Picking up new skills and making friends: How he's living a purposeful life at 60

Apart from participating in volunteer-led activities for seniors at Lions Befrienders, he also gives back to the community by sharing his life experiences with students

Since signing up with a Lions Befrienders Active Ageing Centre, Mr Mogan Maiyappan has been busy picking up new skills, making friends and going on outings. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

It’s not every day that you hear a parent confessing to this but Mr Mogan Maiyappan says that he no longer has time to nag his 16-year-old son. Instead, he looks forward to sharing the interesting highlights of his day spent at social service agency Lions Befrienders.

Mr Mogan signed up with a Lions Befrienders Active Ageing Centre near his home in Clementi the day he turned 60 in March this year.

Since then, the retired security officer has been busy picking up new skills, making friends and going on outings. Besides Mr Mogan, Lions Befrienders has a fan in his 75-year-old sister. It was she who had been encouraging him to sign up with the agency’s Active Ageing Centre as she enjoys the activities there.

Lions Befrienders, a member of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), helps seniors stay connected with the community after retirement, reaching out to them through roadshows and door-to-door home visits. Since its launch in 1995, Lions Befrienders has helped more than 86,000 seniors to enjoy a fulfilling life during their silver years.

It also runs 10 Active Ageing Centres located in HDB residential estates. These drop-in spaces offer anyone, aged 60 and above living near a centre, active ageing programmes, befriending and buddying schemes, and referral to care services – regardless of his or her income and education levels, and housing type.

By 2030, Singapore is expected to have 900,000 seniors. One in four people will be 65 or older, according to the Understanding Quality of Life of Seniors report published by NCSS in 2017.

To help seniors achieve better quality of life and keep them engaged and fulfilled, agencies like the Council for Third Age supports community-based organisations that offer opportunities and training to seniors who wish to volunteer through the Silver Volunteer Fund. This can encourage lifelong learning and volunteerism among seniors.

The NCSS also has ample resources like the Volunteer Management Toolkit 2.0, which serves to provide social service agencies (SSAs) with practical tools and guidelines to help them build their volunteer management capabilities.

For Mr Mogan Maiyappan, joining an Active Ageing Centre helps him pass time more fruitfully. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

When helping others can improve your own quality of life

Mr Joe Koh Kok Meng is an example of a volunteer who has found the right fit with Lions Befrienders.

The 50-year-old father of three, who is self employed, started volunteering at an Active Ageing Centre in Tampines seven years ago. At that time, he had wanted to help his daughter understand Singapore’s ageing population for her psychology course in university.

Since then, he has become hooked on volunteering because he has seen how seniors benefit greatly from it. 

“Everyone will go through the ageing stage of life, so I think we should help and contribute while we can. Our efforts will improve the overall system, and benefit the current and future generations.”

Ms Karen Wee, executive director of Lions Befrienders, says: “We leverage the support of our regular volunteers which is vital in enabling our seniors to receive holistic care and improve their quality of life.”

Once a week for about 10 minutes to half an hour, Mr Koh visits the homes of some beneficiaries, takes them out for coffee and chats with them about health and life issues. He also accompanies the seniors for grocery shopping once in a while and helps out with activities at the centre.

He adds: “They came to Lions Befrienders and found something to look forward to, forging meaningful friendships and going on outings with their peers and volunteers.”

It is something that Mr Mogan agrees wholeheartedly with.

Mr Mogan Maiyappan regularly takes part in activities at the Active Ageing Centre he goes to regularly. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

At the Active Ageing Centre he goes to regularly, Mr Mogan plays card games with other service users, takes part in Zumba classes and goes on free educational outings to the National Museum and even to NTUC Fairprice’s Warehouse Hub. On these outings, transport and meals are provided, and he enjoys getting to meet new people and gaining new knowledge.

The early riser shares that his wife works as a tea lady from 7am to 2pm while his son is busy with school and preparing for exams.

“I can’t be drinking coffee at the kopi tiam (coffee shop) until lunch time every day or until my wife and son come home,” says Mr Mogan.

At Lions Befrienders, Mr Mogan has learnt to do digital banking, use the Internet and navigate apps. In fact, he became web-savvy enough to be a part of the Lions Befrienders Virtual Befrienders programme, which takes place every two weeks or two months for an hour.

When there were Covid-19 restrictions, Lions Befrienders collaborated with schools of every level – from pre-schools to universities – to conduct online activities such as Virtual Befrienders for students and seniors to interact and spend time with each other. Through this programme, Mr Mogan gets to share his life experiences with young people through video chats. “I tell them to work hard but to stay happy and not be stressed,” he says.

He himself has become more relaxed and jovial since joining Lions Befrienders. Says Mr Mogan: “You pass time more fruitfully and it’s better than looking at the four walls at home and feeling sad.” 

Read more stories like Mr Mogan Maiyappan's in the Stories from the Heart page. NCSS has launched Stories from the Heart in celebration of its 30th anniversary. The page features a series of 30 heartwarming stories featuring the work of SSAs, social service professionals, volunteers and service users.

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