National helpline launched to help seniors in need in real time

Through the helpline, senior volunteers respond to emergency calls and also provide support services. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To help seniors in need, a new national helpline that provides real-time assistance five days a week was launched on Monday (June 6).

Manned by trained senior volunteers, the Aces Care HelpLife helpline ( 6797-6797) was launched at Teck Ghee Community Club by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

It will be accessible every Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

During the launch event, PM Lee noted the high concentration of senior residents in mature towns such as Ang Mo Kio, where the elderly are often living as a couple or alone after their spouse died.

He said: “When you grow old, sometimes problems happen, or sometimes you get lonely, sad, depressed. You want somebody to talk to, but you do not know where to go... To have somebody at the end of the phone line whom you can talk to gives you confidence that somebody can hear you, who can sympathise with you and will certainly give you some good advice and encouragement.”

The helpline was initiated in October last year by charity Aces Care and social enterprise Octopus8 in response to a growing need to assist seniors who were isolated and distressed during the pandemic.

Aces Care has received funding from organisations such as the National Council of Social Service and the Tote Board, and trained a group of volunteers over a two-month period to equip them with the skills to advise callers.

Manned by about 30 volunteers from Teck Ghee constituency, the helpline will be available to senior residents in Ang Mo Kio in the first phase.

Over the next three years, it will be stepped up to serve more constituencies across Singapore as more volunteers come on board.

Dr S. Vasoo, chairman of Aces Care, said the volunteers would discuss issues with callers on the phone before noting their details in a confidential record on a remote cloud platform so they can be rendered assistance in future.

They would also check back with the callers to ensure their needs have been met, he added.

Mr Vasoo noted that about 35 per cent of the Teck Ghee population are seniors above the age of 60, highlighting the need for a seniors helpline.

“The need for (senior assistance) will become quite urgent. And among people who are growing old and living alone, their children may have moved out to newer towns. 

“I think we need more people to do public good. And I would encourage you all to help bring in two or three seniors who want to be involved in supporting such a project,” he said.

Through the helpline, senior volunteers will respond to emergency calls and also provide support services such as helping other seniors order food online and book or reschedule their medical appointments.

They will also provide counselling services for seniors in distress.

Ms Angie Ang, 60, a grassroots leader who is a retired corporate executive, is currently undergoing training to be one of the volunteers manning the helpline.

Noting that she hopes to dedicate about four hours a day up to five days a week to the helpline, Ms Ang said: “Some of the issues we discuss with callers could be any help they need with technology, like operating a new phone.

“Once I complete my training, I will be able to use a laptop and earpiece to conduct the calls from my home. Volunteers will also stay up to date on current scams so we can advise callers who come across them.”

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