Outreach, Welfare

Senior volunteerism – Making the most of one’s golden years

When 67-year-old Loo Leong Imm started volunteering as a befriender with Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) in 2017, she faced rejection from one of the elderly beneficiaries.

“I was paired with Mdm Tan, who has dementia and is battling depression. She speaks Hokkien, so I tried conversing with her in broken Hokkien. Initially, she refused to talk to me as she thought that I was after her money,” recounted Leong Imm. “But after several visits, she came to realise that that wasn’t the case, and she began to warm up to me.”

Leong Imm continued to visit Mdm Tan every week over 3 years, engaging her in conversations and exercising with her at home. Often, Mdm Tan would experience mood swings, and Leong Imm would lend her an empathetic ear and try to calm her down.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, when home visits were halted, Mdm Tan’s dementia deteriorated to the extent that when Leong Imm resumed visiting her, the senior could no longer recognise her. Still, Leong Imm kept visiting the senior every week, and became a steadfast pillar of support to one of Mdm Tan’s sons, her main caregiver.

To alleviate his stress, Leong Imm allowed him to vent his feelings freely. “He was stressed from taking care of his mother. As I was once a caregiver to my mother-in-law who had dementia, I was able to relate and share with him my own experiences of caring for someone with dementia,” she shared. “This helped him to cope better with his caregiving duties. I’m glad that my volunteering has benefitted this family in some way.”

Leong Imm said that serving the needs of the community through volunteering is not only fulfilling God’s calling on her life, but is also a meaningful way to spend her golden years.

Her outreach efforts are part of the Community Befriending Service run by MWS, which connects volunteer befrienders with vulnerable seniors. Besides befriending, senior volunteers with MWS also serve in other ways such as tutoring disadvantaged children and leading recreational activities to increase social engagement and promote active aging.

Empowering senior volunteers for outreach forms part of MWS’ strategy to invest in preventive care and create a more sustainable support network. MWS believes that every person – including our seniors – possess innate strengths and treasured abilities to make a positive difference.

Volunteers are trained to fulfil their given roles, with guidance on understanding seniors and identifying their unmet needs for follow-up care. To support volunteers, MWS periodically hosts thematic webinars such as ‘Understanding Dementia’, ‘Diabetes’ and ‘How to be Equipped as Befrienders’. It also launched the MWS Befriender’s Toolkit to guide volunteers in reaching out to different befriendee profiles.

Be the light of the world

Jesus told his followers to “let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16), calling us to live out our faith. One way of doing so is by being generous with our time and serving the needs of the community through volunteering. The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Even small acts of love can make a big difference to the lives of our beneficiaries.

To sign up as a volunteer or befriender, email volunteer@mws.sg or visit mws.sg/volunteer.

By the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) Communications Team / Photo courtesy of MWS