDA and People’s Association Senior Academy, which will increase the number of IT training locations for seniors from 10 to 30 locations island-wide.
In addition to the ten existing Silver Infocomm Junctions, 20 more community clubs will offer IT courses, increasing the current annual number of classes from about 800 to over 2,000.
Seniors will also be provided with more resources, such as the use of mobile devices. “For those of us who may be daunted by the idea of learning IT skills from scratch, this new project will make it less intimidating,” he said.
IDA is also partnering with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and Lifelong Learning Council to bring seniors the ‘Learn and Live I.T.’ project, said Dr Yaacob.
The project seeks to encourage groups of individuals, schools, organisations and community groups to lead and grow ideas and initiatives that support learning in the community.
There are two components: the first is ‘a B.I.T – a B.I.T’, which is pronounced “a bit, a bit”.
True to its name, this component consists of bite-sized 45-minute to one-hour tutorials for seniors to learn about new mobile apps and e-services, such as OneService, Facebook and Skype.
The second component is a three-hour ‘Touch & Click Kakis’ session, where seniors can form informal special interest groups to share and improve their IT skills.
Finally, Dr Yaacob announced the launch of Friends of Silver Infocomm (FSI), a volunteer programme to help seniors go digital.
Through promoting active volunteerism among individuals who want to help seniors learn and adopt IT, it is hoped that the new FSI framework will cultivate greater awareness among working adults and students.
“I would like to see many Friends of Silver Infocomm at the next Silver IT Fest, and with the support of all of us here today, I am sure that will happen,” he said.
Catching Up with Change
Dr Yaacob went on to introduce three Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors (SIWAs), Ms Noorjahan Bte Kamaruddin, 56, Mr David Teo Khiam Heng, 61, and Ms Norolhuda Bte Padilah, 60, who were part of the new batch appointed this year.
The IDA identifies seniors who are tech-savvy and have made a positive impact to their peers through technology to become SIWAs—these individuals serve as role models and real life inspirations to their fellow peers.
Ms Noorjahan was recognised for her active IT lifestyle, picked up mostly through trial-and-error and constant practice.
She was first inspired to create a Facebook profile to connect with friends and family. At the same time, she learned how to use Google Maps and the SBS iris NextBus app to get around, and is now an avid Skyper.
Today, the lively 56-year-old inspires and encourages those around her to use social networking, blogging and e-banking to help enhance their livelihoods.
Having herself made the transition into today’s digital age, Ms Noorjahan 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?’”
She added: “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.”
As an advocate of continuous learning, Ms Noorjahan hopes to see more seniors be receptive to picking up IT skills that are now increasingly becoming essential.
“Change is constant. If you don’t move forward, you’ll be left behind and marginalised,” she noted.
“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.”