SINGAPORE — For 69-year-old Lee Yew Lee, owning a smartphone has been a boon for his day-to-day activities and social life.
The semi-retired travel agent regularly uses Google Maps on his trips, both locally and abroad, and organising get-togethers with family and friends is done through a variety of social networking apps.
“I think embracing technology is all about learning,” said the 69-year-old. “And using the Internet, using all these apps, not just gives you more knowledge about the world, but also encourages you to go out and learn more.”
On Sunday (Oct 8), Mr Lee learnt one new way smartphones can enrich his life: How to keep healthy.
He was among about 600 seniors who attended an annual carnival, now into its fifth run, organised by Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency and Radin Mas Single Member Constituency. For the first time, organisers arranged an interactive session for seniors to learn how to use smartphones to keep track of their health, among other social media apps.
Organisers said the idea came from Singapore’s Smart Nation drive, which has caused apprehension among some seniors about being left behind. Besides learning how to get more out of smartphones, participants of the carnival held at Buona Vista Community Club also joined in on a mass workout session, a competition on whipping up healthy breakfasts, and picking up tips from the police to avoid scams. The oldest participant was a 94-year-old woman, organisers said.
Radin Mas Active Ageing Committee chairman Goh Kong Aik said events like this help to encourage seniors to be healthy on three fronts — physically, mentally and socially.
“Active ageing isn’t just about being physically fit,” said Mr Goh. “We want our seniors to have an active social life and keep their minds active ... and the social interactions that an event like this brings also let them learn new things from not just us, but their peers as well.”
Agreeing, Mr Lee, who lives in Bukit Purmei, said that with some guidance, seniors can be as active digitally as the younger generation.
“I think once we get the hang of the phone, we can feel the kick out of it, and just want to do more, learn more, be more active online,” he added.
Madam Tay Siew Keng, 62, a resident in the Moulmein-Cairnhill division, said she regularly participates in events such as the carnival on Sunday to meet old friends and make new ones. She added that through technology, she is better able to keep in contact and deepen relationships with her friends.
“I have so many WhatsApp groups, and everyone is chit-chatting and sharing things with each other like the latest news or funny developments ... and learn from each other,” she added.
Agreeing, Mr Goh said technology can be an aid for seniors to stay connected.
“So even when they’re at home, as they’re speaking to others online and on their phones, they won’t be alone,” he noted.
There have been several initiatives introduced over the last few years to encourage more seniors to be digitally active. The Seniors for Smart Nation programme, for instance, was launched by the People’s Association (PA) in March last year to teach those over-50 basic IT literacy skills including how to use WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
From November this year, there will also be a new four-month structured Certificate in Seniors for Smart Nation programme where participants can take up to 10 core and elective IT-related courses. Under this new programme, seniors will learn simple coding skills, how to use social media, and carry out online transaction safely, for example. They will also learn about cyber security and basic digital marketing, among other topics.
More courses like this will be useful for seniors, said Mr Lee. “Embracing technology at the start can be a little difficult for some people I know in the same age group, but once the first step is taken, the next few steps come faster and soon we can run.”