Caption: The happy couple helping to water their neighbour’s plants.
Seniors like Mr Chian and Mdm Teo have found new roles as volunteers at TOUCH Senior Activity Centre (TSAC) at Yishun Blk 162. The octogenarian couple, who live alone, used to be confined to their homes due to mobility issues. Mr Chian suffers from severe arthritis and has an unsteady gait while Mdm Teo needs the help of a quad stick to move around.
Before TSAC was set up in 2016, the couple would spend their time watching TV at home and doing daily tasks like housework, cooking and marketing. Many of their friends have passed on and they only knew a few of their neighbours well. Life then was lonely and routine.
Mr Chian and Mdm Teo used to love the outdoors during their younger days. The young couple enjoyed the outdoors and doing things together. Even when the children came along, they would always make it a point to pursue their hobbies. As an ex-odd job labourer, Mr Chian was used to the rigours of manual work and kept a toned body. But as the years passed, he began to suffer from chronic illnesses and mobility issues worsened by his sedentary lifestyle. Mdm Teo’s health also deteriorated as she started to lose muscle strength and dexterity, which affected her sense of balance and making her prone to falls.
Their life took a positive turn when SAC was set up at the void deck of their block in 2016. Centre staff had knocked on their door one day to invite them downstairs to take part in activities.
“My wife and I were excited when we learnt that an SAC would be at our block. We are so fortunate! It’s so easy for us to go downstairs and we don’t have to worry about getting there,” said Mr Chian.
Caption: TOUCH staff Ms Sandy Goh (left), conducting a senior profiling session with Mr Chian (right) as part of TOUCH’s efforts to identify seniors’ level of frailty, address social needs and empower them to contribute as volunteers.
Soon, the couple got to know their neighbours better and formed strong friendships with other seniors and SAC staff. At SAC, Mr Chian and Mdm Teo took part in activities to stay socially engaged. They also learnt to take charge of their health through health talks by health specialists and exercised together with other residents regularly.
Feeling empowered, they began helping out in their own ways. For example, Mdm Teo would help to pack care packs for seniors and manage simple tasks during Bingo sessions. Known as the “newspaper uncle” and as an avid news reader at SAC, he was placed in charge of the newspapers. During the Covid pandemic, Mdm Teo even took the initiative to wipe the chairs at the centre and would faithfully call seniors with higher care needs to check on their well-being.
“We know we can’t help much because of our weak legs. But ever since we started volunteering, we feel happier as a couple. We enjoy serving together. We will continue to volunteer as long as we are physically fit,” added Mr Chian.
Story published in 2021.