Oldest volunteer at Ren Ci Hospital
Seventy-seven-year-old Lee Chik has been volunteering at the hospital for 16 years and is not planning to stop any time soon.
BY: Joanne Tok
At 77 years old, Lee Chik is considered the oldest volunteer at Ren Ci Hospital. She has been volunteering for 16 years and believes strongly in giving back to society. The mother of two shares with Agelessonline how she got started and shares her philosophy about happiness:
How did you start volunteering, and why and when did it start?
I started my first sustained volunteering when a friend introduced me to Ren Ci Hospital back in 1996. I did mostly one-off volunteer work previously and didn’t know how I could use my hairdressing skills to help others until I started at Ren Ci. I used to have my own hair salon and I’ve been doing hairdressing for the past 50 years. After retirement, I continued to provide hairdressing services to my loyal customers from home.
After my friend’s introduction to Ren Ci, I thought I could help by giving haircuts to the patients in the hospital’s long-term care and nursing home. That was how I got started and I’m glad that my skills can be of help to the patients. I really enjoy the time spent here as I get to make friends who are from the same trade and also stay positive by constantly moving around to speak to different patients.
Are there any other organisations you volunteer at?
I’m also volunteering with Bright Vision Hospital and a few other Buddhist associations. The groups help not only the elderly, but also the youths in their work. I volunteer at least once a month with the different organisations.
Besides volunteering, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?*
I love travelling because it allows me to relax and be close to nature. My biggest enjoyment would be going on trips with fellow volunteers. Travelling relaxes the mind and spurs me on to help others when I am back in Singapore.
What is the most touching volunteer experience you’ve had? Has it affected your perspective of volunteering and how has it changed?
There isn’t really a most touching moment as every encounter is more of an experience. I have formed friendships with not only the patients but also fellow volunteers. As my main duty is haircutting, I don’t really have the opportunity to know each and every patient but I do remember some of them and try to interact with them as much as I can.
I have plenty of great memories with fellow volunteers, though. As we always gather and chit-chat after every session. We even go on trips together, such as Desaru, Johor last year with Ren Ci, etc. Previously I was a workaholic and never gave much thought to personal well-being or helping others. Over the years, volunteering has changed me such that my motto is to stay happy and live in the present.
The number of seniors who volunteer in Singapore is very low, at just 10 percent in 2010. Why do you think that is so?
Truthfully speaking, not everyone will have the mindset that they have to give. Some of them will think “why do I have to help others when I can help myself first?” What’s more, most seniors are busy with their retiree lives so they probably prefer other activities. For me, I just want to live for today, which explains my motto, and that’s why I choose to volunteer.
The trend nowadays is seniors volunteering to help seniors, can you share why that is so?
Maybe because the volunteers can relate more to elderly as they’re of the same generation.
What would you say to seniors who want to volunteer and how should they get started?
Just give volunteering a chance when you’re invited by others. Try it for yourself and you will know if you like it or not. I’ve brought friends along to volunteer and some of them left after a few sessions. I always tell them not to force themselves when it comes to volunteering.
You are always so energetic and lively, how did you manage to upkeep the jovial attitude and stay young at heart?*
Whenever I see the patients, they remind me of how blessed I am. Happiness comes from being contented with what we have and I believe in giving back to the society. In order to continue serving the community, I try my best to keep healthy and cheerful, and that’s how I manage to stay young at heart. Volunteering is part of my silver years and I want to volunteer for as long as possible.
(* These questions have been adapted from Ren Ci Hospital’s newsletter which had a profile of Lee Chik. Permission has been granted.)