Lending support to fellow seniors

Elderly Group

Lending support to fellow seniors

Photo caption: Befrienders Mdm Chan Woon Chee (middle) and Mdm Wong Nyuk Keow (left) accompanying befriendee Mr Wong Nguk Keow (right) downstairs for a friendly chat.

Mdm Chan Woon Chee spent more than 30 years working in the midst of teachers and students. Working as a school clerk and later as a drink stall operator, she had the reputation of being hardworking, helpful and kind hearted. The sole breadwinner worked hard to provide for her two young children after her husband passed on at the age of 51 following a heart attack.

“I was scolded by the principal when he realised I was helping the teachers mark attendance and do their administrative work. He said I should let the teachers do it themselves. But I felt sorry for them. I could see they were busy and I only wanted to help,” said Mdm Chan.

At 79, Mdm Chan is as sharp as a tack and her youthful spirit has led her to continue her love for dancing – to d’stress and for a good cause.

When Mdm Chan joined TOUCH Senior Activity Centre (TSAC) more than a decade ago, she saw the need in the kitchen and readily volunteered to prepare breakfast for the seniors. She would also prepare snacks during tea breaks. Mdm Chan was then invited to join TSAC’s dancing group to bring cheer to the needy and to support TOUCH’s fundraising efforts.

Mdm Chan2
Caption: Mdm Chan (right) befriended Mr Choy (left) two years ago under the SCS programme.

Five years ago, Mdm Chan was invited to join TSAC’s Seniors Caring for Seniors (SCS) programme to reach out to socially isolated seniors. “At first, I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to be a befriender. But the TOUCH staff taught us how to do our roles well. Through the weekly briefing sessions, we were kept updated on the latest government policies affecting seniors and interesting news, such as the start of the durian season and new games to play with our befriendees. These conversation starters help us to interact better with our befriendees,” said Mdm Chan.

Mdm Chan3
Caption: SCS befrienders and TOUCH staff at a recent art and craft session to make special Mother’s Day cards for befriendees.

When asked about the most useful lesson learnt, Mdm Chan said, “To empathise with seniors doesn’t mean we have to tell them all our life stories. We must be careful not to transfer our negative emotions to them. We must learn to be active listeners.”

Despite going for her knee replacement surgery in 2011, she remained a faithful SCS befriender. Together with TSAC befriender Mdm Wong Nyuk Keow, Mdm Chan would visit Mr Choy Soo Tang, 92, every Monday. They would chat with him and check his living environment to see if he needed further support. Sometimes, they would accompany him downstairs for a stroll or to run errands.

“Although I am senior, it is not easy to reach out to seniors. Many of them feel depressed and may turn us away. Or they may not be receptive to our advice. I have learnt to respect their wishes. Whatever problems I encounter, I will try to find a solution,” said Mdm Chan.