Organisations serving the elderly cut down on physical interactions as Covid-19 cases rise

Mr Chew Teck Sang calls about 10 seniors living in rental flats in Bendemeer every week to check on how they are coping amid the Covid-19 pandemic. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Every week, Mr Chew Teck Sang, 72, calls about 10 seniors living in rental flats in Bendemeer to check on how they are coping amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

With hundreds of new coronavirus cases daily, the Government has called for seniors to stay home for their safety.

But being home alone takes its toll mentally, said Mr Chew, who volunteers with social service agency, Lions Befrienders.

Organisations serving the elderly have taken a cautious approach by reducing the number of physical interactions seniors are exposed to.

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), said senior volunteers from its outreach arm, the Silver Generation Office, have temporarily stopped conducting physical engagements.

Since February, its 3,000 volunteers or silver generation ambassadors have gone door-to-door to explain the benefits of vaccination to seniors.

But many ambassadors aged 60 and above have chosen not to do so in the next few weeks, especially after the AIC urged them to stay home. Instead, they will contact seniors remotely, calling them to share about vaccination and remind them of their appointments.

AIC said: "During community engagement, we observe strict safe management measures, including the donning of masks, maintaining safe distancing, not entering the home of the senior and avoiding seniors issued with health risk warnings."

Since last month, Lions Befrienders, which serves about 7,600 seniors, has required all its volunteers, including those below 60, to switch to tele-befriending.

Previously, its volunteers had made house visits in addition to calling them once a week.

Its chairman, Mr Anthony Tay, said: "To ensure that seniors have the care and support needed, the frequency remains unchanged even if the mode of communication is different."

One of its volunteers, Mr Chew, said: "Previously, there were things to do at the senior activity centres. Every time I call this senior in her 90s, she is watching television. Nothing (else) happens. She says it's very boring."

Self-help group Kampung Kakis, which has about 10 senior volunteers, has told them to stay home instead of helping its beneficiaries run errands and buy groceries. Kampung Kakis serves mostly seniors and low-income families who live in rental flats, referred to them by the AIC and hospitals.

Several nursing homes have been linked to Covid-19 clusters in the past week, with transmission having occurred among staff and residents. To keep seniors safe, the People's Association (PA) and nursing homes are helping vaccinated seniors get their booster shots.

It said seniors who require assistance in making online bookings for appointments may approach its staff at community clubs and centres islandwide.

NTUC Health, which runs five nursing homes with over 1,300 beds, began vaccinating its residents last Wednesday. It said that all 30 residents at its Geylang East nursing home who are eligible for the booster shot have taken their dose via a mobile vaccination team.

Ren Ci Hospital will roll out booster shots at its community hospital for 25 chronically ill seniors from next week and extend this to about 70 seniors in its Ang Mo Kio home. The shots will be administered by its in-house nursing team.

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