High tablet, smartphone penetration among 55-and-above age group in Singapore

Madam Cheow Chin Wang, 63, uses an Acer laptop, iPhone 4 and iPad 2 to check her e-mail and surf the Web. She is among a growing group of older users of mobile devices who are increasingly technology literate.
Madam Cheow Chin Wang, 63, uses an Acer laptop, iPhone 4 and iPad 2 to check her e-mail and surf the Web. She is among a growing group of older users of mobile devices who are increasingly technology literate.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

She is 63 years old, uses a smartphone, tablet and laptop, and is active on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

Retiree Cheow Chin Wang has come a long way since 2007 when even logging on to the Internet using her home desktop required help from her husband or her then 20-year-old son.

Madam Cheow said: "I kept asking them for help until they told me to explore it on my own."

Spurred to be independent, she then decided to take up computer classes with non-profit organisation RSVP Singapore - The Organisation of Senior Volunteers.

Now, the feisty grandmother of four competently uses an Acer laptop, iPhone 4 and iPad 2 to check her e-mail and surf the Web. Even keeping in touch with her 34-year-old daughter, who works as an occupational therapist in London, has become a breeze.

"With FaceTime, I can see my daughter when she's abroad and also see what my other children are up to on Facebook," said the former owner of a Chinese medical hall.

She is among a growing group of older users of mobile devices who are becoming increasingly technology literate.

Data from a global mobile consumer survey report this month by professional services firm Deloitte revealed that smartphone penetration among those aged 55 and above in Singapore reached 65 per cent of the 388 respondents in that age group.

The survey was conducted online between May and July and asked questions ranging from which mobile devices respondents have access to or own, to which devices they use to connect to the Internet.

Of the 11 developed countries in the survey - including the United States, France, and Japan - this figure is only second to South Korea, which has a smartphone penetration of 73 per cent for respondents in the 55-and-above age group. Spain, with 52 per cent of respondents having access to or owning smartphones, came in third.

The same study showed that tablet penetration among the 55-and-above in Singapore was the highest at 57 per cent, compared with South Korea's 19 per cent.

The Netherlands, with 37 per cent of respondents in the age group having access to or owning a tablet, came in second. Spain came in third with a 29 per cent tablet penetration rate.

Madam Jileen Tan, a 55-year-old personal assistant who uses an iPhone 5, iPad 2 and MacBook Air, said: "Many people use smartphones because they don't want to be left out, especially in WhatsApp and other social chat groups."

Statistics from RSVP Singapore also revealed a growing interest in mobile devices among baby boomers. When it launched its Introduction to iPad course in November 2011, it had only 56 participants in the last two months of that year. But last year, about 296 participants attended the course.

This year, course attendance remained steady at about 248 participants from March to December. The centre was closed for renovations during the first two months of this year.

To further reach out to more seniors, the Council for Third Age piloted an online portal and mobile app in October last year which features senior-related information such as health news and an events calendar.

Up till Nov 30 this year, it has been downloaded more than 3,600 times from the Apple App and Google Play stores.

Another application for seniors is also in the pipeline, the People's Association Active Ageing Council told The Sunday Times.

A collaboration with the National University of Singapore's Interactive and Digital Media Institute, the app will enable family members and friends of seniors to detect abnormal movement, such as a fall, via their smartphones so that help can be administered.

The app will be available from early next year.

audreyt@sph.com.sg