SINGAPORE - Housewife Noraisah Yacob, 54, spends her free time engaging with senior citizens in her neighbourhood.
Besides listening to their stories, she finds out about their needs and tells them about government programmes that benefit them.
Madam Noraisah is one of a group of 1,700 volunteers, called SG Ambassadors, who have been trained to reach out to seniors at a new training facility at the Silver Generation Office (SGO) since January.
The facility, located at the Ministry of National Development building in Maxwell Road, was officially launched on Friday (May 4) by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
Training was previously held at scattered locations and conducted by external vendors, but the facility has centralised efforts by training in-house staff to impart the knowledge.
The outreach efforts come under the new Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) programme, which ramps up active ageing and befriending efforts aimed at senior citizens.
Mr David Neo, group chief of the Silver Generation Office, said: “The role of engaging with seniors is a specific skill that has to be acquired over time... We want to be able to deliver a consistent and quality experience for our seniors whenever our ambassadors visit, so that every visit is a good visit.”
The freshly trained SG Ambassadors are equipped with knowledge of healthcare services such as the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) and active ageing programmes, on top of other support schemes available to the elderly.
The volunteers are required to undergo 12 hours of classroom training, which includes the development of engagement skills that are critical for house visits.
The CNS outreach efforts have engaged more than 55,000 seniors since January.
Among them, more than 7,000 senior citizens have attended health screening sessions for their eyesight, hearing and oral health.
The CNS programme, first implemented in April 2016 at three pilot centres - Tampines, Marine Parade and Choa Chu Kang - will be progressively expanded to SGO's 13 other satellite offices by 2020.
The SGO now serves as the outreach arm to the government-run Agency for Integrated Care, which seeks to create a well-connected healthcare system in Singapore.
Madam Katherine Kang, senior programme coordinator at the SGO's Choa Chu Kang office, said some of the elderly have exhausted all means and ways of help, and do not know where to go. This is where volunteers can come in with the relevant information, she said.
Madam Noraisah said volunteers can help by serving as role models too.
"We as ambassadors have to be healthy too. We can be a role model to the elderly, and it's easy for us to relate to these seniors," she added.