Online approach to keeping seniors happy and healthy
Elderly residents at the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens stay active with weekly Zoomba sessions
When tasked to leverage a ground-up, participatory and online communication approach to unveil the challenges faced by vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of NUS students went digital – with a heart. Their effort was part of a module called Communicating Social Issues in Singapore offered by the NUS Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Centre.
The social isolation faced by elderly residents at nursing homes was what resonated most for Myat Thu Kyaw and Isaiah Poon from NUS Science and Willoughby Lee from NUS Engineering. From interviews with staff at different nursing homes, they discovered they had a common challenge – to continue providing elderly residents with regular social engagement activities despite the cessation of face-to-face volunteering during the pandemic. Hence, the 4Hearts project was created to engage these senior citizens via online activities.
‘4Hearts’ represent the four areas of engagement which the team hoped to achieve – HeartCode (communicating with the elderly), HeartWork (using Zoom to conduct group exercise sessions), Heartn’Craft (introducing arts and crafts to seniors) and HeartBeats (highlighting youth volunteerism).
“Besides speaking to staff from nursing homes, we concurrently surveyed about 90 youths from diverse backgrounds in our social networks to ascertain their perceptions towards volunteerism, to find ways to optimise the remote volunteering experience for our elderly beneficiaries,” Myat said.
Within a short span of three weeks, the 4Hearts team established a network of six community partners – Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens, St Luke’s Eldercare Residence at Ang Mo Kio, SGAssist, Sree Narayana Mission Nursing Home, St Andrew’s Nursing Home in Queenstown, and O’Joy community services.
“We are grateful for the support from our community partners, which enabled us to implement and run the programmes smoothly,” said Willoughby who volunteers regularly at nursing homes.
With the help of 14 volunteers, the 4Hearts team is currently conducting Heartwork – Zoomba sessions for 15 residents at a time, from two different wards at the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens. Heartn’Craft sessions for 23 seniors from the Care Community Services Society was conducted, with the assistance of 26 volunteers. Both volunteer groups comprise NUS students.
The 4Hearts team also started a volunteer training programme for St Luke’s Eldercare to recruit more youths and to spread the spirit of volunteerism in NUS and beyond.