Work to begin on new $15m building for St. John's Home for Elderly Persons

(From left) Lim Wen Heng Construction managing director Harry Lin, St. John's Home for Elderly Persons chairman Woon Wee Yim, MP for Potong Pasir Sitoh Yih Pin, Aamer Architects principal architect Aamer Taher, and St. John's Home resident Lim Seng Kim at the ground-breaking ceremony, on Sept 1, 2018. ST PHOTO: BENSON ANG

SINGAPORE - Many residents of the St. John's Home for Elderly Persons are not too familiar with using mobile phones, but in May this year they shot a video on one which helped to raise funds for its new building.

Eight residents, aged 66 to 90, appeared in the clip which was published on crowdfunding site and was part of a campaign that has raised $150,000 so far.

The money will go towards a new $15 million five-storey building which will see the home increase its number of beds from 86 to 150, while offering greater privacy to residents and improved facilities.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Saturday (Sept 1) at the Home's Wan Tho Avenue site, where it opened 60 years ago.

The new building, due to open in late 2020, will have four-bed rooms which will give residents quicker access to toilets compared to the current seven-bed dormitories.

Anti-slip tiles will be used on floors and there will also be a rooftop garden, a bigger activity room and two counselling rooms.

"All this will contribute to the improved well-being of our residents," said the Home's chairman Woon Wee Yim.

Public donations have funded $10 million of the building's cost and the rest is expected to be raised over the next two years.

The residents featured in the crowdfunding video spoke of what the Home means to them. Among them was 69-year-old retiree Marilyn Wee, who has lived there since 2009.

She spends her days playing the guitar in her room, in the corridor and chapel, strumming church songs such as How Great Thou Art and pop songs such as The Great Pretender.

Madam Wee, who also enjoys drawing and cycling on a stationary bike, has six brothers but none of her family has the means to look after her and she does not want to trouble them.

"I have everything here. I have friends, hobbies, and I am excited for the new building - what more do I want?" she said.

The video was directed by 75-year-old resident Arvind Sharma.

"We were trying to help our general manager raise funds for the new building," he said.

"Making the video was also quite fun for us, even though many of us don't know how to use mobile phones. I'm quite happy with the amount donated so far, but also hope more people will come forward to donate."

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, MP for Potong Pasir, was guest-of-honour at Saturday's ceremony.

He said: "To me, St John's is a classic example of an organisation where despite being small, you have a big heart and you can do really big things."

Since 1958, the home, which caters to over-60s who are ambulant, has been occupying a 12,000 sq m plot of land at Wan Tho Avenue.

Its lease expired at the end of 2015 and it secured a new one, valid until 2045, for 3,300 sq m of the original plot.

The new building will be built on this smaller plot, and during construction, residents will stay on the remaining 8,700 sq m of land, which the home is currently renting from the Singapore Land Authority on a monthly basis.

The home plans to return this remaining land to the Government when the new building is finished.

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