Mdm Ong Cheok Lin, 74, is a retiree who irons between 40 to 60 pieces of clothing a week—and it is not because she has a large family. Mdm Ong is one of 10 ironers for The Social Iron, a social enterprise that matches seniors with time-pressed families looking to outsource their ironing.
Not only are the elderly able to benefit from flexible working hours and workload, they also enjoy a consistent stream of revenue from families that subscribe to theregular ironing service. This form of work is especially helpful for elderly with mobility issues, medical conditions and/ or other commitments that make it difficult for them to find employment outside of home.
Full Steam Ahead
Previously a part-time kitchen helper at a hotel, Mdm Ong quit her job to care for her grandchildren. After her daughter engaged a helper, Mdm Ong decided to join The Social Iron after reading about it in the newspapers. Mdm Ong shares that she is happy that she can pass time productively while earning income. As the clothes will be delivered to her doorstep for ironing, she does not need to leave her home to work!
Seniors like Mdm Ong also get to attend training workshops to hone their ironing skills and catch up with fellow ‘ironers’. Mdm Lum, who has a full-time job as a telephone operator, is also a trainer at The Social Iron. New ironers would need to meet Mdm Lum’s stringent standards before they ‘graduate’ to take on customers of their own. One of them is Mr Ken Loh, 62, the first male ironer who joined the team earlier this year. He says, “It is important to ensure that the clothes are ironed well so that the customers are happy to receive them!”
Striking the Iron While It’s Hot
The Social Iron is the brainchild of Mr Darren Wong, 37, who saw the chance to create work opportunities for the elderly.
Left: Darren Wong, founder of The Social Iron
Darren had pitched the idea during the HDB Cool Ideas Pitch, a platform to help budding innovators develop their ideas for real world application. Promising pitches are adopted by industry players, with the innovators being offered mentorship and resources. The Social Iron has been adopted by Goodlife!, a community-based family service centre that provides a range of services to promote active ageing within the Marine Parade community.