Building Community Relationships

In 2018, a small fire broke out in a retirement complex located in Kampung Admiralty. The seniors from NTUC Health’s Active Ageing Hub heard the fire alarm, and rushed next door on their own accord to evacuate the toddlers and infants from the neighbouring preschool to safety. All parties were evacuated without harm.

Such events, though rare, demonstrate the value of forging close community relationships. And this is one of the things the inter-generational programme jointly launched by NTUC First Campus and NTUC Health has been doing since 2014.

The inter-generational programme is a partnership between NTUC Health and NTUC First Campus, where seniors at NTUC Health’s elderly care facilities and preschoolers from My First Skool interact and bond over shared activities, festive celebrations, and birthdays throughout the year. Since 2017, the programme has grown to encompass three tiers: Basic – for ad hoc festivities; Intermediate – where participants meet over regular intervals; and Advanced – where long-term activities are planned into structured senior care programmes and incorporated into the preschool curriculum. Many of NTUC Health’s care centres are moving toward making the Advanced tier a focus of inter-generational programming, with the objective of bringing out the best possible benefits for both the young and elderly in the long run.

Senior in meditation

Pre-schoolers from My First Skool presenting our seniors from our Active Ageing Hub (Kampung Admiralty) with handmade Grandparents’ Day cards in November 2019

For seniors, especially those with dementia, teaching the preschoolers how to make mooncakes, paper crafts and play games makes the care programmes at our elderly care centres a more engaging and fulfilling experience for them. “Many share that they look forward to the inter-generational sessions, and with the regular interaction, the kids are now like grandchildren to them,” said Assistant Manager with NTUC Health Senior Day Care, Ms Cheryl Lim.

In return, the children learn values of respect, compassion and concern for their seniors, both in the community and at home.

“She is more caring and understanding after she started on this programme,” said Mdm Lua Shi Yunn, whose daughter, Ying Tsi, began to show deeper concern for her grandparents at home, pouring water for them and giving them massages when their muscles ached. Other students, like Zhi Xin, who were once shy before taking part in the inter-generational programme, now enjoy performing dances and recitals for grandparents at home and for seniors at our care centres.

Senior in meditation

Virtual exercise with our seniors at Senior Activity Centre (Marsiling) and My First Skool kids for Chinese New Year 2021.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic puts physical distance between our seniors and My First Skool preschoolers. So to keep them safe, the inter-generational activities have been brought online instead. This does little to deter them from building upon their relationships. In fact, technology has enhanced the joy of learning, an experience that our seniors and the preschoolers share.

Senior in meditation
Senior in meditation
Senior in meditation

Seniors from Active Ageing Hub (Kampung Admiralty) and preschoolers from My First Skool came together to create virtual drama productions. Over bi-weekly Zoom meetings, they met to plan scripts based on My First Skool’s learning syllabus and record their characters’ lines. Through these sessions, both parties took part in combining storytelling and technology to create The Monkey’s Birthday Surprise and The Hare and The Tortoise

Senior in meditation

My First Skool pre-schoolers and our Senior Day Care clients “visited” the Growing Up gallery at the National Museum of Singapore. They later exchanged Pen Pal cards to share what life in Singapore was like in the past. For example, some of our seniors used to ride on trishaws when they were of school-going age, much to the bemusement of our young friends who can now attend school remotely via home-based learning!

Senior in meditation

(Ong Kim Seng. Barber. 1982. Watercolour on paper, 54 x 70 cm. Gift of DBS Bank Ltd. Collection of National Gallery Singapore.)

Docent at the National Gallery Singapore, Mr Lee Kok Leong, facilitated an online programme featuring artworks from the DBS Singapore Gallery, with seniors and students learning about the past through art. For instance, Mr Lee quizzed our seniors and students on the painting above (Barber by Ong Kim Seng), giving the opportunity for our seniors to share their lived experiences with the children.

Senior in meditation
Senior in meditation

In June 2020, seniors like Mdm Sarala from Active Ageing Hub (Kampung Admiralty) sewed masks for the children. The kids themselves made hand-drawn greeting cards and well-wishes to show concern for our Senior Day Care clients.

Despite the restrictions on meeting each other in person, it is heartening to continue to  see the many ways that the IG programme continues to benefit our seniors and the preschoolers. Seniors continue to feel valued and empowered to share their knowledge and experience with the younger generation, while the children continue to develop social skills, empathy and a more positive perception of seniors. “The presence of the children brings a lot of joy and laughter to our seniors. They have become very close, and care deeply for each other,” said Cluster Programme Manager at Active Ageing Hub, Ms Chai Chee Mei on the inseparable bonds of our seniors and preschoolers.

These heartwarming stories from the inter-generational programme serve as inspiration for all of us to continue building strong communities where young and old can grow in love and respect for one another.