Main pix caption: Mdm Jessie Teo (right) enjoys reaching out to befriendee Mdm Ng Siw Hua (left)
Three years ago, Jessie was coughing so badly she had to be rushed to the hospital; her body felt weak and she could hardly walk. She was hospitalised for a few months but was determined to come home.
“I did not want to spend another day in the hospital. I was told by my doctor I had blocked arteries and diabetes, and my health was not in good shape,” said Jessie.
Jessie subsequently quit her job due to her deteriorating health. She also suffers from poor vision. She struggled to cope on her own in her three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio as her parents passed on a decade ago. Although supported by her sister and niece, Jessie had few friends. Gradually, she became depressed, disillusioned and discouraged.
“There were many times I thought about my purpose in life. I felt alone. I did not know anyone in this neighbourhood. I wondered about my days ahead; what was I going to do and whom can I talk to?” added Jessie.
Things turned around when she responded to a flyer by TOUCH Caregivers Support, inviting residents to join a strength training exercise session at the void deck. There, Jessie met other residents.
“When I turned up at the void deck, I did not see any familiar faces. I was not surprised as I used to spend long hours at work and hardly knew my neighbours. I was touched when some of the residents found me familiar! Somehow, it made me more connected to the people around me,” said Jessie.
Soon, Jessie befriended the residents and started to open up. TOUCH staff also reached out to her to understand her interest and challenges.
These days, the 52-year-old resident keeps herself busy with her exercise regimen. She also works out with her new found friend and neighbour, 60-year-old Mdm Violet Yeo, who lives nearby. They would lunch out and discuss about the latest happenings in their neighbourhood. Jessie even arranged to learn how to cook special dishes with another neighbour and shared their meals with other residents.
“I am now a changed person. When I see my friends at the market, I would wave, greet and chit chat with them,” said Jessie.
Caption: Jessie (right) bonding with befrienders under TOUCH’s Community Befriending Programme
Jessie was also approached by TOUCH to be a befriender. She was initially hesitant and would visit her befriendee only in the company of another befriender. Today, she has become one of TOUCH’s most active befrienders. Besides watching out for two frail seniors under her care, Jessie also helps to keep tabs on other frail residents. She would consult TOUCH whenever she comes across any cases of seniors who might need further support.
Jessie has also shown good progress on the health front. “I feel great! I no longer use an umbrella to walk. I felt encouraged when my physiotherapist told me I could be discharged from the hospital’s therapy programme as my physical strength and muscle mass has improved,” said Jessie smiling.
Caption: Jessie (left) receiving training from Ms Esther Bong (right), Diabetes Nurse Educator from TOUCH Diabetes Support
“We are very proud of Jessie’s remarkable achievements. She has come a long way and is now one of our most active health and social ambassadors. She would encourage residents to go for health screening and to watch out for one another. Jessie’s journey is typical of the experiences and transformation that TOUCH is engineering through its Community Enablement Project to help seniors age in place,” said Mr Kelvin Lee, Manager, TOUCH Caregivers Support.