Outreach, Welfare

Golden years, new beginnings

Over a year ago, Mr Liau Vui Hon (right) was just another typical newly-retired senior. Having been sedentary for most of his working life, he was physically very unfit. The diabetes sufferer also had chronic knee pain and weakness in his left leg, which made climbing stairs impossible.

As his wife was still working, he often felt lonely and lost as the days wore on. At 75 years of age, he could not imagine picking up exercise or new hobbies again. Except for doing some light cooking at home, he did not know how to fill his days meaningfully.

Fortunately for Vui Hon, MWS Senior Activity Centre – Fernvale Rivergrove had recently opened in his Sengkang neighbourhood, offering a holistic mix of interesting programmes. After seeing a flyer on his lift lobby’s notice board in September 2016, he signed up immediately.

He started joining his new-found friends for half an hour of daily morning exercise, and was equally disciplined about attending his twice-weekly strength training sessions under the centre’s Gym Tonic Programme. Within six months, his health and fitness improved so dramatically that he shaved 5 kg off his weight and got his glucose levels under control. Now leaner with improved agility and stronger muscles, he is finally able to climb the stairs with more ease. He has also begun to enjoy the companionship of other seniors at the centre.

“These days, I spend the whole day at the centre. I have many friends here, and there is so much to do to keep me fit and active physically and mentally,” says Vui Hon, whose favourite activities include art classes and playing Rummikub, a popular memory-boosting tile game.

Vui Hon was just one of the 850 socially-isolated elderly whose lives were transformed by MWS Senior Activity Centres (SAC) during our last financial year. Apart from our centre in Fernvale Rivergrove, the two others launched last year were MWS SAC – GreenTops @ Sims Place in Geylang, and MWS SAC – Teck Ghee Vista in Ang Mo Kio. These three centres joined our Charis Activity Centre for Elders and Wesley Seniors Activity Centre in engaging old folks aged 55 and above from low- to middle-income backgrounds.

These were followed by two more that opened in 2017, namely MWS SAC – Kebun Baru and Golden Lily @ Pasir Ris. The Kebun Baru centre opened its doors in July, serving seniors who live in the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 precinct. MWS Senior Activity Centre – Golden Lily @ Pasir Ris, which is located in the void deck of a block of studio flats, welcomed its first members in mid-August.

Altogether, our seven MWS SACs serve a growing need for a suite of early interventions that meet the health and social needs of Singapore’s fast-ageing population. Most importantly, they empower seniors to live and grow old in their community for as long as possible.

Studies have shown that seniors face an increasing level of loneliness and helplessness, especially among Singapore’s empty-nesters and lower- to middle-income seniors. Social isolation hastens and exacerbates the chronic effects of ageing, and may lead to a host of mental or emotional problems, such as depression, in the long run.

To enable our seniors to age in place and empower them to take charge of their mental, physical, and emotional well-being, our SACs offer holistic programmes that integrate their psycho-social, recreational, and healthcare needs.

Components include specialised senior gyms and training programmes, group exercise and fitness regimes, medical screenings, nutrition and dietary programmes, the building of a strong communal network and community partnerships, volunteering opportunities, and a host of elder-focused social, recreational, and learning activities.

By the Methodist Welfare Services Communications Team

Except for Wesley Seniors Activity Centre, the other six SACs do not receive government funding as they serve primarily seniors living in studio apartments and 3- to 4-room HDB flats. Your support is critical.
For information on how you or your church can be involved in giving or volunteering, please email ce@mws.sg. Find out more about our eldercare services at www.mws.sg.

Photos courtesy of the Methodist Welfare Services