Toh Zenaide (Zen) was 14 years old when her grandfather began displaying early symptoms of dementia. That was when it dawned on her that there are seniors like him who may face many struggles, and would require help and support to allow active ageing.

Spurred by her grandfather’s experience, Zen is now learning about active ageing and how to support the evolving needs and aspirations of seniors, as she pursues a Diploma in Social Sciences in Gerontology at Temasek Polytechnic.

For the past few years, HDB has been partnering Temasek Polytechnic in empowering students like Zen to play an active role in community-building. With the support of HDB’s Friends of Our Heartlands (FOH) Volunteer Network, Zen and her course mates have designed a variety of activities for seniors living in their towns – Punggol, Sengkang, Hougang, Bedok, Tampines and Pasir Ris – to support active ageing.

Promoting a Culture of Active Ageing

The students took great care in designing exercise, music, and arts and crafts activities to meet the seniors’ needs while promoting active ageing.

“For our exercise routines, we incorporated everyday items like umbrellas and towels,” says Zen’s coursemate, Ahmad Zaki bin Taufik.

Also, as the sessions had to be conducted virtually, the students simplified the exercises to make them easy to follow through a screen. “As we were not able to do the exercises with the seniors in person and help them with posture adjustments, we were worried if they would be able to gain as much as they can from these activities,” Zaki recalls.

The students hard at work to ensure the seniors can benefit as much as possible from the virtual sessions

But their worries were unfounded   as the seniors adapted quickly to the virtual experience, and  made the most of their time re-connecting and bonding with their friends online. One of the senior participants, Aunty Evelyn, says: “The activities by the students allowed me to see my friends online. The experience also gave me a new hobby and a chance to meet new and old friends in the neighbourhood. This was meaningful since staying home during the pandemic has felt lonely at times.”

Beyond physical well-being, the students also organised activities that seek to encourage active ageing through improving the seniors’ mental and cognitive health. The participants had the chance to get their hands dirty during art and craft activities, where they created clay art, colour paper collages and origami.

A variety of activities, such as exercises and art and craft, was planned for the seniors to encourage active ageing

The Intergenerational Ties That Bind

For Zaki, his interactions with the seniors are among the precious highlights of his academic journey.

“I got to speak with some very interesting and fun seniors who were very keen to participate in our activities. Their jovial personalities and enthusiasm often helped calm our nerves and break the ice as we conducted the activities, ultimately paving the way for a successful event,” Zaki says.

Echoing his sentiments, Zen says, “This experience has reaffirmed my desire to help the elderly community with active ageing, so that they can live their golden years comfortably.”

For more unique stories from the heartland, check out more reads from Humans of the Heartland or uncover hidden gems in our residential towns.

Photos by Temasek Polytechnic

  • Farihin Khairunan

    Writer who believes that the simplest words make the greatest impact. Spends all her money on pretty notebooks that she will most probably never use.