My neighbours, my friends

Elderly Group

My neighbours, my friends
Caption: Violet (left) and Jessie (right) keeping fit together

When Mdm Violet Teo, 57, returned to Singapore after a work stint in Shanghai some nine years ago, she felt alone. The Masters graduate in Education and Applied Linguistics, had spent some 15 years teaching in international schools in countries, including Brunei, India and America.   

Not long after, Violet’s mother, who was in her 70s, had a fall. She then spent three years as a caregiver until her mother passed on in 2011.  Although Violet was unable to speak Teochew, her mother’s primary language, both mother and daughter were close. 

“At that time, I went through a hard patch. I felt angry. I was heartbroken. My mother meant a lot to me. I had spent so many years abroad and did not know anyone in my neighbourhood,” said Violet. 

CROP Violet

Caption: Violet feeling energised after a strength training session conducted by TOUCH

One day, a staff from TOUCH Caregivers Support knocked on her door, handed her a flyer and invited her to a strength training session at a void deck of a neighbouring block. She responded to the invitation. But as an introvert, she kept mostly to herself. After faithfully attending her twice weekly exercise sessions, Violet found herself opening up and enjoying the company of fellow residents. 

“I did not know I could build friendships here at the void deck. This came as a pleasant surprise. The residents are all so warm and helpful. We used to be strangers. Now, we are good friends! The TOUCH staff are also supportive,” said Violet smiling. 

“I was amazed to learn more about my mother through the residents. They knew her well! I was curious and wondered what kind of life my mother led,” added Violet. 

crop cep group

Caption: Residents in an Ang Mo Kio precinct bonding over a CEP activity at a void deck

Violet also exercises with her neighbour and new found best friend, Mdm Jessie Yeo, 62, at the Ang Mo Kio-Bishan Park. Violet feels fitter now. Her diabetes and cholesterol levels have gone down. She does not feel breathless when climbing stairs and is able to walk longer distances. 

“I feel happier too. I enjoy going to the market every day. Strangers would come and sit beside me, and chat about relationship and financial issues. As I am aware of what TOUCH does, I am always keeping a look out for needy seniors,” said Violet. 

Once, Violet came to know an elderly resident who faced caregiver stress and alerted TOUCH. She also reached out to a senior working at a fast food joint who was depressed. In both cases, TOUCH roped in befrienders to support these seniors. 

“We are encouraged to see how Violet is not only happy, but healthy and helpful. This is what we are trying to achieve through our Community Enablement Project. Violet has found greater purpose in life, and is ready to equip herself to support the needs of vulnerable seniors in her neighbourhood,” said Mr Kelvin Lee, Manager, TOUCH Caregivers Support. 

Recently, Violet, together with some eight residents, started their diabetes awareness training sessions by TOUCH’s diabetes nurse educator. “As someone with diabetes I am glad I can be a health ambassador, and encourage others to take care of themselves and care for one another,” said Violet.