Seniors get free portraits in bid to lift taboo about death

Madam Ang Cheng Boey having her portrait taken at Nam Hong Welfare Service Society. The photos of the elderly beneficiaries will be printed and given to the seniors, who can use them in any way they like, including for their funeral service.
Madam Ang Cheng Boey having her portrait taken at Nam Hong Welfare Service Society. The photos of the elderly beneficiaries will be printed and given to the seniors, who can use them in any way they like, including for their funeral service.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

It was New Year's Eve, and Madam Ang Cheng Boey, 72, was all dolled up, with pink lipstick and a pretty scarf around her neck.

She was not preparing to attend New Year festivities though, but was among some 200 seniors at Nam Hong Welfare Service Society in Yishun yesterday afternoon to have their portraits taken.

The photos will be printed and given to the seniors, said the society, and they may choose to use them in any way they like, including for their funeral service.

The project is an initiative of the society, which reaches out to disadvantaged seniors in Yishun, in the hope of encouraging discussion about death and dying, and dispel the fear around the taboo subjects.

Madam Ang thinks it is a good idea and said she is not superstitious. She told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "Death is something that everyone has to go through anyway. So I decided to come for this event.

"I always take part in such events. It is a good way to be active and make friends."

The society collaborated with Republic Polytechnic, with the school's final-year students taking the portraits and providing make-up services for the seniors.

NOTHING TO FEAR

Death is something that everyone has to go through anyway. So I decided to come for this event. I always take part in such events. It is a good way to be active and make friends.

MADAM ANG CHENG BOEY, who had her portrait taken yesterday.

The society's acting chairman, Mr Stanley Lim, said it hopes that through the campaign, more seniors will join its Caring Heart programme.

It offers free funeral services, home visits and the distribution of rations, with festive goodies and red packets during festive periods.

Nam Hong started offering free funeral services three years ago, and it has held about 10 funerals. The number of seniors in the programme has grown from 19 to 127 now.

Nam Hong general manager Aaron Ng said the programme was welcomed by the community as it provides peace of mind to seniors who are from lower-income groups or have no relatives to help them arrange their funerals.

Some believe the lack of a funeral would prevent them from going to the afterlife. Mr Ng said: "Singapore has an ageing population and we foresee that seniors living in other areas would also have the need for such a programme. We hope to do more fund-raising so we can expand the programme."

The society, which was started about 16 years ago, also provides free traditional Chinese therapy like acupuncture for seniors.

Madam Chen Soo Ngo, 65, has been going to the centre weekly for about 10 years for aches in her arms and legs. She said: "It is good because problems like mine are long term. And the doctor makes me feel comfortable."

•Those interested to help can contact Nam Hong Welfare Service Society at namhongcares@gmail.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'Seniors get free portraits in bid to lift taboo about death'. Print Edition | Subscribe