Saturday, April 30, 2016


When was the last time you approached any of your adult children with a question regarding your smartphone, tablet or computer? And what was their usual response? "Sorry, mom, dad. No time. I have work deadlines to meet."

So you turn to your grandchildren. After all, they grew up in the internet age and are wiz kids when it comes to electronic devices. They are happy to teach you. Unfortunately their enthusiasm and patience don't last long enough for you to grasp their explanation. After a few minutes, they run off to play or do their own thing.

It's true - family members often make the worst teachers and the most difficult students, whether it's about learning to drive, play a musical instrument or use multi-media.

Imagine how excited we were when Dr Teh Pei Lee agreed to collaborate with SeniorsAloud to organize a workshop on smartphone usage specially for our members. Dr Teh is Associate Prof from the Dept of Management, School of Business at Monash UNiversity Malaysia. She is also Head of the Gerontechnology Lab, as well as Chair for IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society (TEMS) Malaysia Chapter which sponsored the workshop.The facilitators for the workshop would be her students from the School of Business.

This would be SeniorsAloud's first inter-generational event. And who better to teach our members about smartphones than young students who are also research assistants at the Gerontechnology Lab that we would be visiting.

Early birds at the registration counter getting their goody bags and workshop manuals.
Dr Teh Pei Lee welcoming the participants
Presenting certificates of appreciation to the facilitators and a memento to Dr Teh

The workshop took place last Sat 23 April, 2016 at Monash University University, School of Business. A total of 60 SeniorsAloud members had registered for the free workshop. Everyone was given a goody bag of door gifts as well workshop manuals.

It was a workshop that turned out to be of mutual benefit to both generations. The facilitators discovered that teaching seniors was more challenging than they had initially thought. The manuals had to be printed in large font size, with easy-to-understand instructions. Brought up in the analog age, the seniors had plenty of questions to ask, and some had problems following the explanations. But Jeffrey, Jonathan, Venise, Kaixiang and Wai Luen rose to the challenge and proved themselves to be excellent facilitators handling the participant's numerous questions with lots of patience.

Participants were separated into two groups, one for iPhone users, the other for Androids. They were shown step by step how to perform basic tasks on their smartphones. Each was given a manual covering topics such as:
  • how to edit settings
  • how to use the phone camera 
  • how to edit photos
  • how to set up chat groups 
  • how to share images and videos
  • how to download and install applications
  • how to access websites 
  • how to use search engines 
  • how to create Facebook accounts
Listening attentively to the facilitators, and following the instructions in the manual

Those who were already familiar with the above tasks took the opportunity to build on their existing knowledge of smartphone usage. The facilitators were there to guide them and take their questions.

After the smartphone workshop session was over, participants enjoyed a tea break before making their way to the Gerontechnology Lab, the first and only one in Malaysia to date. For SeniorsAloud members, it was certainly an honour and a privilege to be the first group of senior citizens to visit the lab.

Visit to the Gerontechnology Lab

The Gerontechnology Lab was launched on February 18 to conduct research into developing technology that would help the elderly be more independent in their home. It is a collaborative effort between the schools of Business, IT, Health Sciences, Medicine, Arts, Social Sciences and Engineering, and jointly funded by Khind Starfish Foundation, Monash University Malaysia and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).

Final year School of Business student Jeffrey Yeow Thiry briefing participants in the lab.
Jeffrey demonstrating the various appliances at the stations. PhD student Tang Tiong Yew explaining his project - the emotionally intelligent robot.
The Age Simulation Suit that enables the wearer to experience what it feels like to be an old person. and the Emotionally Intelligent Robot were two of the many innovations designed to help the elderly with activities of daily living
A close-up of some of the assistive devices on display at the kitchen station and a customized walking stick that gives the elderly a firmer grip and better balance when walking.
Dr Teh speaking with one of the participants. On the table are the various components of the smartphone home system that the research team is currently working on. 
Group photo to commemorate the success of the first inter-generational collaboration between SeniorsAloud and Monash University Malaysia Gerontechnology Lab 
The organizing team comprising team members from SeniorsAloud and research assistants from the Gerontechnology Lab

The Gerontechnology Lab research team led by Associate Prof Dr Teh Pei Lee is currently conducting a multi-discipline study on developing a smartphone home system for the elderly. They are inviting volunteers aged 50 and above to participate in a questionnaire and interview session. The session will take about 40 minutes and will be held on weekdays at Alzheimer's Disease Foundation Malaysia (ADFM) at 6, Lorong 11/8E, PJ. As a token of appreciation, each volunteer will receive a AEON voucher worth RM10.

If you would like to volunteer for this meaningful research study, please contact Jenny at 016-608 2513 or 03-7931 5850 to arrange for a suitable date and time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Shojiro Shindo and his wife Kimiko on
a trip to Nagasaki Prefecture in 2013
I learned a new word today - 'sotsukon'. It's a Japanese word that means 'graduation from marriage'. (Read the interview with Shojiro, 71. He and his wife Kimiko, 69, are happy with their 'sotsukon'. The Japan News)

When the children have grown and flown the family nest, longtime married couples go through a period of re-adjustment. It's make-or-break time for the relationship. The marriage either strengthens as the couple have more time for each other, or crumble as they constantly bicker and get on each other's nerves.

Blessed are couples that have remained loving, caring and committed to their marriage vows. Unfortunately, marital break-ups among older couples seem to be the norm these days. In the US, more than half of all gray divorces are to couples in first marriages. Indeed, 55 percent of gray divorces are between couples who’d been married for more than 20 years. (Washington Post)

Gray divorce on the rise in S.Korea
Gray divorces are on the rise, even in Asia. And it's usually the women who initiate the divorce. (AARP). As late as the 1980s, it was unthinkable for a woman to seek a divorce. How would she support herself? Besides, a divorce meant telling the world that her marriage was a failure. That would be such a loss of face.

Today, Asian women are no longer afraid to seek a divorce as they are able to fend for themselves financially. Society has also become more accepting of divorce.

For those who do not want to go through a messy and often expensive divorce, there is 'sotsukon'. This is not the same as 'estranged' which implies the couple living separately on unfriendly terms. In 'sotsukon', the couple lead separate lives but remain in touch, and still enjoy activities together.

'Sotsukon' is gaining popularity in Japan, and why not. It's the perfect compromise for couples who still have some affection for each other, but want to have the freedom to pursue their own interests and lifestyle.

Expect 'sotsukon' to catch on too in Malaysia and Singapore.