More volunteer opportunities for seniors under new agreement

(From left) Standard Chartered Bank's regional head of corporate affairs and brand and marketing Eva Ang, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, and chairman of RSVP Singapore Koh Juay Meng. PHOTO: RSVP SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - One silver lining in rapidly greying Singapore is a growing pool of senior volunteers with a wealth of experiences and skills.

To tap this pool of talent, new initiatives will be rolled out to create more opportunities for them to volunteer and to train them for the tasks.

This is a collaboration between volunteering organisation RSVP Singapore and Standard Chartered Bank, which signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Thursday (Feb 14).

The key initiatives under the three-year partnership include building a pool of senior volunteer trainers for a nationwide expansion of a pre-dementia programme. The trainers will help conduct health talks and mindfulness practices, as well as simple physical exercises.

There will also be a pilot inter-generational volunteering programme involving seniors and youths to support the less privileged.

Standard Chartered Bank is contributing $100,000 annually over three years.

More than 1,000 senior volunteers are expected to benefit from the collaboration.

Chairman of RSVP Singapore Koh Juay Meng said that the partnership will "develop the capabilities of seniors and empower them as active volunteers serving the needs of the community".

"We know that this new wave of seniors are working professionals, technologically savvy and have different wants and needs. They are more discerning and want to make an informed decision on volunteering duties, organisations and outcomes, although they may be unable to commit to long-term volunteering," he added.

Singapore has one of the fastest-ageing populations in Asia, with 15.2 per cent of the population aged 65 and above as of September last year. By 2050, it will be among the top 10 oldest countries in the world with an estimated 47 per cent of its population over 65 years old, according to the United Nations.

With an ageing population, the number of senior volunteers has also steadily grown over the years.

In a National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre survey for 2016, published in May 2017, the number of volunteers aged 55 to 64 increased from 18 per cent in 2014 to 20 per cent in 2016.

Currently, RSVP Singapore has 2,500 senior volunteers, up from 824 in 2016.

Last year, the organisation was appointed the national centre of excellence in senior volunteerism.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who was guest of honour at the signing ceremony, said: "By 2030, the number of Singaporeans aged 65 years and above will be doubled. Many of these seniors have accumulated a wealth of skills and experience, and silver volunteerism is an important means by which society can benefit from their experiences."

"Through the combined efforts of the government, community and corporate partners, we can work together to create more volunteering opportunities for our seniors," she added, urging "more corporates to consider such partnerships, motivate their employees to volunteer, and grow the SG Cares movement."

Chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank Patrick Lee said: "By promoting senior volunteerism with RSVP Singapore, we are delighted to be unlocking a new potential for giving in Singapore."

Ms Noorjahan Kamaruddin, 58, who started volunteering with RSVP Singapore five years ago, found the experience meaningful.

The freelance tour guide and soft skills trainer said: "With more seniors ageing, we have to help ourselves to help others. Volunteering is one way to know more people and keep ourselves healthy."

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