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Breaking Intergenerational Barriers
02 July 2018

Discover five simple ways one can reach out to the elderly.

With the invasion of technological advancements, it is not uncommon to see a family seated around a dining table, each fixated on his or her own mobile device in silence. Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” is soon becoming a theme song for most Singaporean families.

Given the rapidly ageing population in Singapore, it is a worrying sign when the importance of family bonding diminishes over the generations. According to the United Nation’s (UN) World Population Ageing 2017 Report, Singapore’s population stood at 5.71 million as of 2017, consisting of 886,000 people aged 65 and above. Projections from the UN show that almost half of Singapore’s population will comprise elderly aged 65 and above by 2050, just three decades from now.

The lack of communication and interaction between the young and elderly could be the very reason for the growing wedge between the generations.

Thus, HCA Hospice Care’s (HCA) Young Caregivers Programme (yCG) has been actively engaging students across all education levels to inculcate values of empathy and share the importance of building intergenerational relationships.

These are largely achieved through interactive workshops and Values in Action (VIA) sessions, conducted by HCA’s trained facilitators.

Here are five simple yet meaningful ways students of all ages have worked to bridge the gap, creating a warm and pleasant experience for the patients.

1. Adding smiles through play

The energy and positivity from the students of St. Margaret’s Primary School were highly infectious during their VIA session at the HCA Day Hospice Centre. They organised and hosted a series of activities from singing to ‘spot the difference’ and bingo, gifting many snacks for every correct answer. But what brought grinning smiles to the faces of the patients were their sincerity and genuine desire to befriend the aunties and uncles. “This little girl reminds me of my granddaughter. She is so cute and bubbly!” quipped one of the patients.

2. Making technology accessible to the elderly

Who said that technology is only for the younger generations? Pei Hwa Secondary School’s students invented a Micro:bit to improve the safety and lives of the elderly after a workshop conducted by yCG. The Micro:bit is designed around the needs of the elderly, in particular those who are homebound. The watch-like gadget immediately alerts the caregiver, when the elderly has a fall and contacting the caregiver is made easy with a push of a button.

Find out more about the Micro:bit here on Toggle.

3. Bonding through the expression of art

“Art speaks where words are unable to explain.”

– Mathiole

The use of sensory activities for elderly not only improves cognitive symptoms, concentration and alertness, but also facilitates communication and reflection as the activity is carried out.

The tote bag painting organised by the students of Catholic Junior College encouraged the patients to paint using their hands, with the use of a glove. One of the patients produced a beautifully hand-painted panda. While some needed the assistance of the students, it provided an avenue for conversations to take place. Many left with a deeper appreciation for the elderly and their limitations, but also with newfound confidence to interact with the older generation.

4. Sharing one’s talents; a gift to others

More than 10 schools came together to perform a medley of dance performances at yCG’s dance competition. Each group put forward a dazzling display of talents and skills, all vastly different in their genres, ranging from contemporary and Chinese dance to jazz and pop numbers. 

Despite it being a competition for the students, it was a very special day for HCA’s patients who thoroughly enjoyed themselves throughout the performance. It was a rare opportunity for many of them, who require medical care outside of home.

5. A tapestry of love becomes warmth for one

Students from Hougang Secondary School painstakingly hand-sewed pieces of fabric together and the end product was nothing short of a beautiful tapestry. The bright and cheerful-looking blanket was gifted to HCA’s home hospice patient, Mdm Siah.

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much – Helen Keller

As can be seen, care and love need not be expensive nor impressive. But a genuine desire to share one’s talents for the benefit of another and by simply being present, are all it takes to bring a smile to the face of an elderly.

If you are interested to have yCG’s workshops conducted at your school, followed by a VIA session at HCA, do not hesitate to contact our friendly yCG team at ycg@hcahospicecare.org.sg.