Silver Alliance to woo more volunteers to help seniors

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong helping Madam Chen Yueh Lun paint her one-room rental flat together with student volunteers. With them is Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua (far left).
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong helping Madam Chen Yueh Lun paint her one-room rental flat together with student volunteers. With them is Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua (far left).ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Madam Chen Yueh Lun, 81, has been helping her neighbours in the 24 years she has lived in Teck Ghee, collecting and distributing food items for those with mobility issues. She also helps the residents' committee check on neighbours if they pull the distress cord in their flats.

But the widow, who lives alone in a one-room rental flat, is glad to get help cleaning her home from student volunteers who visit about twice a month. "I'm afraid if I climb up to clean the fan, I'll fall down," she said. "I'm happy when the students come - we chat and I tell them stories."

She is one of over 10,000 seniors helped by Silver programmes run by the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC). Over the past four years, these include home cleaning, befriending and social outings.

The CDC aims to raise its pool of volunteers to 10,000, and launched a recruitment drive called The Silver Alliance yesterday.

Volunteers from companies and schools are matched with seniors, who are identified by grassroots groups and senior activity centres. Last year, about 9,000 people volunteered for the Silver programmes.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was at the launch, said such programmes are important as one in seven Singaporeans is aged 65 and above, and it is important for seniors to stay in the community and remain connected to others. "We can take care of our old people and connect with them, and make them feel they are valued citizens and have something to contribute."

Mr Lee, who helms Ang Mo Kio GRC, visited two residents' rental flats and helped volunteers paint a wall and lay sheets to prevent spills.

Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua said more than half of Singapore's rental units are in her district, with a large number of seniors living in them. The Silver Alliance is a call to action and aims to nurture a culture of care in the community "where we don't just perform a one-time act... but have a passion for and a culture of serving".

Yesterday, seniors in 32 flats in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 had their homes spruced up by 120 students from Raffles Institution, Teck Ghee Primary School and Pathlight School.

Teck Ghee Primary 6 pupil Seah Wei Xiong helped paint Madam Chen's flat and taught her how to take photos with her smartphone. "I think it's a very meaningful programme," he said. "I want to help the elderly have a better environment."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Silver Alliance to woo more volunteers to help seniors'. Print Edition | Subscribe