Istana visit a 'dream come true' for elderly

President Halimah Yacob doing wheelchair yoga with residents of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens at the Istana yesterday.
President Halimah Yacob doing wheelchair yoga with residents of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Mr Lee Kim Cheng, 91, had always dreamt of visiting the Istana.

Yesterday morning, his lifelong dream came true when he visited the president's official residence with 19 other residents of the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens.

"Not just any Tom, Dick or Harry can enter the Istana, and I'm very excited to be here," said Mr Lee, who had been rehearsing a message he hoped to convey to President Halimah Yacob.

"I want to tell her that I'm very happy to meet her and I wish her happiness and good health."

During the tour, the nursing home residents - who were all in wheelchairs - were chaperoned by volunteers from Youth Corps Singapore (YCS), as well as staff from the home. This was the second such tour organised by volunteers from YCS. It was part of the Garden Tours@Istana programme set up by Madam Halimah to make the Istana more accessible to Singaporeans.

The guests were first shown around the Spice Garden by National Parks Board volunteer guides. They ate some of the herbs and learnt about where common spices are derived from.

President Halimah, who is also the patron of YCS, then joined the tour and greeted each guest.


After relaying his message to Madam Halimah, Mr Lee said: "It's my dream come true to get to meet the President. I'm just an ordinary person and I feel so lucky to have been able to meet her."

They then went on to do wheelchair yoga, led by a nursing home staff member, with Madam Halimah joining in the activity, seated on a chair.

This was followed by a tour of the first storey of the Istana, where Istana Heritage Gallery guides explained the building's history and the stories behind the decor and murals.

Nursing home resident Nani Ahmad, 78, who last visited the Istana when he was seven, said the place had become more beautiful since.

Speaking in Malay, Mr Nani said he was elated to see the Istana again and to meet the President in person.

YCS leader Owen Tan, 29, said the visit brought a lot of smiles to the nursing home residents, adding: "I asked them if they were happy about their visit and their reactions were just priceless."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2019, with the headline 'Istana visit a 'dream come true' for elderly'. Print Edition | Subscribe