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New set of standards to make it easier for seniors to use technology

Visit the Council for Third Age's (C3A) website and you might notice something different about its home page.

The fonts are slightly bigger and there is liberal use of icons and signposts to help guide the user through the page.

The subtle differences are meant to help older Singaporeans navigate the website better, a move that was made as part of their effort to adopt a new set of guidelines called Singapore Standard (SS) 618 supported by Spring Singapore. The guidelines are aimed at helping companies and organisations redesign their interfaces - from websites to computer screens and devices - to make it easier for older adults to use.

"These senior-friendly features provide seniors of different information technology literacy levels with a positive, comfortable and enjoyable user experience. This ease of use, and in turn ease of learning, aims to encourage seniors to adopt technology and use it confidently so that they can continue learning and stay connected to society, as Singapore moves towards the Smart Nation vision," said Ms Soh Swee Ping, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Third Age, an agency which promotes active ageing.

Ensuring that older adults can continue to access new technology is especially critical for Singapore in the next few years, said Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamed, who launched the new set of guidelines.

"As Singapore progresses towards the vision of a Smart Nation, it is important that we address the "silver" digital divide where our elderly may not be able to access new products and services due to information inaccessibility," he said.

The new standards for user interface was developed in consultation with partners from tertiary institutions, government agencies and the private sector. Among other things, the new set of guidelines for the user interface for digital devices such as laptops, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and smartphones include larger fonts, senior friendly designs and other features.


Mr Zaqy Mohamed launching the new Silver Standards Road Map. Credit: Spring Singapore

Madam Eleanor Teo, 73, said she finds it difficult to read webpages like Facebook because of the small fonts.

“My daughter keeps telling me to go there to view pictures of my grandchildren. But there are too many words and I have to squint. Can they also do bigger fonts?” she said.

Supporting the ageing population

Singapore’s population is rapidly ageing. Currently, about 1 in 8 Singaporeans are aged 65 and above. By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above.

The Government has been preparing for the onset of a rapidly ageing population by putting in place a $3 billion Action Plan for Successful Ageing, which covers a wide range of areas relating to the ageing population. These new standards serve to support the national plan.

The new set of digital interface guidelines is one of four new standards that will be rolled out in the next few years under a broader push by the Government to create minimum requirements for companies, organisations and the Government to make it easier for older adults to work, play, travel, and maintain their quality of life.

These will include designs of gyms, sports and recreational facilities for seniors as well as creating age-friendly workplaces.

Mr Robert Chew, chairman of the Silver Industry Standards Committee, who helped to develop the standards had a simple way of explaining the need for such standards.

“So you know there are these accessible pathways for older people to walk. Then suddenly the path disappears halfway because this other part is maintained by another government department and they didn’t follow the standards,” joked Mr Chew, to laughter from the audience.

“Then these old people will suddenly need to look for their tong kat (walking stick).”


The four areas under the Silver Standards will help seniors live, work, eat and travel better. Credit: Spring Singapore

The goal, said Mr Chew, is to ensure that pathways across all of Singapore remains accessible, so that older people can continue to walk wherever they want to.

He also noted that the silver market held huge potential for businesses, especially if firms are smart enough to customise products that meet the needs for older consumers.

One area he cited was human augmentation, the use of robotic or mechanical body parts to assist or replace ageing limbs. Mr Chew recalled how he was impressed with a professor who gave a talk on stage, only to reveal that he was walking around on robotic limbs.

“The professor later said he had no issues dating taller women because he could just make himself taller,” said Mr Chew, with a smile.

Similarly, Mr Gerard Ee, in his keynote address at the launch of Silver Industry Standards Roadmap on Thursday, also hoped that technology could be harnessed to provide better care for seniors.

But to do this well, devices and data need to be able to “talk” to each other, which is why common standards matter, he added.

Do you think these standards will help improve the quality of life for older Singaporeans? What other areas should also have minimum standards to help seniors enjoy a better quality of life? Tell us what you think.

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