Students lend a hand at health screening for seniors

Secondary 2 student Raksha Narayan Rao helping Mr Koh Tiong San, 74, during his hearing check, which was conducted by Ms Mildred Tan (in purple) from a healthcare provider.
Secondary 2 student Raksha Narayan Rao helping Mr Koh Tiong San, 74, during his hearing check, which was conducted by Ms Mildred Tan (in purple) from a healthcare provider.ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

When Mr Koh Tiong San broke his teeth, he did not know where to go to get them fixed. "My dentist did not dare to fix them for me," said the 74-year-old in Mandarin. "So I came here for some advice."

Mr Koh, who attends NTUC Health Silver Circle Senior Care Centre in Geylang, was one of 22 elderly residents who signed up for a community screening programme at Geylang Methodist Secondary School yesterday.

Called Functional Screenings, the programme comprises basic checks on vision, hearing and oral health, and can detect any age-related decline in functional ability so that timely intervention can be taken.

Seniors usually receive their results on the day of their screening. Those with abnormal results will be advised to seek follow-ups with the relevant healthcare professionals.

While the programme has been around since 2011, yesterday's screening was slightly different because, for the first time, 25 students from Geylang Methodist helped the seniors as they moved from one station to another for their checks.

The collaboration between the school and the National Healthcare Group (NHG) was to facilitate an inter-generational approach to the screening process, where students learn about the ageing process and how to show empathy.

An NHG spokesman said that with the elderly population increasing, more seniors are expected to become frail and vulnerable to disabilities that affect their independence. "Functional screening enables timely provision of healthcare services to older adults with declining functions," said the spokesman.

"With early detection, we hope to help improve their quality of life through effective interventions. This inter-generational collaboration is a way to spread health literacy among the young, their parents, grandparents and the seniors in the community effectively."

Secondary 2 student Raksha Narayan Rao, 13, who visits her grandparents abroad once a year, said the experience helped her understand the elderly. "Initially, I was out of my comfort zone. The seniors could not understand me and they spoke really softly. Eventually, I learnt to see things from a different perspective. I talked to them about things we had in common, like reading, and I really enjoyed it."

Mr Koh, who was advised to go for further check-ups, said the students' help made the screening process easier. "They remind me of my grandchildren," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2018, with the headline 'Students lend a hand at health screening for seniors'. Print Edition | Subscribe