SINGAPORE - Sitting on a sofa in an Ang Mo Kio flat, Madam Seah Seow Peng holds the frail hands of Thi Lai Lee and Teh Lai Wam as she asks the elderly sisters with dementia if they have eaten.
She also takes note of the mental and physical well-being of the sisters - Thi is 84 and Teh is 83.
Madam Seah, however, is not a relative nor a social worker, but a postman.
"I come here and check in on them once a week at least because they are lonely," she said. "We are not family but we met by fate. There is this connection between us."
The 57-year-old is one of seven postmen who volunteered for a pilot programme to check in on vulnerable seniors in Ang Mo Kio and Henderson while making their delivery rounds.
After the year-long pilot programme, Singapore Post (SingPost) officially launched its Postman Home Visits nationwide on Thursday (Dec 20).
The initiative will be extended to Yishun and Jurong next month and progressively rolled out to all districts across Singapore.
During the year-long pilot scheme, the seven postmen visited 11 seniors at least once a week.
SingPost worked with social service agencies such as AMKFSC Community Services and social enterprise NTUC Health Silver Ace to identify vulnerable seniors in the areas where the postmen make their deliveries.
The postmen then visited the elderly beneficiaries at their homes and checked on their general well-being. Training was also provided.
During their house calls, the postmen made simple observations of the elderly, and filled in a checklist for the social service agency servicing the area. This gave the agency a sense of the seniors' mental and physical well-being.
The checklist also included any requests the seniors might have.
The postmen could contact the social service agency for assistance should they face an emergency situation.
With flexible visit times and dates, SingPost said that the postmen were able to manage their schedules and maintain delivery standards.
Over time, these postmen built a bond with the seniors.
"Postmen have been an ubiquitous part of the community for more than a century. The Postman Home Visits initiative is a natural extension of their service to the community, as it offers kind-hearted staff the opportunity to do good during the course of their work," said SingPost’s chief executive of postal services Woo Keng Leong.
One of the volunteers, Inspector of Post Abass Sadkoon, said that the postmen were in a good position to befriend and check in on the seniors because they are familiar with the neighbourhood.
"We know the residents well in the neighbourhoods," said the 53-year-old. "The elderly are also quite friendly and appreciative of our visits. Even when we are busy, we manage to squeeze some time to check on them."
For Madam Seah, the weekly visits to the two elderly sisters is something she looks forward to.
She said: "I try to visit them a few times each week. We chit chat and talk about our families. Even though they sometimes forget my name, we have a relationship built."