Caption: Centenarian Mdm Tan Joo Lan (right) holding her self-made flowers, and posing with Mdm Tan Sio Cheng (left) at her home in Ang Mo Kio
When Mdm Tan Siok Cheng bought some kuehs from Mdm Tan Joo Lan more than a decade ago, she did not expect they would one day become best pals. Mdm Tan Joo Lan, the centenarian, who was then 90 years old, was selling her self-made kuehs and bracelets at a market in Ang Mo Kio, had observed Mdm Tan's kind nature and asked for her phone number.
"I was so surprised to receive a call from her after a year. She could remember me so clearly. I almost forgot who she was," quipped 77-year-old Mdm Tan. Since then they became good friends. Mdm Tan only started calling the centenarian “Ah Jie” in the last few years.
Despite being 101 years old and suffering from kyphosis where her back bends 90 degrees, the centenarian is a fiesty independent senior who prefers to be self-reliant and independent. Despite having the full support of her five children, 19 grand-children and 13 great-grandchildren, she chose to live alone in her three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio.
Caption: Mdm Tan Joo Lan leads an independent and purposeful life
Mdm Tan drops in as often as three times a week to check on the centenarian, and would buy winter melon, mee suah, sweet potato for her best friend. In the past, Mdm Tan also helped with housework chores and would even bring along her cooked dishes. But the centenarian prefers to manage everything on her own, including cooking her own food.
Two years ago, Mdm Tan became an active participant of TOUCH Caregiver’s (TCG) Support’s Community Enablement Project, where residents are mobilised to keep a look out for one another, and are equipped to help support the needs of frail seniors in the community. TCG staff befriended Mdm Tan through the regular strength training sessions for residents at the void deck, and learnt of the centenarian’s needs.
Caption: Mdm Tan (right) receives support from TCG's senior occupational therapist, Ms Jacinda Soh (left)
Since then, TCG was able to keep tabs on the centenarian through Mdm Tan, and see how she could be further supported by TOUCH's suite of eldercare services. Mdm Tan was able to discuss with TCG staff her befriendee’s issues and come up with practical solutions together.
“Ever since I came to befriend the people from TOUCH, I feel more confident in my befriender role. When I encounter an issue, I know where to turn to for help, and how to connect with other community services in the neighbourhood. I have also made many friends here. We help one another in times of need,” said Mdm Tan.
Mdm Tan has since expanded her volunteering role to become a health ambassador. She recently joined the rest of the resident volunteers in encouraging neighbours to take part in a community health screening exercise. Mdm Tan also took part in a town audit in her neighbourhood regarding the ease of access to commonly frequented areas by seniors, and gave feedback on their safety in the community.
With TOUCH’s support, Mdm Tan feels more empowered to help other seniors, and has found new meaning and purpose in life. “If all of us can help one another, we will not be afraid to grow old in our neighbourhood,” said Mdm Tan.