Caption: Mdm Kok Yoon Hin (right) volunteering during the pandemic
“Some of my befriendees feel embarrassed. I can’t blame them because I am more than a decade older than them! They feel they should be the ones helping me instead. But I do not feel old. As long as I can walk, I am ready to help others - and it feels great!”
Mdm Kok's active streak started when she was a child. From playing in the drain to getting caught stealing fruits from her neighbour's tree, her life was filled with adventures. Fast forward 80 years. Mdm Kok is still active – except that she is now 91 and does things slower.
When Mdm Kok’s husband became ill when he was in his 60s , she struggled to care for him. When he had both legs amputated due to diabetes, she felt overwhelmed as his sole caregiver. He finally passed on at the age of 75 after battling a series of chronic ailments.
A new chapter
At 71, Mdm Kok was ready to move on with her life. With her two grown-up children staying elsewhere, she was on a look out for things to do – outside her home. One day, she walked past TOUCH Senior Activity Centre (TSAC) – now known as TOUCHpoint@Geylang Bahru – at her neighbouring block in Geylang Bahru and heard seniors laughing. Since then she has spent more than a decade befriending seniors and living life to the fullest. She goes to the centre twice a day. There, she interacts with others - both able-bodied seniors and those who are frail - and is kept engaged through a host of activities and outings.
Caption: Mdm Kok posing for a portrait shot at a carnival organised for seniors before the pandemic
She was then approached by a centre staff to join the Seniors Caring for Seniors (SCS) programme*. “I am so old already. I was worried I could not do a lot of things. I am only good at chatting,” quipped Mdm Kok. Since then, she has taken care of two seniors with mobility constraints.
Caption: Mdm Kok (left), reaching out to Mdm Lim Kwee Khai* (right) in Geylang Bahru
Mdm Kok takes her befriender role seriously. She would turn up every Monday morning, donned in her volunteer t-shirt, ready to start her home visits. As a befriender, she has learnt to be observant, to identify needs and provide emotional support.
“Some of my befriendees feel embarrassed. I can’t blame them because I am more than a decade older than them! They feel they should be the ones helping me instead. But I do not feel old. As long as I can walk, I am ready to help others - and it feels great!” Mdm Kok added.
A friend and comforter
Due to her advanced age, Mdm Kok prefers to provide psychosocial support instead of bringing them downstairs to run errands. “Many of the seniors are lonely. They have gone through hurts and disappointments, and tend to have a negative outlook of life. I help them see the brighter side of things; to think of happy thoughts and take things one step at a time," said Mdm Kok.
Caption: Reaching out to vulnerable seniors during the pandemic
Caption: SCS volunteers enjoying a weekly session of sharing and learning before their home visits
When asked about her future, she said, “I will not worry too much about ageing. I am happy I have a second home here at the centre; they are like family to me.”
*About the Seniors Caring for Seniors (SCS) Programme
Set up in 2013, the SCS is part of TOUCH Community Services’ community enablement approach to increase support and resources through a sustainable care network to support ageing in community. Tapping on peer influence, the SCS provides a platform for seniors aged 60 onwards, to move beyond being a recipient and to contribute as a volunteer. Befrienders are trained to provide effective help and support for the frail and vulnerable seniors in the community. They are matched and deployed in pairs for weekly home visits. TOUCHpoint@Geylang Bahru (one of TOUCH’s Active Ageing Centres) also conducts ongoing learning opportunities through workshops and social activities for its volunteer seniors to refresh their knowledge and foster bonding.
Caption: SCS befrienders and staff from TOUCHpoint@Geylang Bahru recognised at the SPAA Ceremony 2023
In 2023, the SCS programme was honoured at the Singapore Patient Action Awards (SPAA) by Tan Tock Seng Hospital under the Singapore Patient Support Group / Volunteer Group Award category. This award recognises SCS’s proactive approach to health, leveraging peer influence to inspire and equip seniors with essential healthcare and preventive knowledge to care for themselves and others effectively.
Story published in 2018
Updated in 2023
*Mdm Lim Kwee Khai passed on in 2023.