“It is good that my mother now has a place to go, instead of staying alone at home. Here she can stay active and keep her mind and body occupied in a safe environment, and I feel less worried to go out and find work,” said Ms Tay Chai Gek, 51, who accompanies her 80-year-old mother to Charis ACE in the mornings for tea and Rummikub games.
Charis Activity Centre for Elders (Charis ACE) is the latest centre launched by Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), in partnership with Charis Methodist Church. It is the fourth MWS centre which serves seniors (the other three are Bethany Methodist Nursing Home, Christalite Methodist Home, and Wesley Seniors Activity Centre), meeting the needs of Singapore’s greying population.
Already, 10.5 per cent of Singapore’s population is 65 and above, according to the 2013 population trends published by the government, and experts expect this segment of the population to double by 2030.
In Geylang, where Charis ACE is located, one in every eight residents is a senior.
Solving loneliness and inactivity
Seniors are at a stage of life where their social networks are becoming smaller, noted Mrs Jenny Bong, Group Executive Director of MWS.
“They stop working and may lose their friends at work. They are also more likely to have mobility issues, limiting how often and how far they can leave their homes without assistance. And in their old age, their spouse and friends may pass away,” she said.
As more and more seniors live alone, they may become socially isolated, which can lead to depression and other mental or emotional problems over time. In fact, many whom we spoke to at Charis ACE were “empty-nesters”.
Some, like 73-year-old Madam Chua Ee Kheng, signed up as a member at Charis ACE when it opened in March this year. Every morning, she leaves her HDB flat for Charis ACE to meet up with neighbours, enjoy some morning exercises and exchange stories over tea.
“This is better than idling alone at home,” remarked the recently-widowed Mdm Chua.
Promoting physical and emotional wellness in seniors
Charis ACE has a wide range of tailored programmes to engage seniors and encourage interactions.
Seniors can participate in daily morning exercise sessions, or sign up for ukulele classes. The centre’s interior space is cosy and inviting, and includes a variety of facilities for its members. A multi-functional “kopitiam”, cooking and learning space leads into an activity area for hosting indoor sports and games. An IT corner, an equipped gym, and a karaoke room complete this centre, creating a social and recreational club ambience where seniors will feel warmth and a sense of belonging.
All these are aimed at encouraging “active ageing”, which the World Health Organisation defines as a process of enhancement, where individuals will enjoy better health, autonomy, independence, quality of life, continued engagement or participation in society with dignity, as well as optimal care. The benefits of a physically active and socially engaged lifestyle are manifold; regular exercise alone can improve one’s mental, physical and emotional health, as well as life expectancy.
74-year-old Mr Goh drops in at Charis ACE almost every morning for coffee and to read the daily papers. Speaking in Mandarin, he praised the friendly atmosphere and opportunity for social interactions. “Coming here sure beats the loneliness of just staying at home alone, plus I get to play ping-pong with Mr Teo!” he laughs, referring to Charis ACE
Manager, Mr Teo Khoon Seng, who is also the Social Concerns Chairman at Charis Methodist Church.
Opportunities for seniors to help seniors
On top of regular activities, Charis ACE also offers opportunities for seniors to volunteer.
Mr Teo has plans to offer a varied range of excursions, activities and learning courses for the community, while mobilising seniors as volunteers.
“We want to provide an opportunity for seniors to help seniors,” he says. “Volunteers are welcome to come and help us with the running of activities. You could teach singing, or conduct IT courses, or simply befriend people. Volunteers can become members and vice versa!”
VOLUNTEER * at Charis ACE. Contact Mr Teo Khoon Seng at 6842-0498 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
DONATE * towards the enhancement of seniors’ lives at Charis ACE. Email Methodist Welfare Services at email@example.com or call Ms Bernadette Sandra at 6478-4709.
Pictures courtesy of Methodist Welfare Services
Adeline Huang and Chuang Bing Han are Communications staff at Methodist Welfare Services.