The gift of a smartphone

by | October 17, 2012

Donate your used iPhone to a senior from two non-profits and let them enjoy the technology and related apps.


SingTel's Derrick Heng showing the phone to 76-year-old Choo Kim Lain, while Lions Befrienders' Goh Boo Han looks on.

Seventy-six-year-old Catherina Chia, who lives with her older sister in a one-room flat in Tiong Bahru, owns an old phone and has never surfed the Internet. However, she embraces technology and feels it makes life easier and more convenient. Thanks to a new programme by SingTel, she can say goodbye to her phone and say hello to a second-hand iPhone and the Internet!

The programme called Project Silverline is a CSR initiative that aims to enhance the lives of seniors through digital communications and multimedia technology. From now until March 2013, seniors under the care of VWO, Lions Befrienders, and non-profit organisation, Willing Hearts, will receive refurbished iPhones donated by SingTel customers.

SingTel will sponsor every month for one year the talk time of 100 minutes as well as 200MB data usage. According to the company, after March 2013, there will be a review of the programme, where they will assess how useful the apps have been for the elderly, how they can galvanise more support from Singaporeans, if the talk time and data plan is sufficient, etc. 

On the idea of receiving the iPhone, Chia is excited, saying: “I’m not scared of technology. I may be old, but I still want to learn. People should persevere and not give up even if it is difficult.” She already has big plans for her new phone – including taking photos of her new friends as well as outings with her church and Lions Befrienders.


Five apps

The refurbished iPhones will be installed with a suite of five apps that is specially designed by SingTel in partnership with Newton Circus (an innovation company that funds communities and businesses for the good of people, planet and profit) and Ogilvy One (a direct marketing and digital agency and is part of the Ogilvy & Mather Group, which is an international advertising, marketing and PR company) to help seniors take care of their health, discover new experiences every day, and stay connected with caregivers and loved ones.

They include:

Well-Being app: This app helps seniors to stay healthy by reminding them to take their daily medication. It also shares important health tips and exercise videos to encourage a healthy lifestyle and positive outlook. The app uses the phone’s accelerometer to detect when the user has had a fall and notifies caregivers via e-mail.

• Discover app: This camera app allows seniors to take photographs easily and share them with friends. It allows them to attach notes and location information to the shots. Through photography, the elderly can express themselves and discover a new hobby that keeps their minds active.

• Emergency app: Seniors can use this app to call for the police or an ambulance simply by clicking on large emergency services icons. With the app, seniors with poor eyesight and memory do not have to worry about which numbers to dial. It could be a lifesaver for seniors who live alone.

• Connect app: With this app, seniors can identify their friends and family quickly and easily on their phone contact list through the use of large images and fonts. This makes it easier for seniors with poor eyesight to stay in touch with the people who matter most to them.

• Inspire app: Seniors can look forward to receiving inspiring quotes, videos and photos every day. This app helps to keep them abreast of current affairs and improves their general knowledge.

Johan Buse, SingTel’s vice-president of consumer marketing, said: “SingTel believes in reaching out to the wider community. Through Silverline, we hope to help seniors at Lions Befrienders and Willing Hearts to lead active and fulfilling lives. We seek to equip them with technology and apps that allow them to communicate, access important information and pick up new skills and hobbies.

“While our cornerstone CSR programme, the SingTel Touching Lives Fund continues to focus on young children and youths with special needs, we recognise that many senior citizens need attention too,” he added.

Founder of Willing Hearts, Tony Tay, said: “A lot of the elderly are living alone in their one-room HDB flats and have little opportunity to interact with the world outside. Having an iPhone with apps that are relevant and useful to their daily lives will enable them to stay engaged with new information, connect with the outside world and make them happy.”

Added executive director of Lions Befrienders, Goh Boo Han: “Many of the seniors still have a love for learning new things. We conduct regular activities in our seniors’ activity centres where the seniors learn how to do new things, from using the computer to making handicraft and playing console games. They are excited by the prospect of being able to own a phone and learn how to use it.”


Donate your phone

SingTel customers, who are coming to the end of their two-year contracts and are due to receive a new smartphone upon renewal, as well as other non-SingTel customers (expats and Singaporeans) are encouraged to “gift” their iPhones to seniors who would not have to make purchases themselves. They can do so at all SingTel retail shops. According to SingTel, it plans to eventually roll out the senior apps to the public for other seniors to download. Also, if the programme is successful, it maybe be expanded to include other VWOs.

For Koo Kar Kee, 84, who lives alone in a one-room flat, the phone is heaven-sent and she says she would love to learn how to use it. Once, when taking the trash out in the wee hours of the morning, she fell and fractured her hip, and had to wait for almost an hour before a passerby came along. She shared that if she had a phone, it would have helped her greatly in such an emergency. She shared that a phone would also come in handy when she is out at the market or travelling.

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