Student helps light up retiree's life

ITE student Marcus Leo and retiree Tom Toh building a table lamp at an Intergenerational Learning Programme course.
ITE student Marcus Leo and retiree Tom Toh building a table lamp at an Intergenerational Learning Programme course.PHOTO: COUNCIL FOR THIRD AGE

At 63 and without any engineering background, retiree Tom Toh recently built his own table lamp.

He did so under the instruction of Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student Marcus Leo, 18, who had volunteered to teach Mr Toh over four sessions.

"My junior buddy is passionate and his teaching method is steady and step-by-step," said Mr Toh.

He built the lamp as part of a course for seniors on art and craft in electrical engineering. It is one of the courses under the Intergenerational Learning Programme (ILP) started in 2011, which pairs youths with seniors in a group learning environment and aims to promote bonding between them.

Since May, the ILPs have come under the National Silver Academy, which partners schools and organisations to offer courses to the elderly. Courses range from ILPs to exam-free modules taught by institutes of higher learning.

Next month, the National Silver Academy will add 700 courses to its offerings, while the 500 current ones will expire in December. Topics include languages, smartphone use, painting, cooking, social media and financial planning.

At an ILP end-of-course celebration at ITE College West yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said more than 4,800 seniors have taken up courses under the National Silver Academy since it was set up in May.

She noted that some of the popular courses are digital photography, computer maintenance and financial planning for retirement.

Dr Khor said: "Ensuring that Singapore remains a good place to grow old in will require a concerted, whole-of-society approach."

About 350 seniors and ITE students were at the event.

Mr Leo, an engineering student, said teaching the seniors taught him to appreciate their life experiences. "Seniors ask more in-depth questions, perhaps because they have a lot of experience," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Student helps light up retiree's life'. Print Edition | Subscribe