Technology is making S’pore a better home for seniors and persons with disabilities

Inclusiveness FTW!

By He Ruiming | November 17, 2016

Too often, we tend to move with our own circles, hanging with people who share the same dreams, aspirations and hardships. While this offers great affirmation and comfort, it also means we are less aware of the lives of others.

The elderly and persons with disabilities are two such groups that we definitely know exist, but as for how they’re integrating into our vision of an inclusive society? Many of us aren’t quite aware.

Here are five facts about the elderly and persons with disabilities that you might not expect.

1. The Misconception: Seniors have learnt everything that they can over their lifetime.

The Reality: Seniors aren’t anywhere done with learning – they are learning new things with IT to help overcome physical limitations that come with old age.

Silver Infocomm Junctions are learning hubs available islandwide to offer infocomm training to senior citizens. Seniors can learn things like how to use computer, how to surf the net, and some more complex tasks like online shopping.

One individual who has benefitted from this initiative is Emelie Wee, who has arthritis in her fingers, which makes it hard for her to write letters to her friends living overseas. However, she has learnt how to use the computer and the smartphone and can now stay in touch with her family and loved ones, whilst still pursuing her retirement dream of travelling the world.

2. The Misconception: Festivals are for young people who like to party and spend money.

The Reality: There’s an exciting festival for people of all ages – including seniors – which doesn’t involve partying and is completely free.

Enter the Silver IT Fest which, incidentally, just took place over the first weekend in November. There was a whole range of activities including free talks and workshops on IT, personal enrichment, health and wellness, and work skills.

The best part? Seniors are absolutely welcome.

3. The Misconception: Seniors are cliquish and prefer to hang out with their own peers.

The Reality: Seniors do connect with young people, and here’s how they are doing it.

IMDA adv 1

Fancy making a friend who’s wise beyond your years with epic stories to boot? You can do so at one of IMDA’s Intergen IT Bootcamps. Last year, about 450 seniors registered at the bootcamps.

Held since 2010, young student volunteers help senior citizens pick up basic IT skills and applications in a at their schools. These are tasks that might seem easy to you, but for someone who grew up in an era with little or no electricity, it can be a lot to grasp!

4. The Misconception: Persons with disabilities aren’t able to fulfil their aspirations.

The Reality: With technology, persons with disabilities can pursue their interests and gain access to job opportunities.

The Enabling Village is one such example of where persons with disabilities can get information, referral, and employment support services. Located in Lengkok Bahru, it houses a comprehensive suite of training facilities where a range of courses are conducted for persons with disabilities. There’s also Tech Able an assistive technology (AT) resource centre that provides AT assessments and recommendations to persons with disabilities.

How has that improved lives? Well, here’s the story of Sayfullah, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His condition affects his speech and mobility – which can be frustrating for Sayfullah to speak and move around.

But thanks to technology these days and with the help of a tablet, the young boy can communicate with his peers.

Sayfullah isn’t the only one who has benefited.

Meet Chuan Chen, a 26-year-old who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was young. You might think this would have slowed down her learning, but in fact, she attended mainstream schools and could keep up just fine with the help of a special keyboard and joystick mouse.

Unlike many of us who stopped learning once we reached out 20s, Chuan Chen is a practitioner of lifelong learning. These days she is learning how to use AutoCAD 3D design software – talk about a good attitude!

IMDA adv 2Adapted from: IMDA YouTube

5. The Misconception: The government is already doing so much for seniors and persons with disabilities, so I don’t need to step up.

The Reality: You have a key role in making Singapore a more inclusive society for our seniors / persons with disabilities. There can be initiatives and infrastructure all around, there is an even better way to include them in our society.

How can you do so? To help seniors go digital, you can sign up under the IMDA Friends of Silver Infocomm programme!

About 300 to 400 adult and student volunteers come forward each year to help the elderly become more connected to an increasingly digital society.

This year, organisations from both the private and public sectors joined them.

If you want to make a difference, registering to volunteer is easy, and you only need to spend three to four hours for about two to four sessions each year.

You can even make this a team bonding session with your colleagues.

To help persons with disabilities, you can do your bit by being inclusive in your everyday lives. Start by making changes to the overall culture consciousness on how persons with disabilities are treated and interacted with. Be less discriminating and more inclusive. Recognise that a person with disabilities is just like you – a human being with desires, talents and dreams.

For those with a background in engineering, life sciences, education or related fields, contact Engineering Good to join their projects! Their projects are run in collaboration with local disability organisations (e.g. SPED schools) and volunteer teams spend 6 months working closely with beneficiaries to develop assistive technologies that meet their needs. Recruitment for the next project cycle will start in Jan/Feb 2017.

If you’d like to find out more, please visit:

www.imda.gov.sg/SII
www.imda.gov.sg/EnableIT
www.facebook.com/SilverITFest
www.facebook.com/DesignTechAble/
www.facebook.com/engineeringgood.org/

This post was written in collaboration with IMDA.

Top image from IMDA.

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About He Ruiming

Ruiming is a freelance writer that has lived in Singapore, Melbourne and Hongkong. When he’s not being snarky on Mothership or waddling waist-deep in deadlines, he finds time for life’s simple pleasures: Teh-O PengLao Gan Ma chilli oil and HBO’s award-winning TV series Game Of Thrones.

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