Transformation Of Space To Help Seniors Go Digital
To use this feature, please click on "Cookie Preferences" in the footer and select "Yes" to consent to functional cookies
Transformation Of Space To Help Seniors Go Digital
Staff volunteer Htin Aung shares his experience in contributing his expertise in design and project development for Majestic Smart Seniors Applied Learning Centre (MSSALC), together with his teammates, Fernando Tham, Leong Teng Wui and Thomas Wee from the CapitaLand Development’s Project Development and Design Management department and The Ascott Limited (Ascott)
Seniors who are not as tech-savvy may feel isolated from an increasingly digitalised world especially since COVID-19 pandemic has started. MSSALC which is located at Chinatown, seeks to help seniors learn about digital technology and integrate it into their daily lives.
This is a collaborative project between CapitaLand's philanthropic arm CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF); RSVP Singapore, an organisation for senior volunteers; and Singapore Pools.
In this partnership, CHF supported RSVP Singapore in this initiative by funding the renovation of the centre, and providing skilled volunteers to share expertise in co-creating an inclusive and senior-friendly space for learning. The centre is situated at a community space at The Majestic sponsored by Singapore Pools, and was officially inaugurated by President Halimah Yacob on 18 February 2022.
Htin shared with us on what drives him and his team to be part of this project, and how they transformed the original space to a liveable, usable and senior-friendly place with green features that can enable seniors to learn and play.
CSR: Hi Htin! Tell us a little bit about yourself. Htin: As part of the Project Development and Design Management team at CapitaLand Development, I provide product and technical service advisory such as reviewing design ideas and researching on new trends for CapitaLand’s lodging business unit, The Ascott Limited’s serviced apartments and hotels in the Middle East, Africa and India. I’ve been working for CapitaLand for almost nine years.
CSR: What motivated you to be part of this MSSALC project? Htin: CHF approached the Project Development and Design Management team to provide our design expertise for the Majestic Smart Seniors Applied Centre as well as project development and management where we liaised with interior designers and contractors.
The Foundation has been supporting initiatives that improve the quality of life of seniors in the community under initiatives such as #LoveOurSeniors. We took on this project as it was a good opportunity for us to give back to the community, leveraging our know-how for advice on designs for lodging and hospitality projects. For instance, when reviewing the design of lodging properties, we find out what are the touchpoints and interior design elements that will cater to all age groups including seniors.
We applied the same considerations throughout the design and project development process for MSSALC. We are involved in every milestone, understanding the challenges faced by seniors through research findings from our partners, and working out a design to elevate a more holistic user experience for them.
CSR: What was your team’s role in the project?
Htin: The working team comprises of my colleague Fernando Tham, who is an Interior Designer, and myself. We worked very closely with RSVP’s operations team and Participate in Design, a registered non-profit design, planning and educational organisation, to understand the seniors’ requirements and ensure that they are realised in the final product.
Besides, our team also brought in industry partners and vendors that we have collaborated before, to test the newest and latest senior-friendly solutions in the market. We felt this is important as in addition to creating an inclusive and collaborative effort where industry partners partake in a joint community effort, they can also get ‘live’ feedback from the seniors on their products.
CSR: Could you share with us the unique features of MSSALC and how are the senior living ideas implemented in this space? Htin: Apart from the social and learning spaces, we have included an innovation space called ‘INCLUDE, Active Living InnoHub by CapitaLand’. INCLUDE stands for Innovate, Create, Live, Understand, and Design. We would like the Innohub to be dynamic, interactive and testbed for ideas, innovative products, technology that can improve the quality of life of seniors.
For example, we integrated the design of a typical home or serviced apartment as we wanted to understand how it can be optimised for the comfort and convenience for the seniors, transforming the original space to include liveable, usable and senior-friendly elements. The main foyer simulates a living and dining space, with an eclectic mix of chairs with different arm and backrest profiles so that we can study which are suitable for seniors with their feedback.
Another feature is the social kitchen, which is an open kitchen where seniors can livestream their cooking sessions, sharing basic cooking techniques and livestreaming knowledge with other seniors. We worked very closely with Participate in Design to select designs that cater to the seniors’ needs such as the reducing excessive bending and stretching. For example, the overhead cabinets are fixed with a mechanical closer so that it is easy to operate.
We also included sustainability features in our design. Energy-efficient LED light fixtures were installed to minimise energy consumption. A water filter is also provided in the centre to encourage senior to bring their own bottles and reduce plastic waste. We invited our partner, Edible Garden City, one of Singapore's pioneers for urban farming, to set up a feature vertical farm at the entrance of the centre to grow edible greens for a farm-to-table concept.
CSR: Where did you draw your inspiration from?
Htin: We worked with Participate in Design where they invited seniors and conducted focus group discussions and kopi-talks, to hear their viewpoints and challenges on senior design so that we can understand what really matters to them. The whole process of crowdsourcing of ideas took close to two months, as we wanted to ensure our vision are aligned with the seniors’. Through this community-driven engagement design process, we collected over 400 responses from the RSVP senior volunteers, non-profit organisations in the Chinatown area and grassroot leaders from Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng.
The findings garnered from the seniors contributed to the basis of the design, and the overall look and feel of the centre. The final product is a flexible space that can be catered to bigger groups for workshops and cosy corners for those who prefer to discuss in smaller groups so that seniors can have different learning environments for their usage.
CSR: What were the considerations you had to take when providing your advice on the centre design? Htin: The building holds many fond memories for the seniors as The Majestic Theatres has been around since the 1930s. We wanted the design to retain the historical aspects and their collective memories of the place, while being modern, and appealing to all age-groups at the same time.
It was challenging because some of the interior elements (such as entrance column cladding, signages, etc.) are to be left intact as they are protected and conserved by the authorities. Hence, we changed our approach by preserving the historical elements, and toning down on our design interventions so that they complement each other. For example, we took interesting elements of the façade design (such as geometric patterns) and incorporated it in interior to emphasise the unique features of the building.
In the Social Zone, we used archival images of The Majestic Theatres for the wallpaper so that visitors can reminisce their times at The Majestic Theatres. It also serves as a conversation icebreaker as visitors find common ground with their memories.
CSR: What challenges did you face in the entire process?
Htin: The key challenge we faced was due to COVID-19 which caused much uncertainty and prolonged the construction period. Despite this, we felt that it is still important to proceed with the construction works as the seniors who are not as tech-savvy need our help to adopt digital technology as part of their lifestyle. A centre dedicated to teaching and acclimatising new technology will certainly benefit them most.
CSR: How does your team hope the seniors will benefit from our contribution?
Htin: We hope the centre will serve as a “playground” for the seniors where they feel supported and encouraged to try out new things and be exposed to technology, such as touch activated tap, projection screen, webcam, facial recognition system and digital check-in system.
CSR: What is your takeaway from this experience?
Htin: It’s a good learning experience for us, as we get to learn new things about the seniors’ perspectives and to incorporate designs that can resonate with them and have them in mind. In the past, we might have certain stereotypes of what seniors will want or need, which might not end up being useful for them.
As we took part in every step of the design and project development process for the MSSALC project, we can now understand the pain points faced by the seniors and elevate the whole user experience for them. MSSALC will be used to hold programmes and events in the near future, and it will be a continuous experiential learning for us to understand how seniors make use of the space to socialise and how the environment and new technology facilitate the dialogues.
This project also lets us testbed senior living ideas in consultation and collaboration with RSVP after completion of the facility, which can help us to improve CapitaLand’s lodging products and services, making spaces more inclusive and more accessible for seniors.