The elderly face up to the FB challenge

By Shaun Tan

For married couple Foo Siang Kee, 72, and Tan Alek, 69, chatting via Facebook is the easiest way to communicate with their son, Dr Foo Maw-Der, 45, an associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado.

"My son is overseas, so we have to learn how to communicate (with him using) different methods. That's why my husband created Facebook accounts for both of us," said Madam Tan, whose younger brother, a retiree, is also living overseas in Hawaii.

The couple, married for 48 years, was among 36 senior citizens who visited the virtual world on Wednesday and yesterday in a two-day social-media workshop at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West.

Mr Foo, who took an introductory computer class two years ago, said: "(Technology) changes all the time and it is something new to me. Yesterday, we learnt how to take photos and upload them to my PC."

He added that he used Facebook to keep in touch with his children and grandchildren, to "see what they are doing".

At the South West Elderly @ IT! Alumni Social Media Workshop, the participants were taught the mechanics of social media, as well as practices and usage guidelines of various social-media platforms.

Another senior citizen who uses Facebook to communicate with family members overseas is Madam Ooi Chooi Ong, 72, whose daughter, Ms C. Y. Lee, is a Reuters journalist in her thirties and based in Hong Kong.

Madam Ooi said: "I forced myself to learn how to use Facebook so I can talk to my daughter... My husband is very good with Facebook. Sometimes he asks me why it's so difficult for me to understand it."

However, she did have some qualms about her privacy on the social-networking site, saying: "Maybe I am too old- fashioned, but it is too open. I don't like that all your secrets could be exposed."

But she said Facebook is a very good way for her to keep in touch with her grandchildren.

The senior citizens are part of 400 alumni members of the South West Elderly @ IT! programme and they will continue to take part in workshops that will enhance their information-technology skills, such as creating personal blogs and e-mail accounts, and managing online transactions.

The workshop was facilitated by the South West Community Development Council and ITE College West partner The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.

Mayor of South West District Amy Khor was present yesterday to hand out certificates to the participants and presented a token of appreciation to The Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore.


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