New training facility to better equip befrienders of the elderly

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong chatting with Madam Noraisah Yacob (third from right) and other volunteers at the official launch of the new Silver Generation Office training facility yesterday.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong chatting with Madam Noraisah Yacob (third from right) and other volunteers at the official launch of the new Silver Generation Office training facility yesterday.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Housewife Noraisah Yacob spends her free time engaging with senior citizens in her neighbourhood.

Besides listening to their stories, she finds out their needs and tells them about government programmes that might benefit them.

Madam Noraisah, 54, is one of 1,700 volunteers called SG Ambassadors, who have developed skills to reach out to seniors at a new training facility since January.

The facility at the Silver Generation Office (SGO) in the Ministry of National Development was officially launched yesterday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

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 SGO, 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."

Through 12 hours of classroom training, SG Ambassadors learn about healthcare services such as the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) and active ageing programmes, on top of other support schemes for the elderly. They also hone their engagement skills which are critical for house visits.

CNS outreach efforts have engaged more than 55,000 seniors since January. Among them, over 7,000 have attended health screening sessions for their eyesight, hearing and oral health.

The CNS programme, first implemented in April 2016 in Tampines, Marine Parade and Choa Chu Kang, will be progressively expanded to SGO's 13 other satellite offices by 2020. SGO serves as the outreach arm to the Agency for Integrated Care, which seeks to create a well-connected healthcare system here.

Madam Katherine Kang, senior programme coordinator at 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 added.

Madam Noraisah said: "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2018, with the headline 'New training facility to better equip befrienders of the elderly'. Print Edition | Subscribe