Wheelchair servicing by seniors for seniors
Pilot programme gives active seniors an opportunity to pick up a skill and help those in need.
A retired cook, Tan Seng Kin, who lives at Tampines Street 43, is a member of Lions Befrienders SAC’s (Senior Activity Centre) wheelchair servicing team. He is happy to play a part in ensuring that his neighbours have well-maintained wheelchairs to travel around in. Being able to contribute back to society also gives him a sense of purpose.
A cyclist when he was younger, the 73-year-old used to do his own bicycle maintenance and found some of those skills applicable to wheelchair servicing. He is part of a three-year pilot programme, Temasek Foundation Cares – Kampung Senang WHEELS programme, which trains active seniors to undertake wheelchair servicing for around 600 low-income seniors living in Bedok and Tampines who need their wheelchairs to move around. If the wheelchairs are beyond repair, the programme also provides second-hand replacement wheelchairs for these seniors.
The programme is funded by Temasek Foundation Cares, and administered by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), in partnership with charity Kampung Senang. Including Lions Befrienders, there are other participating SACs – Sunlove Home, Chee Hoon Kog Moral Promotion Society and Thye Hua Kwan Bedok Radiance – who will recruit the seniors that will be trained by Kampung Senang to do the servicing. The SACs will also hold monthly servicing sessions at their centres.
There are around 30 blocks of rental flats in Bedok and Tampines. In these blocks, many seniors who are frail or have disabilities rely on their manual wheelchairs for daily activities. They would often mingle at the nearby SACs and participate in fun activities or chit-chat with friends over a cup of coffee. This makes SACs the ideal place to introduce the WHEELS programme and they are conveniently located near seniors who can potentially benefit from it.
Dr Jason Cheah, AIC’s CEO said, “For seniors who require the support of wheelchairs, it is important that their devices are maintained and in working condition so they can move around and stay active in the community.”
Thirty seniors will be recruited by the SACs to provide manual wheelchair servicing and basic repair services including rust removal and cleaning. This is part of their active ageing efforts by engaging seniors to learn new skills and participate in meaningful activities. These seniors will need to complete six hours of theory lessons on top of supervised practical sessions provided by Kampung Senang. The training will include understanding the wheelchair components, maintenance, inspection and safety evaluation.
Phuah Teck Shin, general manager of Kampung Senang shared, “The seniors’ wheelchairs are prone to daily wear and tears. Hence, they require some form of servicing for their devices. With this pilot, seniors can send their wheelchairs to the participating SACs for maintenance and servicing. This ensures that they are able to move around safely in their wheelchair and prevent injuries. Through servicing, it prolongs the wheelchair’s lifespan. It is also environment-friendly as one would not need to buy multiple wheelchairs to replace the old ones.”
Among the first to benefit from the programme was Jamilah Bte Gulam, 66, a resident of Block 31 Chai Chee Avenue. She was diagnosed with polio, an illness which causes muscle weakness resulting in limited mobility, in her legs when she was a year old. After a severe fall nine years ago, she was wheelchair-bound but remained independent, travelling on her own on wheelchair to Jurong and Tiong Bahru to visit siblings and friends. She sent her wobbly manual wheelchair for inspection and repairs at Sunlove – Kampong Chai Chee SAC. With the WHEELS programme, she no longer needs to worry about repairing her wheelchair, and is happy that the service is available near her home.
Members of the public who wish to find out more about the WHEELS programme can call AIC’s Singapore Silver Line at 1800 650 6060. Seniors who wish to join the SACs’ WHEELS servicing teams can call 6783 9023 or walk in to the participating SACs to sign up.