Students connect with the elderly

NUS students from multiple disciplines published Looking through the Silver Mirror which contains stories about seniors and reflections by the students

Positive vibe. Beautiful smile. Fiercely independent. These were some of the descriptions penned by NUS students who spoke with 20 seniors and then published Looking through the Silver Mirror, a first such student-led interfaculty collaborative effort containing stories of the lives of the seniors and reflections by the students. The book was launched on 2 June at Canopy at J Link.

Gabriel Wong, Year 3 student at NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) and project director, said that the inspiration for the project arose from a lack of reflective writing by students whose course of study was related to healthcare. “We are hoping to share the voices of our seniors from a multireligious and multiracial group of charities through the perspective of healthcare workers in training and across multiple specialisations,” he said. Through the book, the project team wanted to bring to light some of the issues that the seniors face, and also hoped their life stories would encourage youths to read the accounts, he added.

We are hoping to share the voices of our seniors from a multireligious and multiracial group of charities through the perspective of healthcare workers in training and across multiple specialisations.

Speaking of the value of the project, NUS Medicine Assistant Professor Calvin Ho, one of the five project academic advisors, shared, “I think it’s a very important project because it puts the focus on the patient…[Such patient-centred care] can only happen if you are interested in helping the person behind the condition, and in order to do that, you need to understand the circumstance.” Another unique feature of the project was the interprofessional aspect which offers a holistic approach to caregiving, a direction which the school needs to move towards, he said. Fellow project academic advisor Associate Professor Chow Yeow Leng from the NUS Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at NUS Medicine added that the content from the book could become part of the teaching pedagogy for future students.

The initiative saw students from disciplines as diverse as medicine, nursing, social work and psychology interviewing seniors from various charitable organisations from May to August 2017. A team of reviewers, including humanities and liberal arts students from Yale-NUS College, edited the stories, while students from NUS Design and Environment lent their skills to help with the design of the book cover. In all, 44 students were involved in the project.


(From left) Year 1 NUS Pharmacy student Eugene Lim, Gabriel, Divya and Carmen were part of the group that published Looking through the Silver Mirror and organised its launch as well as accompanying outreach activities

One of the writers, Year 2 NUS Psychology student Carmen Chia, signed up for the project as she found the prospect of interacting with seniors interesting. “I realise that there’s no one problem to address,” she said, adding that different aspects — caregiving, physiological and psychological — needed to be taken into account.

As part of the project, the team conducted outreach activities at three local schools from March to May this year, reaching more than 100 students. Year 3 NUS Life Sciences student Ravichandran Divya Poorani, a member of the Liaison and Outreach committee, said, “I went down to the schools to give talks and share about the project and how the youths can play a role in eldercare and how they can consider this as a future career.”

Members of the public will be able to download a soft copy of the book by end June, or drop by public libraries for hard copies in the future.

See media coverage.