RSVP Singapore started Senior Volunteer Week with its Open House to further encourage seniors to volunteer, and it continues this year.
The Senior Volunteer Week was first launched in 2012 and aims to boost senior volunteerism by showcasing other fellow senior volunteers who are adopting an active ageing lifestyle through volunteerism. This year, Senior Volunteer Week is from September 5 to 11 and has 1,500 seniors taking part in more than 50 activities. RSVP Singapore is aiming for a target of 2,000 senior participants and this will be an increase from last year’s 1,500 participants.
Senior volunteerism has risen in recent years. According to a survey done by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), the senior participation rate increased from 10 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2012.
Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth during RSVP’s Open House, highlighted: “One thing we can definitely learn from our seniors and pioneers is that willingness to give of ourselves, and get involved in our communities. When we do so, our communities will be stronger. We will be able to make Singapore a good home for all generations.”
When approached to share her story, Lim Geok Pee said she was inspired to start volunteering by her mother-in-law, who was bedridden and needed full-time care. Her dependence on others made Lim realise the importance of serving and making the lives of such seniors more bearable, comfortable and meaningful.
The 68-year-old volunteers at a Care Corner, befriending less-privileged seniors. She likes talking to them, and feels joy and satisfaction when they reciprocate her friendship. Volunteering also allows her to express herself, and make good use of her time. She likes knowing she is still able to help others and give back to society.
“The elderly folks get elated listening to my stories, jokes and songs we sing together. Seeing their eagerness to play games makes me feel young-at-heart. Knowing that I have touched their hearts and made a difference in their lives even for just that short period of time is tremendously fulfilling,” said Lim.
Then there is Cyril Ong, 67, who used to be a marketing director for an MNC based in the US. He oversaw markets in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific. His job required him to communicate with people of different ages, cultures and backgrounds, and he had to train many sales and operations teams, in building rapport with clients, how to listen, and understand needs.
Although Ong retired more than 10 years ago, he puts his professional experience to work by volunteering. He is now a trainer for RSVP’s Senior Volunteer Training Centre, where he trains volunteers on “How to be an Effective Volunteer”, and “How to be an Effective Befriender”. The father of three also conducts workshops for the volunteers who manage RSVP’s reception and telephone lines, teaching them communication skills., and he leads RSVP’s new initiative, Gift of Age podcast.
“Volunteering has allowed me to stay useful by contributing my experience to others. I get to widen my circle of friends and remain engaged. It also gives me the inspiration and satisfaction of contributing back to society and to help those in need.
“Finally, volunteering has allowed me to bond with my family and be closer to my boys who are in their young adulthood. Not forgetting it has helped me better understand how to take care of my aged dementia mother and my mentally unstable aged sister who are living with my family and I,” shared Ong.
Lim and Ong are examples of those in service to the community and RSVP is encouraging more seniors to get on to the volunteering bandwagon.
Highlight on pioneers
During this week, RSVP will be involved in numerous volunteering activities including packing goodie bags, helping with health screenings, teaching clients at the Down Syndrome Association to make creative mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival, being walker assistants for seniors in a Bright Vision Hospital charity walk, entertaining senior residents at St John’s Hone for the Elderly Persons, engaging with less privileged children from Kallang Bahru Outpost, distributing food to low-income seniors at HDB blocks, and volunteering at the 8th ASEAN Para Games 2015.
Edmund Song, executive director of RSVP, said, “The large turnout shows that our seniors want to be involved in community service. As long as we have touched someone with the message of volunteering this week, RSVP has made a meaningful contribution.”
Also this year’s event has seen more participation from VWOs and NPOs as well as corporate support. A highlight for this year’s Senior Volunteer Week is the Pioneer Generation event by invitation-only on September 13, where there will be sharing and bonding from pioneers to the young through games, song and a walk-through exhibition. It will also allow seniors to reminisce about the old times, as there will be a showcase of fashion and food.