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A fun way to engage seniors

Elderly Group

A fun way to engage seniors

Caption: TSAC senior Mdm Ainon (right) engaging in a fun conversation with student volunteer Bernice Lee (left)

TOUCH student volunteer Ms Bernice Lee, 22, laughed instantly as soon as Mdm Ainon Bte Abass, 76, from TOUCH Senior Activity Centre at Geylang Bahru shared about her bus fare evasion experience during her younger days. Mdm Ainon was responding to a picture of an old bus in the Conversation Starter Kit. The Kit, specially designed for seniors, was a result of the collaboration by National Heritage Board with the National Council of Social Service, and co-developed by several social services organisations including TOUCH Community Services.

“I was excited when I saw a picture of an old bus. It reminded me of how I used to hide from the bus conductor as I wanted to save my fare to buy rojak to eat. I was playing hide-and-seek on the bus. I was so naughty then. I started telling the volunteer in simple English how I was like in the past. She was attentive and asked lots of questions. I also learnt a lot from her,” said Mdm Ainon giggling.

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Caption: The Kit will help volunteers overcome any language barriers and enable seniors to share about their life story and experiences with the younger ones

Through a selection of carefully curated images from the National Collection, of landmarks, sights and objects dating from the 1950s to 1960s, the Conversation Starter Kit aims to bridge gaps between the elderly and younger Singaporeans through meaningful conversations about Singapore. As the Kit is handy and mobile, it also functions as a tool to bring heritage beyond museum walls, reaching out to Singaporeans who may not be able to physically visit the museums, or go on heritage trails.
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Caption: TOUCH volunteers at the recent SG Cares Carnival at Our Tampines Hub using the Conversation Starter Kit to connect with members of the public and raise awareness about volunteerism

Said Ms Julia Lee, Conversation Starter Kit Project Leader, and Senior Director, Social Work & Programme Development, TOUCH Community Services, “When our project team conceptualised the Conversation Starter Kit, our goal was to enhance both the volunteer and seniors’ interaction. We see the potential of this Kit as a conversation starter with its treasure trove of stories – to help volunteers break the ice, and be empowered to engage seniors more confidently. They will be amazed to discover about the interesting lives our seniors used to lead, and how different life in Singapore was then.”

The Conversation Starter Kit will be rolled out to various senior activity centres and eldercare agencies from 2018.  Volunteers, especially the younger ones, who are not fluent in Mandarin or any dialects will find the Kit useful in their interactions with seniors.

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Caption: TSAC senior Mdm Catherine Loh (left) enjoying a casual chat with student volunteer Ms Danielle Liu (right)

“The pictures from the starter kit helped me to continue the conversation easily. I did not have to think too hard about what questions to ask or how the senior would feel. One of the seniors reacted happily when she saw the picture of Happy World as her father used to bring her there to get light and dark soya sauce from the bazaar. She loves to cook and enjoys sharing recipes with others. I also learnt that Capitol Theatre used to be a dating spot for couples. When one of the seniors saw a picture of a traditional powder case, she quickly brought me to see the items displayed at TOUCH Senior Activity Centre, which included an old fashioned telephone, clock and other artefacts. I learnt a lot that day!” said TOUCH student volunteer Ms Danielle Liu, 20.