Sim­pli­fy­ing wis­dom with tech

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Lai likes to brush up his artis­tic in­cli­na­tions with tools such as the Pho­to­scan app.

groups that could use tips and tricks to help them­selves, and old folks are one of these groups,” Zef­fri said.

“We all live in an in­ter­est­ing time where ev­ery­thing fits into a small, palm-sized screen. But while the mas­tery of tech­nol­ogy is nat­u­ral for mil­len­ni­als and Gen X mem­bers, it’s not the same for our baby boomers.”

Fol­low­ing the re­al­i­sa­tion, Google Malaysia has been, as part of their CSR work, cor­ner­ing Malaysian geri­atrics to in­form them the util­i­ties of smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tions.

“The best strat­egy is help­ing these folks use the most out of the de­vices that they al­ready have and are ex­posed to,” Zef­fri con­tended.


Google’s lat­est work­shop for se­nior cit­i­zens, dig­i­tally mar­keted as #GCafe4Se­niorsMY, was one to tes­tify its ef­forts to im­prove the qual­ity of se­nior life.

Held re­cently at YMCA Kuala Lumpur, the event saw a few dozen at­ten­dees from 55 to 75 mas­ter­ing Google tools around the pop­u­lar themes of Search, Plan, Travel and Pho­tos.

“We have in the past worked with Au­torr Foun­da­tion, an NGO as­sist­ing the wel­fares of se­nior cit­i­zens. From there, we de­cided to do another work­shop, this time invit­ing el­derly YMCA mem­bers to par­tic­i­pate,” Zef­fri said.

Sourc­ing part­ner­ships for the work is sur­pris­ingly easy. Zef­fri con­tin­ues: “These or­gan­i­sa­tions are kind enough to find venues for us to set up our work­shops.”

“The eas­i­ness of the sit­u­a­tion al­lows us to fo­cus on the main point: How can we get se­nior Malaysians to gain knowl­edge from their smart­phones in an un­com­pli­cated way? After count­less re­search, we found out that se­niors are in­ter­ested to search in­for­ma­tion bet­ter, plan things bet­ter, travel more, and keep bet­ter track of their pho­tos.” Tan prefers mas­ter­ing the ropes of Google Cal­en­dar and Maps

Ap­par­ently, chil­dren are not the only hu­mans ca­pable of rev­el­ling in awe. As Zef­fri and his team would even­tu­ally re­alise, the more se­nior cit­i­zens re­alise how mag­i­cal and self-serv­ing tech­nol­ogy ac­tu­ally is, the more ac­cept­ing they are of it.

He says: “Most of them didn’t know they could ac­tu­ally talk to their phones! If you think about it, that is kind of a big deal, at least in their case.

“You would also re­alise how simple their goals are, which makes you happy to help them out. Sud­denly, life for them is less about burnt cakes when they have sched­uled alarms to re­mind them to check the oven. They also get to plan more meet­ings with friends.”

A pop­u­lar in­ter­est shared among the se­niors at­tend­ing GCafe was trav­el­ling. Re­tiree Ge­orge Cheong Lak Hoong, 65, shares his de­light, “My favourite app is Google Trips. I can use it for trav­el­ling and take my­self to so many places.

“Right now, I de­pend too much on my chil­dren to or­gan­ise my trips. Imag­ine how sad I am when­ever they tell me they are not free, and that’s the end of it. Now, I re­alise I can travel my­self, with­out de­pend­ing on


Hav­ing seen the heart­warm­ing suc­cess of #GCafe4Se­niorsMY, Zef­fri be­lieves the el­derly can be tech­no­log­i­cally savvy, given the chance. The buds to be nipped are all in the lit­tle de­tails.

“If they have a chal­lenge fo­cus­ing on small fonts, for ex­am­ple, they can learn how to get them­selves out of the prob­lem by ac­cess­ing their phone’s set­tings,” he said.

These lit­tle epipha­nies, he con­tin­ued, are what Google is look­ing at to in­duce among geri­atrics pre­cur­sory to vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) as­sis­tance.

“In Malaysia, VR is gen­er­ally new to the masses. Among the youth, it works as an as­sist­ing tool in classes, as well as an en­ter­tain­ment pro­gramme. Mean­while, VR for the Malaysian el­ders is cur­rently con­sid­ered an amaz­ing bonus.”

Con­cern­ing the big­gest chal­lenge of ce­ment­ing se­nior be­lief in VR, Zef­fri says: “Safety is the big­gest is­sue when it comes to in­tro­duc­ing VR to the se­niors. That’s why we would pre-ar­range safe seat­ing lay­outs for them be­fore we give them the nec­es­sary tools. It’s easy for them to get hurt, while exploring.”

Given the suc­cess of VR in ar­eas such as health­care and ther­apy over­seas, all hopes of devel­op­ing the tool for local se­niors are not lost; in fact, they qui­etly per­sist.

Ac­cord­ing to Zef­fri, it’s a mat­ter of func­tion. “At Google, we do not in­tro­duce tech­nol­ogy for tech­nol­ogy’s sake. As long as we find a used case to utilise it, there will al­ways be de­vel­op­ment in the ar­eas con­cern­ing VR.

“I think we’re at the cusp of some­thing spe­cial, in terms of the de­vices that we have and the ca­pa­bil­i­ties that they have to de­liver VR. There’s never been a point in time where the porta­bil­ity of this is matched with easy ac­ces­si­bil­ity.”

Re­gard­ing Google’s part in this macro goal, Zef­fri con­cludes: “All of our VR tools are free. This way, all other in­dus­tries are more than wel­come to utilise it for their own re­search and de­vel­op­ment.”

Se­niors are in­ter­ested to search in­for­ma­tion bet­ter, plan things bet­ter, travel more, and keep bet­ter track of their pho­tos.

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