A senior who is engaged with activities tends to be both healthier and happier. As such, four NTU students have made it their mission to keep more seniors active.
Project ENGAGE is a social initiative that introduces friendship as part of successful active ageing. It aims to encourage senior Singaporeans aged 50 and above to engage in activities not alone, but with a friend as its key message aptly says: “Active ageing begins with a friend”.
The campaign is spearheaded by Ang Hui Xuan, Chen Shusi, Lim Pei Si and Peh Yan Ting, all 22, from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, as their final-year project. Their simple hope is that their loved ones can remain healthy and happy as they enter old age.
Through small group sharings led by the Project ENGAGE team, they found that senior participants expressed enthusiasm in learning about the importance of social engagement. To encourage the seniors to take concrete actions towards active ageing, the team distributes collaterals as well as tissue packets specially designed to disseminate contact details of organisations that provide opportunities for social interaction, specific to each of their interests.
Project ENGAGE surrounds five characters that represent five different types of active agers – The Nature Lover, The Learner, The Volunteer, The Sporty and The Tech-savvy. From their choice, seniors are then recommended activities such as volunteering, exercising, learning, etc, that they can participate with a friend. So for instance, if the senior is a Nature Lover, there would be contacts for the Nature Society and to be a National Parks’ volunteer, and if the senior is keen in sports, there would be details on the Fun Walkers Club as well as the People’s Association Senior Citizen’s Club.
For one of the students, Shusi, seeing her 59-year-old mother transit from being a homemaker to a part-time child caretaker and volunteer at a seniors’ counseling centre made her realise that social interaction is an important element of an active ageing lifestyle. “My sister and I have grown up and this is the time when my mother has discharged her responsibilities for the family and is able to pursue her interests. It brings her great joy and fulfilment to interact with children and help seniors who are in need,” she said.
The 10-week initiative
With news from “Business Insider”, “The Guardian” and “Forbes” revealing that one of the greatest regrets that those older often mention on their deathbeds is that they failed to keep in touch with friends. As such, the Project ENGAGE team is collaborating with Southwest Community Development Council (CDC) for this 10-week long initiative.
“Southwest CDC has always been very supportive of such ground-up initiatives and the senior Singaporeans are also one of our main target audiences for community events. Such campaigns that encourage social engagement and active ageing lifestyle will help seniors establish strong social support networks in their community,” said Kenneth Ng, manager for projects management at Southwest CDC.
To kick-start this campaign, the team set up a booth at Hong Kah North Community Club on January 19, alongside Eco Day Out, an event organised by Southwest CDC to promote living the ‘green’ way. Project ENGAGE has incorporated ‘green’ elements into its active ageing campaign because several opportunities for social interaction among the seniors can be found in parks, such as morning Tai Chi sessions, evening walks with friends, volunteer to groom the gardens, etc.
To further demonstrate the participants’ commitment to a socially-engaged lifestyle, seniors at the event were encouraged to pen down things that they promise to do regularly with their friends. They were also asked to pen down pledges to join the campaign.
More booths will be set up at Southwest CDC events between now and March 2014 to further spread the campaign messages and encourage more senior Singaporeans to pledge their support. For more information, visit the website and the Facebook page.
Keeping it sustainable
As to what happens after the 10 weeks, Pei Si shed some light: “The nation’s active ageing agenda is still in its infancy, and our campaign is an early attempt to understand the concerns of senior Singaporeans and to provide directions for future policies and activities.
“After these 10 weeks, we envisage that our juniors from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information will pick up from where we left off and further the active ageing cause for their final-year projects. Senior Singaporeans can also continue to find out more about the latest activities on the websites of the respective organisations that we have provided on our online and print collaterals.”