Outreach, Welfare

iSeniors at WSAC!

YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD to learn new technology – and the seniors at the Wesley Seniors’ Activity Centre (WSAC) are doing just that as they rave about a popular iPad game app that allows them to shape, fire, add patterns, colour and even auction off “pottery” to earn credits and shop for more materials!

If you thought that senior citizens are fearful of “youngsters’ toys” and tech gadgets, think again. “Let’s Create! Pottery” is a virtual pottery game that’s even more popular than Fruit Ninja and the seniors have taken very well to it.

Ms Kwok Sian Yee, Head of WSAC, said: “It’s important that our seniors don’t lose touch. That’s why we’ve taken pains to get them interested in technology. So when the next cohort of seniors come and join us, we’ll be ready for them as they would have been part of the present workforce and hence, more IT-savvy.”

The WSAC was set up in 2010 and is a collaboration between Methodist Welfare Services and Wesley Methodist Church. Its mission is to ensure and improve the welfare of seniors who are at risk of social isolation in the Kelantan estate.

In October 2012, funding was made available from the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore to turn WSAC into a Silver Infocomm Hotspot. Three iPads were first purchased, and another three iPad Minis a year later.

With an average of around 40 seniors coming to the centre every day, membership has grown by about 10 per cent since last year. To ensure a steady stream of young volunteers to interact with our seniors on a regular basis, WSAC has gone on to forge long-term partnerships with Hwa Chong High School, Singapore Management University, National University of Singapore, Institute of Technical Education, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

In fact, youths from Hwa Chong High School and Trackers interns from the Trinity Annual Conference Youth Ministries have been round to teach our seniors the finer points in using iPads for entertainment and photography. Ms Kwok added that with the youths guiding them, the seniors easily overcame their initial wariness of new technology.

Currently about 15 per cent of the seniors who come in use the iPads. However, WSAC Programme Executive Willy Ho is confident that the “tech influence” will grow – he said: “We expect that the savvier seniors will soon get round to teaching their peers!”

The WSAC seniors will also be participating in a special iPad photography exhibition to be held at the nearby Kampong Glam Community Centre during its National Day celebrations on August 3.

Many of the seniors have been “snapping away” with their iPads in the hope that their photos would be selected for the exhibition. The excitement over this new form of creative expression is palpable. It’s not often that you hear a 78-year-old exclaim: “I forbade my grandson from touching my iPad!” Madam Tey was complaining vehemently in Mandarin that her grandson had accidentally deleted the photos she took when he fiddled with it.

What next for WSAC? There are plans to install an X-Box Kinect to allow for more interactive games. There’s certainly no age limit when it comes to having fun – but the jury is out on whether the virtual pottery game beats Fruit Ninja. Ms Kwok, for one, is a fan of the latter.

“I love Fruit Ninja. You can’t take my Fruit Ninja away from me!” she laughs.

WSAC Programmes include:

Daily Morning Exercise, with monthly “Walk for Health” excursions – WSAC recently introduced Zumba Gold as an addition to this programme. Up to 50 seniors will gather thrice a week to exercise together for 30 minutes or more.

Choir group and Karaoke – around 15 singing enthusiasts gather twice a week to sing and learn singing skills from a professional instructor.

Morning Tea – Up to 30 seniors gather to socialise on an average of three days a week over coffee, tea, Milo, steamed buns, biscuits or bread with kaya.

Daily Rummikub games – Resembling mah-jong and dominoes, Rummikub is a mind-boggling numerical table-top game for four persons. It is enjoying growing popularity at WSAC daily.

WSAC is located at Blk 25 Jalan Berseh #01-142 (9.30 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday). Tel: 6298-0194 or 6298-0195

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Adeline Huang is an Executive (Communications and Fundraising) at Methodist Welfare Services.