A Look to Dialogue with Time Singapore

Dialogue with Time, DSE’s interactive exhibition which raises awareness on the topic of ageing, has been open at the Science Center Singapore for over a year.


In this name, we decided to interview Illi Suraya, operations supervisor,and asked her to provide us with a glimpse of DwT Singapore.

DSE: How is the exhibition working so far?

ILLI: Dialogue with Time – Embrace Ageing is an interactive exhibition bringing forth greater understanding, empathy and preparedness for something we must all eventually face. The experience is facilitated by guides above 65 years of
age. Seniors have a wealth of knowledge and personal experiences. There are two other zones on Science of Ageing and Science & Technology to complement the Dialogue with Time guided tours.

DSE: Who is your main group of visitors?

ILLI: Our guests are mainly young couples, tertiary students and families with 2 or 3 generations.

DSE: What is the reaction of the visitors?

ILLI: Guests who attended the tours are mostly inspired and enlightened with new knowledge. I recalled hosting a young lady, who attended 4 tours in a span of 2 months. When I asked which was her favourite part, she said that she enjoyed the short personal story that the seniors shared. Each time she comes, she will bring a new group of friends with her. It is always good to know that our audience learnt a thing or 2 from the seniors. An employee of a Family Centre shared the following with us one of the visitor's feedback: "The dialogue session was captivating as it made them reflect about what made them happy. Overall the participants greatly enjoyed the experience and sharing.
Thank you so much for the help and support from the staff!" (Participant, Goodlife

DSE: Visitors’ favorite exhibit(s)?

ILLI:  Our guests love the ageing photo booth, and looking  how they might look like in future. At the yellow zone, most guests find it challenging to insert the key for tremor exhibit. For now, the ultimate favourite is
mobility/super grandpa.
DSE: Do you have a story about a visitor’s surprise reaction to share?

ILLI: A story of a father and his 7-years-old son who patron the Science Centre often but had never seen this exhibition before. The young boy, in all excitement, dragged his father up to explore the exhibition and insisted that they join the tour. Typically, parents are sceptical about this experience as he assumed that the experience would not be able to capture his son's attention. They went ahead with a personal tour with one of our late guide, Sam. By the end of the tour, the father was amazed as Sam successfully managed to engage his son. The little chap kept asking questions about older persons and even though the tour was conducted for 2 persons, it took Sam the full hour to complete it. His son even shared with us what he learnt and he wanted to spend more time with his grandparents. As a parent, he too learnt a thing about his son after the tour: ageing journey has its positive side.

DSE: How many visitors have you received so far?

ILLI: We had more than 17,000 guests who attended the tour from October 2017 (soft opening) until December 2018.

DSE: How many senior guides are working currently with you?

ILLI: I am working closely with 27 gleeful guides. Youngest person is 65 years old, oldest person is 87 years old.

DSE: And how is the integration of these senior guides to the science centre?

ILLI: We constantly engage the guides in various activities and project development.Recently, we shared with the guides about the upcoming new exhibitions that weare developing at Science Centre Singapore.  We took this opportunity to ask for their input and suggestions for improvement. Guides are often invited for the official launches and previews. We regularly organise networking sessions for our guides and Science Centre staff to mingle. We are planning a visit to the first retirement village in Singapore -  "Kampung Admiralty" and a morning trek to Singapore’s highest peak point as part of our upcoming activities and engagement sessions. Our guides have a great sense of ownership towards Dialogue with Time.  They are always looking for ways to improve the guest experience. Having an open communication helps them freely share their thoughts and ideas with us which are then evaluated. . As a team, we have a bi-monthly meeting where we share ideas, process improvements, expectations and not forgetting, lots of food and laughter!

DSE: And talking about guides, could you share a story about a surprise senior guide reaction?

ILLI: Most guides have a misconception that younger people are not very keen to listen to older persons. When students show interest and eagerness, it leaves a great impression! Recently we attended to a group of 13-year old girls who were planning an outing for a group of seniors.  Apart from attending the tour, the students asked if they can interview our guides to learn more about the older generation. They were keen to find out what would interest seniors and if seniors enjoy learning new skills and activities. It became a very pleasant and hearty conversation! The guides who attended to this group felt amazed as they had initiative and put in a lot of effort to ensure that their planned outing for the aged group is done right. Our guides felt that their ideas and inputs to the project was being used for a meaningful cause. This naturally validated their objective as a DwT Exhibition Guide.

DSE: finally, what are the challenges for the future?

ILLI: Depending on the context, we have 2 answers for this question. On one hand, through these interactive exhibits and additional sharing sessions conducted by senior guides, we hope to create stronger respect, tolerance and acceptance of one another to overcome barriers between people of differing abilities.

  • To address the topic of ageing and to promote a positive understanding towards it
  • To foster intergenerational dialogues and to enhance empathy towards senior citizens
  • To help visitors better understand and maximise longevity, translating that to a healthy and meaningful life
  • For visitors to understand the changes experienced by the body due to ageing
  • Present technology tools and research advancements that could assist ageing-related conditions or improve the quality of life

On the other hand, ageing is a very challenging topic to bridge to our younger guests. It is important for us to be able to engage our guests according to their needs. Keeping up with the current event, new technology and developing new engagement skills can be challenging. Thus, it is it is important for us to stay relevant, and for our audience to be intrigued by the topic before wanting to commit their time with us. We are constantly looking for new and interesting ways to engage guests better. Our Singapore team is very adaptable to changes. They love learning new things!

We thank indeed to the Science Centre Singapore and Illi that opened this window to the Dialogue with Time Singapore so we could had a look to this wonderful exhibition. We hope many visitors more will encounter with the senior guides soon and get a great experience.