Senior volunteer spreads happiness among community

Patti Ho

Ms Patti Ho (standing in the foreground) checking on the sitting posture of a senior, in an exercise session held before COVID-19.

 

At an age when people would be contented staying at home, 77-year-old Ms Patti Ho, an avid volunteer with our Senior Activity Centres (SAC), has been giving her time to help seniors and bringing joy into their lives.

A veteran in the volunteering scene, Patti began contributing her time since 2007, and has been with NTUC Health since 2013, mainly leading the “La La” programme, a set of simple exercises specially designed for seniors.

The sessions are held twice weekly, to a group of approximately 60 seniors each time. Comprising stretching, balancing and aerobic moves, the sessions last half an hour each, and target seniors who are unable to stand for a long time.

“For one of the exercises, there was a lady who insisted she could not sit up and stand, so I had her hold my arm and I lifted her.

After a few sessions, she told me that she found a way to get herself to stand.

Now instead of pulling on me, she is able to stand just by touching me. It is about building their confidence. These things take time; you cannot just do it in one day.”

– Patti Ho

Patti Ho

Patti has a thirst for knowledge and constantly seeks to improve herself, an admirable trait at any age. She enjoys attending courses and picking up new knowledge. “When I have time I like to go and take up classes and see what is it about. I like to learn new skills, so that I won’t be so old-fashioned!” In fact, it was at a Bollywood Dance class she attended that she was inspired to create a segment to the “La La” programme simply coined the “Daily” exercise. The “Daily” exercise has the seniors simulating actions of their daily activities, such as brushing teeth or drinking water. “It’s a fun exercise reminding them of things they need to do, such as washing hands frequently during COVID-19.”

While constantly developing herself, Patti finds that she becomes more empowered to help others. She enjoys giving talks to seniors with organisations she is affiliated with, such as TSAO Foundation and Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS). Some topics she has shared include ageing gracefully, diabetic management, and even ‘guided autobiography’-  a method to help people gain new perspectives and appreciation of the self by writing and sharing their life stories, resulting in improved self-esteem and confidence. Patti is also fond of cooking, and greatly enjoys doing demonstrations of recipes and sharing about food.

Patti (standing, in blue and white tee) leading the seniors in an exercise session pre-COVID-19.

Patti also seeks to spread the spirit of volunteering to active seniors, and is always on the lookout for potential candidates. When Patti was conducting “La La” sessions aboard a ship on a three-and-a-half-month world tour, she even managed to get a lady she had just met to assist her in the sessions. Endearingly called her “shipmate” by Patti, she has since turned up multiple times at SAC (Telok Blangah) to assist her.

All of Patti’s activities stem from her drive to help others, which is reinforced by her Buddhist beliefs. Besides helping seniors become physically stronger, her actions have helped them to gain more confidence and become more sociable and happier. Patti shared an account about an elderly man who only sat in a corner and played Rummy-O with another lady, and never participated in group activities, even with her encouragement. One day she noticed how well he sang while singing karaoke alone, and during the next centre celebrations, encouraged him to sing for everyone. “Everyone was so surprised at his talent, and that he was eventually willing to participate!” It was a great boost of confidence and encouragement for the seniors that he gradually opened up and joined in activities.

An embodiment of the ageless senior, Patti remains active even during her own free time. Weekends are spent with her five children on activities such as mah-jong and karaoke. To keep herself fit, Patti swims regularly and takes part in group exercise programmes. “Through these exercises, I can become healthy to conduct activities, and at the same time I can teach others the techniques I learned.”

When asked to share with us what it means to have a meaningful life, Patti mentioned that for her it is all about “helping others be happy.”

“Happiness is contagious; you will automatically smile when you see others smiling.”
– Patti Ho