“It is good for healthy seniors to help less healthy seniors. If healthy seniors don’t do anything and just sit at home, they may also become unhealthy seniors one day,” thought Ms Ho Lai Lan when she retired in 2015.
She felt that she needed to do something to keep her mind and body active, says Ms Ho, 69, who used to do technical and information technology work at a statutory board.
About a month into her retirement, she read an article in The Straits Times about volunteers required to visit seniors at home to tell them about the benefits of national healthcare programmes.
Seeing that it was a good opportunity for her to make a difference and to also make new friends, she signed up immediately.
Today, as a Silver Generation Ambassador, Ms Ho is one of around 3,000 volunteers who personally reach out to seniors to educate them on relevant policies and schemes, and connect those in need to care and support services and active ageing programmes.
Importance of good vision, hearing and oral health
Ms Ho went for functional screening when she was 60 to ensure that her vision, hearing and oral health were in tip-top condition.
She recalls: “At the time, we didn’t have the convenience of a one-stop community functional screening session in the neighbourhood. I had to go to a polyclinic to get referred to a public hospital’s specialist outpatient clinics for separate check-ups.”
She was thankful that the screening helped her detect a hidden problem, early-stage cataract, which was eventually corrected with surgery two years ago.
“Functional screening is so convenient nowadays. You can get a three-in-one screening done at a single place, in a single day,” she says.
During home visits, she shares with seniors that if they want to stay active and be as independent as possible, they need to be able to see, hear and eat well.
“I will encourage them to go for functional screening, which can help them detect age-related decline in the areas of vision, hearing and oral health early so they can get treatment to prevent deterioration,” says Ms Ho.
She will also assure them that the cost of functional screening is subsidised by the Project Silver Screen programme.
Intangible benefits of volunteering
Overall, most of the people Ms Ho has met appreciate her efforts in reaching out to them.
“I have visited over 400 seniors over the years and, amazingly, they can recognise me on the streets.
“When I help out as an usher at the functional screening sessions, they come up to me, saying, ‘Do you remember me? I am from that block there, you came to my home before.’
“They feel so happy to see a familiar face and I feel so happy to see them heeding my call to go for functional screening,” she recalls.
Heartwarming moments like these keep Ms Ho going in her volunteer work.
“We have won over the seniors with our kindness, care, empathy and dedication to serve them. This rewarding experience cannot be bought with money.
“This is also why I would encourage all healthy seniors to do more community work to help others,” she says.
For more information about volunteering as a Silver Generation Ambassador, visit www.aic.sg/sgo. You can also learn more about what Silver Generation Ambassadors do by visiting the Silver Generation Office Facebook page.
This series is an initiative under the Action Plan for Successful Ageing.
FUNCTIONAL SCREENING FOR SENIORS
• Project Silver Screen (PSS) offers functional screening for hearing, eyesight and oral health at subsidised rates to Singapore citizens aged 60 and above.
• It is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, Temasek Foundation Cares and the business community.
• Free for Pioneer Generation card holders, $2 for Community Health Assist Scheme card holders, $5 for all other Singapore citizens.
• Seniors who require follow-up treatment will be referred to the relevant healthcare services.
• Need-based subsidies are available for all treatments. Seniors may also receive PSS vouchers of between $15 and $200 if they require aids such as spectacles, hearing aids and dentures.
WHERE AND WHEN:
• For more information and functional screening schedules, visit www.projectsilverscreen.sg or call the Singapore Silver Line on 1800-650-6060 (Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 8.30pm, and Saturday: 8.30am to 4pm. Closed on Sundays and public holidays).