Bringing the young and old together: Programme pairs pre-schools with centres for the elderly

Children and seniors from the My First Skool and Silver Circle centres on the ground floor of Block 264 Serangoon Central playing games with one another yesterday.
Children and seniors from the My First Skool and Silver Circle centres on the ground floor of Block 264 Serangoon Central playing games with one another yesterday.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Programme pairs pre-schools with centres for the elderly so kids and seniors can interact

Six-year-old Foo Zhi Xin was a shy girl until her pre-school took part in weekly activities with seniors from a nearby centre for the elderly. Now she even sings for her family.

Her mother, housewife Lee Ying Ying, 42, said: "Whatever songs she learnt and performed for the elderly there, she went on to perform them for her grandparents and great-grandparents, which makes them happy too."

Zhi Xin's childcare centre, My First Skool, and the Silver Circle eldercare centre nearby are among 28 centres that have been paired as part of a three-tiered programme organised by NTUC First Campus and NTUC Health, which run My First Skool and Silver Circle respectively. The centres in each pair are near each other, so it is easier for the young and the old to interact regularly.

In a joint statement yesterday, the two NTUC organisations said the programme has two aims: "First, it is to empower the seniors by enabling them to have a stronger sense of purpose through mentoring the children. Second, it is to inculcate in pre-schoolers values of empathy and compassion, and respect for the seniors."

The programme has three tiers, each catering to the capabilities of each centre. The intermediate and basic tiers comprise activities held on a monthly and ad-hoc basis respectively, but the advanced tier adopts a more regular approach of interaction between the young and the old, and comprises weekly activities that are worked into the centres' schedules.

The My First Skool and Silver Circle centres on the ground floor of Block 264 Serangoon Central are the first centres to have been paired up to pilot the "advanced tier" of a structured inter-generational programme that was launched yesterday. They piloted the advanced tier in February last year. The children and seniors took part in activities such as baking cookies and playing a modified version of the game Bingo. About 50 children and 25 seniors from the centres will continue to be involved this year.

MUTUAL BENEFITS

First, it is to empower the seniors by enabling them to have a stronger sense of purpose through mentoring the children. Second, it is to inculcate in pre-schoolers values of empathy and compassion, and respect for the seniors.

NTUC FIRST CAMPUS AND NTUC HEALTH, on the programme.

They include retired tutor Ng Lai Sam, 72. "I enjoyed meeting the children and guiding them during the activities," she said.

NTUC First Campus chief executive Chan Tee Seng said: "We are not only bringing two generations together, but also engaging them with thoughtful programming and specially designed activities that bring about the best possible benefits for both the young and seniors."

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who was guest of honour at the launch event, said other childcare and eldercare operators are welcome to partner NTUC to run similar programmes.

Half of the 120-plus My First Skool centres will offer the intermediate tier of the programme in the next five years, and this could be done with eldercare centres run by different operators.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2017, with the headline 'Bringing the young and old together'. Print Edition | Subscribe