New technology? Seniors want to see self-parking cars and language translators

Changi General Hospital staff nurse Sheree Ye (right), using the iCOM translation app to communicate with patient Kan Wan Sin on July 25, 2014. Language translation apps, driverless cars that park themselves and technology that aids home rehabilitati
Changi General Hospital staff nurse Sheree Ye (right), using the iCOM translation app to communicate with patient Kan Wan Sin on July 25, 2014. Language translation apps, driverless cars that park themselves and technology that aids home rehabilitation were among the ideas suggested to Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan by the elderly on how technology can improve their lives at home. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Driverless cars that park themselves, apps that translate various languages and dialects, and technology that aids home rehabilitation.

These were among suggestions made on Monday in a dialogue session attended by 50 seniors and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources.

Elderly residents were asked to suggest how technology can improve their lives at home, how they move around Singapore, live healthy lives and stay connected with friends and families.

It was the first in a series of discussions that the Smart Nation Programme Office - which Dr Balakrishnan is in charge of - will hold with Singaporeans to find out how technology can better serve different segments of society.

Dr Balakrishnan said the nation wants to avoid a digital divide between those who can and cannot access and use technology.

"We also have to make sure there's no digital divide on the basis of income, so regardless of how well-off or not so well-off a family is, we make sure basic connectivity, basic computing, basic technical literacy is available - especially to children," he told reporters.

He also hopes to consult students, fresh graduates and working adults.

The Smart Nation Programme Office was announced last November with the aim of identifying issues, co-developing solutions, prototyping ideas and deploying them effectively. In a written parliamentary reply last Monday, Dr Balakrishnan said the office intends to focus on how technology can help seniors, youths and local small to medium enterprises.

Retiree Cheow Chin Wang, 64, who attended the dialogue, said she wants to catch up with technology so she will not be left behind by her children.

Mdm Cheow, whose daughter lives in the United Kingdom, said of video chatting programme Skype: "It makes me feel close to my daughter, like the distance is just physical. I don't feel that she's that far away from me."

kxinghui@sph.com.sg