Story

Part of the Family

A day in the life of long-time volunteer, Ms Foo and elderly client at St Luke’s ElderCare Golden Years Centre, Mr Choi Shue.

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Remember dormitory living in your university days? Imagine that forwarded 60 years. That’s the average age of the 40 over seniors here at this eldercare centre that operates daily. To some of them, this is their gathering place and a taste of communal living before returning to their own homes at night. To others, this is a place where they are engaged in activities, or simply to chit chat with their friends. 

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Left: Volunteer Ms Foo Say Mann, Right: Elderly Mr Choi Shue

Ms Foo is a long-time volunteer who has been volunteering twice weekly with St Luke’s ElderCare Golden Years Centre for the past 8 years, which provides services such as maintenance day care, dementia care and nursing care. With a bright smile and gesturing us to enter the centre premises, she welcomed us to share a day with them.


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Meet Mr Choi Shue who is looking dapper here. His favourite pastime is singing karaoke, during which he proudly belts out both tunes in Mandarin and Cantonese with gusto. Even after his songs have finished, he continues with backup vocals. 

Ms Foo is the volunteer in charge of the daily karaoke activity, which is also Mr Choi Shue’s favourite. “He’s a very friendly and nice guy. The whole centre got invited by his daughters for their housewarming party some time back,” Ms Foo shares with the Giving.sg team about the tight-knitted community here at the centre.

 

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Volunteer Ms Foo Say Mann (left) fulfilled her dream of serving as a volunteer, 10 years after the eldercare centre was built. 

Her volunteering story started 27 years ago, when she saw the new eldercare centre being built around the Hougang area. She told her children then, when they were just one and three years old, that she wanted to volunteer at the eldercare centre when they  grew up. 17 years later, she made good her promise and signed up as a volunteer. 

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“All the activities here are so funny! Once, they played volleyball. Instead of a real ball, they used a balloon. They changed the rules and used the table as the ‘net’. It was quite funny to see their reactions, and to see them laugh.” – Ms Foo

They conduct centre-wide activities intended to engage seniors physically, mentally and socially, as well as smaller interest groups such as calligraphy, mahjong and singing.

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Mr Choi Shue belting out his favourite tunes. His greatest hits include <在水中央 > and <不装饰你的梦>.

“To me it (volunteering) is like…normal life, as normal as breathing . I’m so used to it, it’s like coming home.”

Ms Foo Volunteer

"When I go overseas and come back, the elderly asked me where I am and if ‘I ponned’ (Hokkien dialect for skipping) the previous days’ sessions (laughs). When I visit them, I have to wear bright clothes, because one of the elderly here dislikes people wearing dark coloured clothes," she continues with a smile. 

 

Ms Foo also imparted a golden tip or two to the team, from her wealth of volunteering experience:

  • Let them talk:
    Some of them are lonely, and they have stayed at home alone for a long time.
  • Pick up a few dialects: 
    e.g. Teochew, Hokkien or Cantonese to connect with the older elderly. If not, English, Chinese or Malay would suffice.

For more fun tips about befriending the elderly, click here.

 

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“Sometimes they will tell you ‘I’m useless’ – and they feel that going to the centre is a waste of money. But what we need to do is to cast away the assumptions and believe that they are not. See their value and assure them of their place in our society. They are important. Let them be the support in our families.”

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Ms Foo and the other dedicated volunteers of the centre know every single elderly resident by name, right  down to their  personal preferences, such as  whether they like hot or warm water. If it matters to them, it matters to her.

This is just another day at St Luke’s ElderCare for them. Just another day of sharing hearts and life together, for Ms Foo, Mr Choi Shue and many others in this place.


 

*Today Article: link

Special thanks to our volunteer photographer, Luis Ribelles who shot the beautiful photos in this story! 

Seniors who live alone have a 70% higher risk of dying prematurely compared to peers who live with others*. That’s why centres like St Luke’s ElderCare are important in providing activities to keep their minds and hearts active.

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