LECTURER Dr Tan Yun Yi, 34, wanted to help the elderly become more tech-savvy, something she thought about after returning from her PhD in Hong Kong.
“I was very affected by the frequent news reports of scams targeting seniors and wanted to do something to help prevent this,” she says.
Tan strongly believes everyone should play a part in making things better for the community, so she decided to design and develop a digital literacy programme that caters to the needs to older adults, aged 55 and above.
Called Bengkel Teknologi Senior (BTS), older individuals can learn about technology at their own pace and according to their own needs.
But there is another backstory to this. When Tan flew to Hong Kong, it was her first time away from her family.
“My grandmother was worried that she wouldn’t be able to talk to me as often, so we bought her an iPad and taught her how to use FaceTime. It took us some time to explain the concept of video calls. Eventually, she got the hang of it. I realised then that it’s not impossible to help the elderly to use technology,” she says.No one to teach
While in Hong Kong, Tan did community service with seniors, and realised that while their interest in technology wasn’t very different from those who are young, many don’t have the opportunity to learn and keep up with it because there’s no one to teach them.
“We all will be old one day and I believe that helping the elderly is one step towards creating a more livable community,” Tan says.
The BTS comprises two parts: creative modules to help seniors overcome their fear of technology, especially on their mobile device, and digital application modules to help them learn how to download and use applications that would make their life easier such as online shopping, e-hailing, e-banking and e-wallet, says Tan.
For its promotion of digital inclusion among senior citizens, BTS won the Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA) in 2020. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the team helped senior citizens with their MySejahtera app at vaccination centres.
In collaboration with the Malaysian National Commission for Unesco, Tan says BTS has developed and covered 16 topics related to digital literacy including information technology (IT), healthcare, lifestyle, arts and design.
Instructors and volunteers at BTS work full-time so workshops are only offered when there are available time and resources.
Announcements are made on its social media pages (facebook.com/btsenior and instagram.com/silverlab.usm) and seniors can register by contacting its digital ambassadors who are student volunteers.
In Oct 2022, BTS launched Silver Lab, an age-friendly technology learning lab in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), an inter-generational learning space where people of all ages can learn from one another.
A recent activity conducted by the Silver Lab is “Projek Poskad” where seniors learnt how to use the Canva app to create and design their own postcards which was then printed out and sent to their family or friends.
There were some student volunteers who had never experienced traditional mail before, or seen a postcard. Tan says besides learning about the new technology, seniors are also able to reminisce about their earlier life experiences and share that with student volunteers.
This story is part of a series of articles featuring past Star Golden Hearts Award winners. Nominations are now open for this year’s award. Uplift your heroes by nominating them at www.sgha.com.my before July 31, 2023.