Looking at a cheery and vibrant Maisie Yang, it’s hard to imagine that she was once a painfully shy individual who preferred to be cooped up at home. She laughs openly and speaks with confidence, maintaining eye contact with a warm smile.
The 72-year-old is currently a team lead at REACH Community Cafe at Senior Centre @ Bukit Gombak Vista. She volunteers there twice a month from 8.30am to noon, planning and preparing breakfast menus for the elderly with 15 other senior volunteers. She feels that this has helped to boost her confidence in her silver years.
It all started in 2018, when she attended a Silver Generation Ambassador seminar, a programme where volunteers personally reach out to seniors to educate them on relevant policies and schemes, and connect those in need to support services and active ageing programmes.
It was there that Madam Yang met a friend who invited her to join REACH Community Cafe.
“I started volunteering because I told myself that it was about time I got out of my house. If I stay in all the time, I’d get dementia,” she says.
REACH Community Cafe adopts the pay-as-you-wish model and customers can choose from two sets of western breakfast cuisine whenever the cafe is open. The servers are senior volunteers and the community cafe aims to draw the elderly who live alone or who are at risk of social isolation by providing a social space for them to make new friends, enjoy a meal and learn together.
Wider social circle
For Madam Yang, her time volunteering at REACH marks some of the happiest days of her life. It gives her the chance to socialise with others and step out of her shell.
“I’ve made lots of friends in the neighbourhood because of the community here,” she says. “Every now and then, we get in touch or go out — we even went to Johor Bahru together.”
But the kitchen is where Madam Yang is the happiest as it’s where she de-stresses by putting her time and energy into whipping up delicious, tasty dishes for others. At home, she cooks for her family and if she prepares too much food, she’d call her friends over for meals.
“It’s nice to share and gather as friends,” she says. “We care for one another.”
Madam Yang sees cooking breakfast for the elderly at REACH Community Cafe kitchen as another form of sharing and caring in the community. She and her team take great pains to ensure that the seniors are served healthy food that is prepared with less oil and sugar.
The cafe serves 50 to 60 seniors each time, and some of them have become friends with Madam Yang.
She shares that while volunteering enables her to give to others, she also receives a lot in return, including a wider social circle, a more active lifestyle and a healthier mindset in her silver years.
ABOUT SENIOR VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
• The Ministry of Health established the Silver Volunteer Fund (SVF) in 2016 to support community partners in creating volunteer opportunities for individuals aged 50 and above.
• The volunteer programmes supported include health and wellness, arts and heritage, horticulture and the environment, as well as learning and community development.
• Call the C3A hotline at 6478-5029 (Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm, excluding public holidays) or visit www.c3a.org.sg/volunteerism to learn more about the other volunteering opportunities for seniors.
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