My neighbours, my friends

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

When Ms Violet Yeo returned to Singapore after a work stint in Shanghai a decade 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 was heartbroken. My mother meant a lot to me. I had spent so many years abroad and did not know anyone in my neighbourhood,” says Violet. 

CROP VioletCaption: Violet feeling energised after a strength training session conducted by TOUCHpoint@AMK 433

One day, a staff from TOUCH 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. 

A turning point
“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,” says 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,” Violet adds. 

crop cep groupCaption: Residents in an Ang Mo Kio precinct bonding at a void deck

Rediscovering life
Violet also exercises with her neighbour Ms Jessie Teo 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,” says 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.  

Violet, together with some eight residents, also 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,” says Violet. 

Violet in 2024
Caption: Violet looking refreshed at TOUCHpoint@AMK 433

Violet and line dancing 2024

Caption: Violet practising her line dancing movements

During the pandemic, she continued to stay fit and stayed in touch with other seniors. When TOUCHpoint@AMK 433 reopened, she also helped to set up the Line Dancing Interest Group so that residents will feel motivated to exercise more. 

Story published in 2018.
Updated in 2021 & 2024