Three youth volunteers share what motivates them to help seniors be digitally ready.
Student Sheryl Eng chatting with a senior about smartphones and
the convenience of going cashless in today’s world.
Student Sheryl Eng, 19, healthcare executive Kwok Meng Kei, 25, and social work undergraduate Kerris Loh, 21, lead different lives as young adults. But all three are also Youth Corps Singapore volunteers who share the same goal: to help teach seniors about the convenience of using e-payments in daily life.
Meng Kei has been a Youth Corps volunteer since January 2016, Kerris since December 2016 when she joined its leaders programme, and Sheryl since February 2018. All of them have volunteered to help seniors go cashless on their e-Payment Learning Journey. Here, they share why they give of their time.
Why did you volunteer for IMDA’s e-Payment Learning Journey?
Sheryl: I was unfamiliar with e-payment methods myself, so the e-Payment Learning Journey was a great opportunity for me to learn about it while helping to educate others, especially seniors who did not grow up tech-savvy like us.
Kerris: My parents are not tech-savvy either, so I wanted to learn to teach seniors about the technology. I also wanted to help promote a pay-it-forward movement to equip our seniors with sufficient knowledge and skills to be digitally ready. I hope their experience with the programme encourages their children and grandchildren to join us in this movement. Our seniors should not be left behind in a country that they worked hard to build.
Meng Kei: As Singapore pushes forward to be a Smart Nation, no one should be left behind. Youth who are more adept with technology such as e-payments should help our seniors along. Like how our parents and grandparents were the first to teach us as we grew up, it is now our turn to guide them. I volunteered to do this as I wanted to commit to serving the elderly.
The e-Payment Learning Journey offers participants different hands-on experiences, such as making payments via QR code at a food establishment and topping up EZ-link cards electronically at the MRT station. What was your role during the sessions?
Kerris: As a Volunteer Befriender, I accompanied two senior couples and helped them use PayLah! to transfer money and buy food.
Meng Kei: I was a Volunteer Coordinator, working with four Volunteer Befrienders to ensure a fruitful and safe experience. My team of five guided about 10 seniors over two sessions. I also guided three seniors over two sessions, helping them make e-payments, purchase snacks, and top up their EZ-link cards with their bank cards.
Sheryl: I was a Volunteer Coordinator. I led and managed eight to 10 Volunteer Befrienders to ensure they all had a positive volunteering experience. I then stepped up to the role of Youth Overall In-Charge, making sure things ran smoothly during the event. I led and managed approximately 40 pairs of Volunteer Befrienders and seniors, as well as my group of Volunteer Coordinators.
Kerris Loh joins another volunteer in teaching a senior couple
how to use mobile wallet app, PayLah!
How did you find the sessions? Were there any unforgettable moments?
Kerris: Not only did the seniors benefit, I learned many life lessons from them. After buying food using PayLah!, a couple offered me an extra portion! They treated me like their own child and they were worried I was hungry.
Sheryl: The experience was great fun. A senior came to me after the event and asked, “When’s the next one? Can I come again with my friends?”
Meng Kei: One active senior in his 70s also proudly told me it is very simple to top up his EZ-link card with his bank card at the MRT station. It struck me that seniors can be up-to-date too.
Sounds like you three learned something new too!
Sheryl: It was interesting to find out that some seniors were actually familiar with smartphones. I used to think that that seniors would require a lot of help even with simpler features like connecting to Wi-Fi. It came as a nice surprise when one of them started talking to me about unlocking the phone with facial recognition!
Meng Kei: Overall, it was a humbling experience. I learned a lot from their struggles with e-payments and how technology moves so fast that they find it difficult to catch up. At the same time, I learned that they are determined, curious, and willing to learn new things as long as someone is patient enough to guide them. I believe the elderly can be better guided in Singapore’s push towards digital payments, and that it is possible to co-exist with hard, physical cash and not be too extreme to go 100 per cent cashless. I also learned that different banks have different e-payment apps, with differing capabilities, and that it was much easier to use the QR code scanning function to make payments to merchants.
Kerris: I learned the importance of including everyone in the process as our nation progresses. For instance, these days, we no longer need cash or a physical bank or credit card to pay for our food. If you do not keep up with these technologies, you will soon be unable to participate in society as much as before. This will result in an undesirable social divide.
Health executive and Youth Corps Singapore volunteer Kwok Meng Kei
helps a senior on her e-Payment Learning Journey
Were there any challenging moments?
Meng Kei: Yes, when we had to repeat the process with the seniors multiple times to ensure they were able (and confident enough) to make e-payments on their own.
Sheryl: For me, it was communication. I’m not exactly fluent in languages other than English so when I met seniors who did not speak the language, I had some difficulty guiding them. Some seniors also required a bit more time to pick up what was being said. Patience was key here.
Kerris: Yes, language barriers – it was the same for me. This was because we generally didn’t get to choose which seniors to work with. Instead, the seniors came to us. I was approached mainly by seniors who spoke their mother tongue, mostly languages that I am not proficient in.
How would you encourage more young people to help our seniors be digitally ready?
Sheryl: I say give it a go. You don’t have much to lose, only an experience to gain. Giving back doesn’t have to be a grand gesture: go slow, start with one person or one project, then let it take off from there.
Kerris: Regardless of what is holding you back, just take that leap of faith. You will be surprised. If you are afraid you are not ready, don’t worry. By being there, you are ready to serve. Skills can always be acquired through experience.
Meng Kei: It may seem scary at first. You may think, “Will the seniors understand me? Will I be able to connect with them?” But often the first step of signing up and showing up is the hardest. You will naturally find that, deep down inside, you can connect with and teach them, and that they have so many wonderful stories to share.
You can make a difference too! Be part of Youth Corps today.
About the e-Payment Learning Journey
Launched by IMDA in May 2018, the e-Payment Learning Journey is designed to be an experiential tour for seniors aged 50 and above. Volunteers guide the seniors to make digital transactions using their mobile phone and teach them useful cyber security tips. Every e-Payment Learning Journey takes about three hours, where seniors learn how to e-pay using QR code, transfer funds via e-payment apps; and top-up MRT cards via e-payment modes.
Know of someone who need help to embark on their digital learning journey? Visit www.imda.gov.sg/IMSilver.