The year Christmas festive season is here. Looking back at Year 2020, all of us would remember the global pandemic COVID-19 and how it has impacted our work and lives. Some had it tougher than others yet they don’t allow this global pandemic to turn their life upside down. In this annual festive tribute by Singtel titled “Seniors go digital too!”, it’s an uplifting short film depicting the fierce determination of seniors who refuse to let COVID-19 upend their lives, stopping COVID-19 from stealing the Christmas festive season mood away from them.

This film, “Seniors go digital too!” tells the stories of three seniors heading back to “school”, to pick up modern digital skills to help them stay connected and overcome the social distancing measures put in place by this pandemic.

The film traces the journey of Aunty Lilian, Aunty Shirley and Uncle Andrew as they attend weekly digital clinics run by Singtel staff volunteers under its Digital Silvers programme, capturing how they learn the use of smart devices, how they learn to surf the internet, stay in touch with loved ones online and make cashless payments. Held at Senior Activity Centres (SACs) across the country, the Digital Silvers initiative is designed to foster digital inclusion and help ease the sense of isolation that the elderly have experienced as COVID curtailed peoples’ ability to socialise.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone, but the elderly are one of the more vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic. While most of us can easily access the plethora of online channels and apps for communication and entertainment, the older generation may not have the requisite digital skills to do so. This is what we’re trying to address through our digitalisation initiative,” says Lian Pek, Vice President of Group Strategic Communications and Brand at Singtel. “It was heartening to see the transformation of our three seniors as we were documenting their learning journey. They began to feel more empowered and less displaced by technology as they learned to re-connect digitally and get the support they needed during this trying period. This film pays tribute to their optimism and can-do spirit.”

After completing their digital classes, the three seniors find a new sense of confidence and purpose: Aunty Lilian learns how to further her singing hobby and learn songs with the aid of apps on her device; Uncle Andrew learns how to use Zoom to stay in touch with friends and family and Aunty Shirley becomes a ‘messaging expert’, connecting with her children as well as learning to use the TraceTogether app.

Singtel’s Digital Silvers programme will see S$1 million worth of assistance go towards transforming SACs into digital hubs to help more than 10,000 seniors build confidence in using digital devices and platforms. This involves tech upgrades including Wifi connections, Singtel TV content and tablets to facilitate virtual engagement as well as digital clinics and one-to-one tutorials run by Singtel staff volunteers. In addition to the digitalisation programme at the SACs, Singtel has also set aside priority queues for seniors at stores and hotlines so that they can be given digital guidance and served more expediently.

Commenting on the programme, Ms Jeannie Ho, Head of NTUC Health’s Senior Cluster Network said, “We’re very heartened to see many seniors from our Senior Activity Centres excitedly pick up new skills in the past month, as they realise that going digital is not as difficult as they imagined. This programme and the digital workshops by Singtel have greatly empowered seniors to become so much more comfortable with using technology, enabling them to remain connected with their friends and loved ones amidst the pandemic and especially during the festive season.”

Ms Fatima Mustafa, Director of the Programme Development and Innovation Office at Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities said, “The look of joy on our seniors’ faces whenever they’ve mastered a new skill like scanning QR codes or doing video calls is incredibly heart-warming. We’re thankful for the dedicated attention that the Singtel volunteers have been giving to each student, and we look forward to seeing more of our seniors go through the digital learning programme feeling more secure in the new norm of accelerated digitalisation.”

Lian Pek added, “Even before COVID-19 and the pivot to online channels and tools, digitalisation was already happening at breakneck pace, and for the elderly left on the wrong side of the digital divide, this can be very overwhelming. We believe that seniors can benefit from the digital revolution, and that the process of picking up tech-related skills, no matter how basic, can also go a long way in helping their active ageing. Our Digital Silvers programme aims to equip seniors with the digital knowhow that they need to live their lives more independently.”

“Seniors go digital too!” is the final film in Singtel’s year-long brand campaign encouraging Singaporeans to keep their spirits up in the current climate, by featuring the lives of ordinary folks and celebrating the Singaporean spirit of tenacity and perseverance. This includes “This Is The Year”, Singtel’s annual National Day film which paid tribute to the Majulah spirit that is propelling Singaporeans through the COVID crisis. “Keeping The Spirit Of Hari Raya Alive” documented how the Malay Community kept the spirit of Ramadan alive during the circuit breaker period. “There is Light” revels in the Deepavali spirit of hope prevailing over the trials brought on by the pandemic.

“Seniors go digital too!” is not just a heart-warming film for our seniors, it’s also for the rest of us here in Singapore. We all have been affected by this global pandemic COVID-19, some are  affected more than others. As we enter into the Christmas festive season, we are also about to say goodbye to Year 2020 and hello Year 2021. Let’s all continue to be resilient and not let COVID-19 control our lives as we celebrate the year end festive season and welcome the new Year 2021 with a new hope and a fresh beginning to a new Year.

* Information and picture courtesy of Singtel *

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