Caption: Mdm Kok Yoon Hin (left), 86, chatting with Mdm Lim Kwee Khai (right), 84
Mdm Kok Yoon Hin’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 85 and does things a little 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.
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) at her neighbouring block in Geylang Bahru and heard seniors laughing. Since then she has spent more than a decade befriending seniors at TSAC 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.
Three years ago, she was approached by a centre staff to join TSAC’s 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.
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 visit rounds. She practises what she was taught – to be observant, 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 and not the other way around. 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.
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.”
Caption: Mdm Kok (left) with TSAC staff Ms Helen Tan
Caption: Mdm Kok (middle) having a fun time at a carnival with J.P. Morgan volunteers
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 TSAC; they are like family to me.”
The SCS programme was conceptualised by TSAC in 2013 to empower seniors to move from recipients to givers as they step out of their comfort zone to support other needy seniors. Some 60 seniors have joined the programme. In 2016, TSAC was conferred the Service Quality Improvement Award at the Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC) Excellence Awards by the Agency for Integrated Care for mobilising volunteers to impact the lives of seniors.