Photo credit: Dr Leong Soon Kai
BY LEE KONG WEE
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, most of our seniors were aware that technology could bring about many benefits, including convenience and the ability to connect better with those around us. Yet they did not feel a real need or urgency to learn digital skills beyond using their smartphones to make phone calls, send Whatsapp messages and take photographs. There was no real need to do more when they could interact with people face-to-face and pay cash for their transactions.
At the onset of Circuit Breaker
This has changed since the onset of the Circuit Breaker in April this year. The normal cycles and routines of people have been drastically altered with the prohibtion of large gatherings and strict social distancing measures. Like church communities everywhere, COR members have been using digital means to conduct cell group meetings, prayer meetings and regular church services. Even COR’s Annual General Meeting was held in real-time online.
Many seniors were apprehensive when the modes of communication began to change. A member of our Sunday Worship Service (SWS), aged 64, said “My fear was using Zoom as it was new to me… another fear was that I am slow in getting acquainted with new technology” and Gan Tian Huat, aged 76, shared that he was initially clumsy with the features of Zoom... “but after a few months of struggling, I have overcome the fear of making mistakes and am now confident in using it”.
Not being able to attend church in person, traditional church practices have gone online with members being encouraged to tithe and perform freewill offerings via electronic bank transfers. “When COR first introduced this, I did not try it. Now i use PayNow very often to make fund transfers”, laughed another COR senior.
From feeling overwhelmed to finding it “not so difficult after you are used to it”, as a 57 year old confided, most of our seniors have persevered to learn new digital skills through constant practice and with help from their children and grandchildren. At the time of writing, most have become confident in using Zoom or Microsoft Teams for cell group meetings, prayer meetings and worship services. Some have also learnt to screen share documents, videos and online materials during such meetings.
“At my age, new things that I learn about computers and mobile phones don’t last long if I do not use them. Now I don’t have problems getting into Zoom meetings,” Tan Kwang Thong, aged 85, proudly stated.
Grace Khoo, aged 65, said “I can communicate with ex-colleagues, family members, cell group members via Zoom and Whatsapp. I also buy things online now.”
With restrictions on public movement and the fear of exposure due to health concerns, many seniors have ventured into the world of online shopping. They have purchased toys for their grandchildren, furniture, electronic equipment and ordered groceries and household items on a regular basis. What a far cry from eight months ago!
Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technologies in the lives of Singaporeans. With safe distancing measures likely here to stay, a fully digitalised Singapore can offer seniors opportunities to live life to the fullest. It is admirable and inspiring to observe how our seniors have embraced the move towards this inevitable change and are willing to step out of their comfort zone to learn new skills.
Echoing Alvin Toffler, a futurist, who is credited with saying, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”, every senior we spoke to agreed that they need to catch up with the use of technology or they will not be able to keep pace with the progress of the nation.
The apostle Paul exhorts us, “Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3: 13,14).
Despite being in the silver generation, we can continue to serve the Lord in great measure as we press forward in our digital journeys.
Lee Kong Wee, who is 64, finds his smartphone to be an indispensable part of his life. He frequently uses it for messaging, emails, Facebook, mobile banking, online shopping and even to survey the stock market. Occasionally, he uses it to watch childrens’ videos with his 3-year-old grandson.