Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Best buddies meet in their silver years

Many of us would have met our best friends when we were in school. But for 77-year-old Tan Siok Cheng and 101-year-old Tan Joo Lan, a close friendship was built during their silver years. Today, the two ladies are proud to call each other best friends!

They first met when Siok Cheng bought some kuehs from Joo Lan 10 years ago. Joo Lan, who was selling her self-made kuehs and bracelets at a market in Ang Mo Kio, had asked for Siok Cheng’s contact number. She found that Siok Cheng had a kind nature.

When Joo Lan called her a year later, Siok Cheng had almost forgotten who she was. Over time, they got to know each other better. Although Joo Lan has kyphosis, a condition which results in her back being bent 90 degrees, the centenarian enjoys her independence and being self-reliant. Siok Cheng offered to help with household chores and cook for her, but Joo Lan prefers to do these activities on her own.

With the support and companionship of her best friend, Joo Lan leads an independent and purposeful life.

These days, Siok Cheng drops by as often as three times a week to check on the centenarian. As an active participant of TOUCH Caregivers (TCG) Support’s Community Enablement Project (which she joined two years ago), she assists TOUCH to look out for Joo Lan. Under this project, residents are mobilised to help support the needs of frail seniors in the community.

Siok Cheng also discusses her friend’s issues with TCG staff so as to come up with practical solutions together. Once, when Joo Lan lost some money at home, she asked Siok Cheng for help as she did not wish to worry her children. As Siok Cheng was unsure of what to do in such a situation, she sought the advice of a TCG staff. The staff member advised her to still go ahead and contact Joo Lan’s children for assistance, explaining that misplacing items is common for older people. Joo Lan’s children later found the money, much to both Siok Cheng’s and Joo Lan’s relief.

Siok Cheng (right) works with TCG’s senior occupational therapist, Jacinda Soh (left) to better support seniors in the community.

Sharing on her experience since she became a befriender, Siok Cheng said, “If all of us can help one another, we will not be afraid to grow old in our neighbourhood.”

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