Youths teach seniors health management
Part of the Council for Third Age’s Intergenerational Learning Programme, youths and seniors gained insight from each other.
Students from Republic Polytechnic (RP) and a group of 10 seniors walked away with an improved understanding of each other after completing a six-week health management Intergenerational Learning Programme (ILP). This is one of the 13 ILPs rolled out by the Council for Third Age (C3A) since 2011.
The ILP aims to foster intergenerational bonding by matching youths and seniors in a classroom, allowing seniors and students to gain an understanding of each other by sharing knowledge and experience. It also teaches seniors practical lessons on managing their health and other subjects. Since its inception in March 2011, more than 200 seniors and eight educational institutions have participated in ILP. Some of these educational institutions include Raffles Institution, Dunman High School, Jurong Junior College and Temasek Polytechnic.
Soh Swee Ping, CEO of C3A, said, “With longer life expectancy, it is important for seniors to stay active and healthy. One way to achieve this is for seniors to remain connected with the society and form new social networks through common interests. With the ILP, seniors are given an opportunity to learn, keep connected and interact with the younger generation. The youths who have volunteered to participate in ILP have wowed us with their patience, caring and friendly attitudes in imparting skills and knowledge to the seniors. … Through our partners, we hope to roll this programme out to more schools so that more seniors can benefit from this programme.”
Participating schools can choose to adopt the pre-developed course curricula on health management and infocomm technology or develop their own programmes. The schools have also initiated new programmes, such as photography and public speaking, or injected new elements into the pre-developed curricula based on feedback from the seniors.
For instance, the Health Management Programme was structured to teach seniors to maintain a healthy diet, keep an active lifestyle and disease prevention. To make this programme more interesting, students from RP initiated a Laughter Yoga component into the curriculum to provide seniors with an alternative form of exercise. With practice, Laughter Yoga improves the physical, mental and social wellness of seniors and builds positivity. It consists of a series of simple laughing and breathing exercises, which help seniors become more responsible for their own moods and stave away depression and boredom.
Studies and testimonies from the participating institutions and seniors have proven that the programme has effectively bridged generational gaps, reduced anti-social behaviours and shaped positive perception of the young towards ageing and seniors.
Mah Hwee Leng, a 55-year-old participant in the ILP, shared that interacting with the students made learning about health management more meaningful and has helped change her perspective on life. She said, “Feeling the energy from all the students has helped me learn how to think, reflect and look at life from a different perspective. Singaporeans cannot smile and are often not healthy because they are under high levels of stress, but thanks to the students, I am reminded that as long as I live my life to the fullest and am happy, I would have lived a life of no regrets.”
Another 64-year-old senior, Linda Lim, shared her experience: “Interacting with the students has been fun, energising and refreshing. They have taught me to be open and to see things from a different perspective. When you mix with them, it encourages you to take a positive outlook on life. My junior, Jasmine is friendly and approachable and she is almost like my daughter. In fact, she is old enough to be my daughter!”
The students participating in this programme also felt the programme was beneficial and it gave them an insight into how to best communicate with their grandparents. Alvin Lim, 19, a student from RP was initially hesitant about how well the seniors would respond to laughter yoga. However, after the first session, he realised that they were open to trying new experiences and made laughter yoga even more enjoyable for him.
Alvin said, “At first the seniors were guarded, but laughter yoga helped to relax them. Communication is the key to effectively engaging seniors. This programme is great for us in understanding how to communicate with the seniors. What I learn in class I also try to teach to my grandmother at home.”
Another student, Melvin Chong, 23, said: “I believe the seniors turn up because they are good parents and want to learn how to communicate with their children and grandchildren. Having gone through this programme, I know how to better communicate and relate with my grandparents. Other seniors should take part too.”