A partnership with the Filos Community Services’ Community Befriending Programme, the USP Chinese New Year event celebrates giving by encouraging students to reach out to the disengaged elderly living in 3-5 room flats. Students made door-to-door visits and handed out gifts to the residents in Blocks 20 and 21 in Kembangan-Chai Chee while making casual enquiries about their lives and whether any assistance was needed.
This particular demographic was chosen as the team felt that they were usually overlooked by social welfare organisations that tend to focus on those who are most apparently underprivileged. These elderly residents live in larger houses but may be living alone and have health issues or other needs that also require attention. In doing so, the event aims to promote kindness and empathy by encouraging interaction with these elderly residents who may not have company to celebrate Chinese New Year with.
“When I enquired after their mental health, some residents were taken aback. I realised that one of the reasons for the stigma around mental health-related illnesses was due to the stereotype that mental illnesses meant going crazy or acting irrationally. However, there are also mental health issues such as depression that may not fit into the stereotype. It dawned on me that we need to promote the importance of seeking help for mental illnesses, especially in the elderly, who may face higher probabilities of suffering from those illnesses due to being isolated.
Even with the numerous participants, we managed to finish the surveying within an hour. The Filos coordinator, Alex, told us that he normally did the befriending programme with only one other volunteer. This would usually take the whole day. I was glad that we could help them cover many more homes in a shorter time. Alex also told us that out of the residents in the three-room flats, only a small group would need Filos’ help. I realised that this was indeed true: The elderly residents we visited were mostly independent. I learnt that I should give the elderly more credit and not think of them as helpless. Rather, we should let them know that we are available to lend a helping hand should they need it, which was what Filos was doing by providing their hotline for emergencies.” Wong Rui Yee/ Year 1 Psychology student
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