Friday, May 18, 2007

Why I can't sleep yesterday night....


A few months ago, my company hire an 'older' worker and made me the supervisor. Although the older worker had many years of experience, he had to learn the new technology at my company. I soon realise he was taking much longer than the younger guys. Shortly after this older worker was hired, a friendly young Chinese feller came. This Chinese chap was a fast learner and also had very good attitude. My game plan was to let the older worker have more time to learn because this Chinese guy can do the work of 2 people easily in the interim and should be able to cover for the older guy as a team. Unfortunately the older work resigned and I had to do the exit interview yesterday.
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During the exit interview, I was moved because the older worker apologised to me for "taking too long to learn" and for "not being productive". I can see the redness in his eyes when he spoke to me. I tapped him on his back and told him, "Its alright, you tried your best". Being older he felt bad he couldn't keep up with the pace and so decided to leave for more routine menial job elsewhere. I felt really bad about the whole situation and spent the whole night thinking about it.
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A few years ago, my aunt who was a nurse called to ask me to teach her about computers because the hospital was computerising and she needs to "key in" alot of things. When I was a boy, my auntie thought me many things - how to make kites, how to fold cranes etc. I thought it was time for me to return the favor since I was the "de facto computer expert" in the family. When I started teaching her, I realised her age was really showing, she had to wear magnifying glass as specs (long sighted) just to see the small fonts. The first thing I had to teach her was to "double click" on icons. To you that might seem like trivial skill but to a 60+ yr old person clicking the mouse 2 times within 80 milliseconds is a challenge. I took about 1 hour of practice just to get past that and still my aunt will occasionally be a little slow and Windows (yucks) will treat it as 2 single clicks. I thought of adjusting the double click setting to her timing but that wouldn't work because she had to use the computers at the hospital which had the default setting. The whole computerisation was an extremely stressful experience for my aunty and the training course conducted at the hospital was fast like a "bullet train" for her. She did cope with the computerisation with the help of her kind fellow nurses but my uncle persuaded her to retire shortly after because he had a good pension (my aunt had chosen the CPF scheme and regretted later) and the children are all grown up. My aunt is now happily traveling most of the time instead of working.
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Singapore is lucky to have a far sighted govt - one that plans for the long term and ensure that the work ethics of the old is preserved. Thanks to many ingenious schemes such as the liberalisation of CPF to buy property, much of the money that was meant to help Singaporeans retire earlier have been sunk into property. Of course being an extraordinary govt that deserves its million$ salaries and high pensions, they figured out the solution to all this is to have Singaporeans work longer and retire later. For a significant segment of the population who don't even make enough for basic necessities, they will have to work until they die. They only have themselves to blame for their predicament because they were not able to elevate themselves to earn more as the govt continously retool the economy to maximise GDP growth. When you get older, you will lose your physical and mental agility. Some people say Singaporeans age faster because of the high stress level in our society (2nd highest in the world?). A 60 yr old in Singapore is like a 70 yr old somewhere else. It will be very tough for our older folks to keep working however they should see it as a challenge ....they are so lucky to have a govt that keeps throwing challenges at them even as their minds and bodies age.

13 comments:

The Oriental Express said...

I understand the elderly worker and your aunty.

I only learnt the computer at half a century years old. Yet, earlier I had bought a computer from my tenant to help him out. Yet with two computer savy tenants in my home, I had somehow put off learning the computer. It soon gathered dust, dog and human hairs and died a premature death and ended up with the karang guni man.

A friend donated an old computer to me. Slowly I picked up things. Now I love the computer and can't live without it! Started my blog on Nov. 15 2005, and now have over 400 articles in my blog.

Have been encouraging my older siblings but meeting with a lot of resistance and phobia of the machine! I have to print out my articles and mail to my beloved brother to read.

I enjoy your blog! Cheers to more writing!

Anonymous said...

And Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers the same day, saying, You shall NO MORE give the people STRAW to make brick, as before. Let them go and gather STRAW for themselves. And you shall LAY UPON them the number of bricks which they have made before now. You shall NOT TAKE AWAY from it. For they are IDLE; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go find life.

Let more work be laid upon the men, and let them LABOR in it. And do not let them regard VAIN WORDS. And the taskmasters of the people and their officers went out. And they spoke to the people, saying, So says Pharaoh, I WILL NOT GIVE YOU STRAW.

Anonymous said...

Now its starts to get cruel. Singaporeans worked so hard they are the No. 1 most competitive workers in the world. As they get older, they are replace by foreign workers by massive mindless importation. Now they are nearing retirement age, they are asked to work instead of retire.

Cruel. Very cruel.

Anonymous said...

sigh, that indeed was a very distrurbing article.

but hey - if LKY can still be a mentor to all the ministers at 80+ yrs of age, and earn $2million a year doing so, exluding the money earned on the speaking circuit, there is no reason why other old folks cant work as well.

its basically wanting to install LKY's work ethics to the whole population. There must be some good in this, right?

part time cleaner said...

ok ok. i also cant sleep because boss up my salary by $1 next month. so excited now can eat pratas with curry more ofthen.life so good thank you.

Christopher said...

I see that my mum's not the only one who has trouble double-clicking. As an alternative, I've told her to single click and then press enter. Seems to work in most cases at least.

I suppose that's why Microsoft has the single-click option for Windows as well. I find that very annoying though.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame technology if you cannot catch up. The government is given you opportunity to work. If you are too lazy to learn, go do mundane work and stop complaining.

Bart JP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart JP said...

Lucky,

My mum is 60. The way she handles the mouse is like she is afraid the mouse will bite her or something. Definitely, she is uncomfortable with technology. But surprisingly, she is still gainfully employed, and in fact still getting pay rises. I am sometimes shocked at why her boss will pay her this kind of money and bonuses, but later I realised.

The secret? Avoid competition. She works in a small firm, far away from the happening town area, and does a mundane (but critical) adminstrative job that the younger and more able workers shun. She tells me that young people do not like these unglam jobs, in unglam locations, in unglam industries.

She is happily carving a role for herself in the firm, doing backroom work. It suits her as she is obviously not there to make a career. And honestly, it really helps that I do not have to worry about her finances.

Bart JP said...

I forgot to mention the point I am making. I think older workers can find gainful employment, but the job fit is important.

Anonymous said...

when i grow up,, i want be secret agent. why? you visit forums, you see people talk nonsense about politicians. talk nonsene of lawyers. talk nonsense about doctors. talk nonsense of newspaper talking nonsense. but you hear people talk nonsense of secret agents? no! i figure why? i think for so long, i now know what is secret. because the secret is they are very secret nobody knows what nonsense they do. so i think very long and conclude. this is best profession for everyone. if all of us be secret agents, we all can keep watch each other secretly and be secret secret. and when things are secret, problems all dissapear and world is perfect. so i conclude after much deep deep thinking, all should become secret agents. best jobs solve worlds problems!

Anonymous said...

Far sighted government??? Mark my word, in years to come, our society will degenerate into money-minded merceneries, elitism etc...

Anonymous said...

bart jp: lol! now, i see why so many old aunties are cleaners. they are following ur advice and carving their niche in this most unglam job.

pls, we know your affiliations. it wld do ur credibility much good if you can help to identify the failings of this system and suggest ways of improvement instead.