Being in the frontline of saving lives opened Mr Quek Kwang Liang’s eyes to the medical world.
The 82-year-old retired businessman was a volunteer in his youth for St John Ambulance — a service he was committed to for almost 60 years.
He recalls: “In the 1950s, we were attached to the ambulance crew every weekend. We were also sent to hospitals to watch doctors at work.
“Some doctors would explain medical procedures to us, and as I was always eager to learn. I gained a lot of knowledge and could render first aid.”
After paying it forward for so long, it was Mr Quek’s time to be on the receiving end. Thanks to a timely health screening two years ago, he is a survivor of prostate cancer, and is now a passionate advocate of going for check-ups.
“Many elderly people are afraid to see a doctor because they don’t want to know they have health problems. But it is good if you discover a health problem after screening because you become aware of it and can get it treated earlier,” he says. “That’s why I like to go for medical check-ups.”
While Mr Quek’s action-packed days in the ambulance crew may be over, he still keeps busy.
Weekends are spent with his three children and eight grandchildren who join him and his 74-year-old wife for meals. Weekdays are for learning new skills and socialising. His daily activities include going for walks, meeting friends and practising Chinese calligraphy.
He has been attending weekly calligraphy classes at a Residents’ Committee centre for the past two years.
Screening for seniors
Last year, Mr Quek jumped at the opportunity to get himself checked at a functional screening programme for seniors at Hougang 1 mall.
"It is good if you discover a health problem after screening because you become aware of it and can get it treated earlier."
Under the Project Silver Screen (PSS) programme, senior citizens can get their vision, hearing and oral health checked at subsidised rates.
As a follow-up to his functional screening results, Mr Quek underwent eye checks at a mobile clinic bus. The staff recommended new reading glasses, which he purchased with a $200 subsidy he received from PSS.
He says: “Although I could normally read without glasses, I discovered that my vision was unbalanced; one eye was weaker than the other. I had to wear glasses to prevent my weaker eye from becoming lazy.”
He is glad that eye checks can help to detect hidden problems like this, which many elderly people may not be aware of.
Doing more calligraphy writing is one of the joys of an improved vision for Mr Quek. While he may not yet be up to writing Chinese New Year couplets as gifts for friends, he can nevertheless better savour the pieces he has made.
“After I write, I keep them at home — for my eyes only,” he says with a laugh.
This series is an initiative under the Action Plan for Successful Ageing.