Seniors to share hobbies, not homes, with Airbnb tourists

Madam Maria Yee sharing how she uses herbs and plants she grows in her cooking at the Touch Seniors Activity Centre in Geylang Bahru. She says the Airbnb tie-up gives her a chance to share her love for gardening.
Madam Maria Yee sharing how she uses herbs and plants she grows in her cooking at the Touch Seniors Activity Centre in Geylang Bahru. She says the Airbnb tie-up gives her a chance to share her love for gardening.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Three senior citizens will play host and offer insider tips to Airbnb tourists and fellow locals, but without having any guests staying at their own homes.

Instead, Madam Maria Yee, 61, Mr James Tan, 77, and Madam Catherine Loh, 70, will share their passion for urban gardening, qigong and cooking the vegetable dish chap chye, respectively at Touch Seniors Activity Centre in Geylang Bahru.

The three volunteers at the centre will conduct the experiences at $50 a session, with each lasting two hours. The proceeds will go to Touch Community Services.

This is the first time that home-sharing website Airbnb is joining forces with a charity here to offer its Social Impact Experience to give people the chance to get a deeper view of Singapore.

"Travellers today are looking for more authentic and intimate experiences," said Airbnb's head of trips, South-east Asia and India, Mr Sriram Vaidhya, 34. "We believe that the experiences put together by the seniors are a true showcase of that."

The three seniors were selected based on their hobbies, standard of English, willingness to learn and positive attitude. Airbnb staff trained them for six months.

Ms Yong Yin Hoong, 59, assistant manager at the centre, said: "We want to empower our elderly people and encourage them to stay active. By having these experiences, they can showcase their skills and knowledge."

Madam Yee, a retired food lab technician and an avid gardener, said: "This platform has given me a chance to share what I love, remain active and think creatively."

Those keen on the experiences can book them at Airbnb's website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2018, with the headline 'Seniors to share hobbies, not homes, with Airbnb tourists'. Print Edition | Subscribe