'It can be demoralising': Why some elderly in Singapore are teaching IT to their peers

'It can be demoralising': Why some elderly in Singapore are teaching IT to their peers

Tariam Singh - SIWA
Mr Tariam Singh (left) showing another senior citizen how a virtual reality headset works. (Photo: Loke Kok Fai)

SINGAPORE: "Technology moves very fast and it can be demoralising. Once you try a few times and are unsuccessful, you find that you don't want to learn anymore and give up," said Mr Tariam Singh.

And it is seeing his peers struggle to pick up the use of computers and other smart devices that inspired the 70-year-old former human resource professional to volunteer and help them pick up some IT skills. It helps that he has 23 years of training workers in administrative tasks, and can speak in Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, Punjabi and Hokkien.

“When we do it in English and they don’t understand certain things, we translate it straight away for them. It makes it easier for them to learn and understand,” Mr Singh told Channel NewsAsia on Saturday (Jun 10).

He added that learning as a group provides an additional motivation to some of the senior citizens. "The giving up thing is not found in a group. Everybody learns together," he said during this year's Silver IT Fest

Mr Singh is one of the 163 Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors (SIWA) in Singapore. These ambassadors are seniors aged 50 and above, who are committed to encouraging their peers to use IT to access lifestyle activities such as social networking, blogging or e-banking. 

They hail from a variety of backgrounds and are jointly appointed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the People’s Association Active Ageing Council (PA AAC). 

Now six years into the SIWA programme, IMDA and PA AAC have set their sights on grooming a pool of these ambassadors through a new Tech Silver Project. The new programme offers the existing ambassadors additional and ongoing training in both soft and technical skills, which organisers hope will better equip them. 

Donald Cheong - Tech Silver
Mr Donald Cheong (left) is one of 29 existing ambassadors to be roped in to the Tech Silver Project. (Photo: Loke Kok Fai)

One of the first 29 of these Tech Silvers is Mr Donald Cheong, a former call centre supervisor at Singtel.

Retired for more than 10 years, the 67-year-old said the speed of tech development continues to surprise him whenever he meets up with fellow SIWAs or friends.

“If you look on the Internet, every few years there are new things coming up. Even people in the IT industry – they’re always chasing technology,” said Mr Cheong.

“You look at the handphone industry – every few months you get a new phone coming out. And some of the operating systems may have already changed to a newer version. So we definitely need to catch up as we go on.”

SIWAs, too, needed to upgrade their skills and keep pace with development if they want to be effective.

“They can do normal IT but I think they’re missing the more technical aspects,” said Mr Cheong. “As time goes on, even our SIWA members will need to upgrade their skills. Because technology will continue moving whether we like it or not.”

IMDA said it will review the pilot project at a later date to see how more SIWAs can be engaged.

Source: CNA/kk