Seniors helping seniors
A TTSH programme of peer support leaders helps to encourage seniors in the community to lead more active and healthier lifestyles.
There are seniors in their own communities helping to advocate to other seniors on living healthily. One of them is 70-year-old Ang Bong Chee who was involved with an eight-week programme last year at Methodist Welfare Services’ senior activity centre (SAC) at Teck Ghee Vista. Called Rolling with Wellness, the programme advocated exercise, cooking demo and board game activities.
As a peer support leader (PSL) trained by Tan Tock Seng (TTSH) health coaches, Bong Chee reminded the programme’s members to attend the sessions, took attendance and distributed name tags, and explained or shared what was learnt in the programme. She even led the exercise every Friday and shared her healthy vegetarian recipes on WhatsApp regularly with her group of 10 members.
“I liked sharing what I learned at the exercises and my knowledge with everyone. Seeing the seniors happy, I also felt happy,” said Bong Chee, who shared that she also learned about exercises online. Being a PSL also keeps her active – “I’ve always been an active person, even from young.”
As she helped her members attain physical and mental well-being, she too has gained. She has learnt how to eat healthily by looking out for the Health Promotion Board’s healthier choice symbol, and she is conscious of using less salt, sugar and oil in her cooking.
She is happy to be able to be a PSL as she got to see group members exercising and enjoying friendships, which she too has benefitted. “I have made a lot of friends, hearing their stories of their younger days, and sharing their sorrows or stories about their family. As friends, we can empathise with one another and talk about it.”
Bong Chee didn’t have to go far to help these seniors as the PSL programme linked her to her own community – the SAC is located on the ground floor to where she lives.
PSLs are identified by TTSH and the goal is to support community wellness outreach and health-related activities for 12 weeks in various SACs in Ang Mo Kio, Novena-Kallang-Rochor, Toa Payoh, Bishan, Geylang and Hougang. These leaders get to organise and conduct interactive activities at the SACs such as exercise and cooking sessions with the aim of encouraging seniors in the community to lead more active and healthier lifestyles.
The PSL programme, which started in June 2019, and its 28 leaders was recently recognised under a new category – the Singapore Community Engagement Initiative Award as part of the Singapore Patient Action Awards (SPAA). The award recognises activated individuals who have initiated successful neighbourhood-based projects that contributed significantly to the improvement of care and overall well-being of residents in the neighbourhood or local community.
Another PSL that got recognised was 73-year-old Susan Sin who was involved in AWWA Blk 214 SAC’s 12-week Steady Lah programme last year. The programme involved leading seniors in leg strengthening exercises. Like Bong Chee, she too has gained from her involvement as a PSL. She had a pain in her right knee and found that after doing the exercises, her knee improved significantly. Seeing the benefits she has gained from these exercises, she was more than happy to help others enjoy these benefits.
“I had asked a few of them in the programme and they shared that the exercises made a difference. Ageing is not easy as it comes with ailments and all. If the elderly follow the simple and fruitful exercise, it is good for them. I also feel good that the seniors were being helped and they improved their walking because of the exercise,” said Susan.
As her role as a PSL, she looked after her group of 10 seniors and reminded them on what they had learnt from the programme. With her involvement in the SAC programme, she is even more entrenched in her Ang Mo Kio area, which she has lived for the past 40 years. “As a PSL I got to organise and motivate those in my age group to exercise but I also got to exercise. It was like killing two birds with one stone,” said Susan. Besides helping out once a week in the Steady Lah programme, she also met them once a week to talk about various topics including stories from the past, and would come to the centre and play board games with them. “This all kept us occupied and strengthened our relationships, and we got encouragement from each other as well.”
Even after the PSL programme ended, the grandmother of four continued helping in the exercises but had to bring it to a halt due to COVID-19. However, when things open up more, Susan hopes to continue helping at AWWA as she said it “makes her life meaningful”. In the meantime, she is busy doing qigong up to six times a week and is immersed with her plant hobby.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Tan Tock Seng Hospital)