Caption: Lily at [email protected] 433
“I was so encouraged to see my befriendees wanting to help their neighbours. Seeing them grow in confidence and becoming more open to socialising with other residents is so fulfilling.”
Ms Lily Wee, 67, who lives alone in her HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio, did not know many residents in her neighbourhood a few years ago. All that changed when she was invited to attend the weekly exercise sessions at the void deck in 2017. Soon, Lily started opening up as she became more familiar with TOUCH staff and other residents. She was then asked if she wanted to join TOUCH’s Community Befriending Programme and be part of a care network. Lily was hesitant at first but agreed to do so with another 70-year-old first-time befriender who lives in the same block. She gladly volunteered to help as she realised many seniors in her midst were lonely and needed support.
A heart for seniors
Lily now serves three befriendees and one caregiver who are in their 70s to 80s. They are socially isolated and some suffer from dementia or cognitive impairment. Before the pandemic, Lily goes to their homes to engage them in various activities such as playing boardgames. Occasionally, a few of them would gather at the void deck to play games and have meals with them. TOUCH staff also helped to connect Lily with other befrienders so that they can support one another.
As a volunteer, Lily believes that everyone, including her befriendees, can be empowered to help others. When one of her befriendees started noticing another lonely senior seated at the void deck, Lily encouraged her to befriend the senior. Lily also asked another befriendee if she could keep watch over the latter’s frail neighbour who lives next door.
“I was so encouraged to see my befriendees wanting to help their neighbours. It shows that everyone, despite of their physical abilities, can still spread joy to others. Seeing them grow in confidence and becoming more open to socialising with other residents is so fulfilling,” said Lily.
Caption: Lily (second from right) engaging in an activity with residents at [email protected] 433
Caption: Lily (third from left) enjoys a strong care support network
Serving elderly residents together
As a health advocate, Lily always encourages her befriendees to exercise regularly and stay healthy – physically and mentally. She would sometimes bring them down to [email protected] 433 to take part in exercise sessions or festive activities with other residents. Lily’s persistence paid off when one of her socially isolated befriendees finally accepted her invitation to exercise together. The befriendee also started joining her for other activities. Lily also believes in equipping herself with knowledge to help her make informed decisions in life. For example, she attended a talk on the Lasting Power of Attorney organised by TOUCH, and shared what she learnt with her sister and her befriendee’s daughter. Lily is also currently taking part in the Gym Tonic Strength Training programme at [email protected] 433.
When the pandemic struck, it was a challenging time for her befriendees as they felt more isolated. “I was sad when one of my befriendees went into depression. Because of the restrictions, I could only meet them individually instead of in a group like how we used to. I tried my best to reach out to them through phone calls. I also accompanied them to collect their TraceTogether tokens and CDC vouchers, and bought them food,” added Lily.
Recently, Lily sought help from a neighbour to cover her household items before renovation started in her flat as part of the Home Improvement Programme (HIP). The neighbour also bought her meals when she was not feeling well and confined to her home for a few days. When Lily learnt that her neighbour’s mother collects cardboard for sale, she coordinated with her neighbours, whose homes were undergoing HIP works, to leave used cardboard boxes outside. Together with another resident, Lily is exploring the possibility of providing emergency help at night to vulnerable seniors who are living alone. Lily is thankful to be in a supportive environment, surrounded by residents who are empowered and willing to step up to help others in need.