A new initiative has been launched that provides seniors with IT advice and troubleshooting.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Eighty-one-year-old Prof PN Avadhani is planning to volunteer for the new initiative, Silver IT Care Helpdesk, a tripartite collaborative project between RSVP – the Organisation of Senior Volunteers, the Council for Third Age (C3A) and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). A retired botany professor, Prof Avadhani is currently in training and hopes to man the Helpdesk once a week.
He has always had an interest in IT. “My introduction to computers stated in the 60s when I audited a course on IBM 1620 and Fortran programming. Then at the National University of Singapore, where I was teaching, computerisation was introduced and we were among the early Internet users with BITNET (computer network). It was mostly hands-on learning experience at the time,” shared Prof Avadhani.
And when he started volunteering at RSVP some 11 years ago, its Cyberguide programme was a pull for him. The current RSVP board member keeps himself abreast with the latest developments in IT and believes that the best way to learn is to teach others. As such, he shares his ideas on IT curriculum development with fellow RSVP volunteers, making sure that workshops offered reflect current trends. He also occasionally facilitates IT workshops at RSVP’s Silver Infocomm Junction.
Seniors helping seniors
The Silver IT Care Helpdesk, which was launched in October 2013, aims to help seniors by providing guided IT advice and troubleshooting on software and hardware issues, and other basic computer housekeeping. The Silver IT Care programme also taps on the experience and expertise of seniors as the Helpdesk is manned by a team of seniors including Prof Avadhani.
Shared IDA, the outcome being an infocomm helpdesk “by seniors for seniors”. It added that 20 seniors have been trained as call agents to deliver the first level of troubleshooting over the phone. If they are unable to resolve their issues at the first level, seniors can bring in their faulty computers to RSVP at Bishan Junction 8 where they can be further assisted by second level trained seniors in computer repairs. These seniors have extensive experience in the computer industry.
According to RSVP, the phones have not stopped ringing since the press publicity in September 2013. They have received more than 50 enquires in the first week of October alone and three seniors have come in with their computers/laptops for assistance. “There is a definite demand for this Helpdesk as some even brought their desktops and especially laptops in for repairs,” said Sunny Chan, chairperson, Silver IT Care programme. “Some of the problems seniors faces with software include incompatibility, profile changed, programmes not working and viruses, while hardware issues include loose contacts and hard disk crashing.”
Added Prof Avadhani: “It is important that seniors know how to do computer housekeeping and maintain their computers so that they can use them optimally for longer periods. When their computers encounter hiccups, seniors may have difficulty finding help, so a helpdesk widely accessible to seniors is important.”
He also threw caution to the wind about the generalisations that seniors are therefore not IT-savvy – “We should not generalise that seniors are not IT-savvy as all our tutors and trainers in RSVP are seniors. It may be fair to say however that there is probably a larger number of non-IT savvy persons in this cohort, especially those in their 70s.”
For seniors who need to reach the Silver IT Care Helpdesk, they can call two hotlines at 6485 6113 and 6485 6134, and they are operational from 10am to 4pm (Monday to Friday).