Never too old to learn

by | April 8, 2010

Two graduates from the WSQ in Community and Social Services (Senior Services) certificate courses at Hua Mei Training Academy fill much needed roles in a rapidly ageing population.

BY: Eleanor Yap
Published: April 8, 2010


Sixty-four-year-old Ng Lay Huat was running his own canteen business for three years. When his wife became unwell, he gave up his business in 2006 to take care of her. After her death, he felt lonely and depressed with no motivation in life. After some encouragement from his children, he decided to pursue the WSQ (Workforce Skills Qualifications) Higher Certificate in Community and Social Services (CSS) (Senior Services) for self-care and also for his passion to serve the elderly. He completed the course at Hua Mei Training Academy in June last year. (He is seen above at the graduation ceremony flanked by Hui Mei San, director of Healthcare, Retail and Business Services Division, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency; Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports; and Dr Mary Ann Tsao, president, Tsao Foundation.)

Ng was among the first batch of 110 eldercare-trained participants who recently graduated from the Training Academy, which is the first Continuing Education and Training (CET) Centre appointed by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). According to the Training Academy, over 70 percent of the graduates are 40 years old and above. They received Higher Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Professional Diplomas. The Training Academy, which was set up in 1995, is the training arm of the Tsao Foundation, a non-profit organisation that promotes successful ageing. 

Said the father of three about the course, “I learned about theory and technique [on dealing with the elderly], and got an attachment to various facilities including Bright Vision, SWAMI Home, etc.” The 49-day course covered interpreting observations, working in a community and social services environment, feeding the elderly, learning first aid/CPR, transferring the elderly with or without equipment and much more.

Added Ng, “I wanted to contribute to society. I won’t have another chance [at my age] to study again. People shouldn’t stop learning when they get older.” After getting his certificate, he started working as a therapy aide at AWWA ReadyCare Centre in December last year and is enjoying his work. “I love my job. I feel I can make a difference in someone’s life. I help the elderly exercise and play games. I feel happy when they smile. I also assist in picking them up at home and bringing them back.”


Filling a need

He and the other graduates will play a crucial role in Singapore’s rapidly ageing population (today, one in 12 Singapore residents are aged 65 and above and in 20 years, it is expected that one in five Singapore residents will be 65 years old and above). According to the Training Academy, there will be a growing demand for manpower and skilled workers to provide support and care for these older residents. The Training Academy’s CSS WSQ training programme, which trains professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETS) as well as rank-and-file workers, is strategically developed to facilitate skills upgrading and in particular, train new entrants to join the social services sector.

This framework provides professional training in four modular levels, equipping participants with core skills to work in various settings or units, including dementia, residential (sheltered homes), day care centres, home-based care, institutional care (nursing homes), senior centres and clubs, senior activity centres or neighbourhood links, community case management services and counseling services. The CSS WSQ framework was launched earlier by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports in October 2007, in collaboration with WDA and other key stakeholders in the sector, to expand the skilled manpower pool in the social service sector.

Furthermore, the Training Academy offers pre-course advice or counseling, and assists in job referrals and job placement services to help the trainers to find employment opportunities in the senior services sector upon successful completion.

Noted Dr Mary Ann Tsao, president of Tsao Foundation. “Caring for an older person needs more than love. It requires specialised skills and knowledge, whether it is for a family member caring for an older person at home, or professionals caring for the elderly in the hospital, nursing home or day care centre. Today’s graduation signifies an important milestone for the Training Academy and a big step toward addressing the need to develop capacities and capabilities of healthcare practitioners and workers to work in the eldercare sector.”


Picking up new skills

This all bodes well also for 54-year-old Lim Siew Chuay (seen on the left), programme coordinator for Hua Mei Mobile Clinic, which is also under Tsao Foundation. Before taking her post at Hua Mei, she took the course for the Advanced Certificate in May last year and after finishing, she sent out resumes but with no response. She then took on a project with a government agency that lasted four months. “I really wanted to do community service in eldercare. I find not many people like to do this area and it is often the most neglected.”

She went on to volunteer at the Hua Mei Centre in January this year. When a job opening came up in March when someone left, Lim was more than happy to fill it. Talking about the course at the Training Centre, Lim, who working for over 30 years in human resources and accounting, remarked, “It gave us a lot of insights. We got to learn about the needs and concerns, as well as the challenges of the elderly.”

She added: “You are never too old to learn. I am trying to catch up on things I may have missed out in my earlier years. At this stage in life, I am glad to have the time to learn new things and keep myself updated. I am open to learning new knowledge or skills, which I can share with others as well.”

Dr Balakrishnan, who was the guest-of-honour at the graduation ceremony, called Tsao Foundation “ahead of the curve” and said about caring for the elderly, “We need to do it better for ourselves. There is no robot that can do the work we do in terms of caring for seniors. … We need people. Even if you care, you need the training.”


For those interested in the courses:

1) WSQ Certificate in Community and Social Services (Senior Services) (40 days) – understand the characteristics of older person and how to relate to them effectively, acquire essential knowledge to work in an aged care agency, identify the necessary safety and health measurements, and acquire the basic essential healthcare and communication skills. 
Schedule: October 2010
Course fee for Singaporean/PR, after 90 percent SPUR funding: $420.

2) WSQ Higher Certificate in Community and Social Services (Senior Services) (49 days) – understand the characteristics and needs of older person and how to relate and communicate to them effectively, acquire essential healthcare knowledge and skills to work in an aged care agency, and identify the necessary safety and health measurements.
Schedule: May, July, September and October 2010
Course fee for Singaporean/PR, after 90 percent SPUR funding: $490.

3) WSQ Advanced Certificate in Community and Social Services (Senior Services)(55 days) – provide learners with the skills and knowledge required to work in the senior services sub-sector of the community and social services industry as programme coordinator/executive, assistant case manager or social work assistant.
Schedule: July, September and November 2010
Course fee for Singaporean/PR, after 90 percent SPUR funding: $840.

4) WSQ Professional Diploma in Community and Social Services (Senior Services) (85.5 days) – equip learners with essential skills and knowledge to support and manage the administration and operations of eldercare organization. 
Schedule: July and August 2010
Course fee for Singaporean/PR, after 90 percent SPUR funding: $1,080.   


Call Siew Khim or Lucille at 65993 9570/559 or e-mail or for more information.



  1. christine koh

    “Let’s talk about sex and seniors” in the Malaysia Sunday Star, 28 October 2012 issue

    We got to find out about your good organisation thru’ the above article. It is indeed like a sudden appearance of a rainbow in the sky to know that such a service cares group exist in Singapore, so near to Malaysia.

    Was searching thru’ and reading through all Dr Mary Ann Tsao websites/you tubes and blogs. Truly inspiring and proud to have an Asian woman dedicating her services in the care of seniors. What a remarkable grandmother she has!

    I wish to be involve / network with your service groups. Please update /advise if you have a same followings / care groups like yours in Singapore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
    Thank you. sincerely, ck

    • agelessadmin

      Thanks, Christine for your comment. I will e-mail you personally on this.

  2. Chee Meng

    Came across this article. Wonder if there is any part time class that could help interested parties to transit into eldercare “industry”?

    • agelessadmin

      Hi, Chee Meng, I am getting you a more current answer. Please bear with me in the meantime. Thanks.

  3. Francis Yeo


    I’ m recently retired. Looking for courses in the eldercare sector.

    • agelessadmin

      Thanks, Francis for your comment. I have e-mailed you directly on this with some suggestions.


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