Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Good Food Bonds Seniors Together


Who can resist a piping hot meal at your void deck, cooked by your friendly neighbours? Certainly not the seniors in Block 52 Marine Terrace.

GoodLife! Makan, a community kitchen at the void deck of their HDB block, has become a popular gathering place with food as the social glue.

The kitchen was started in January 2016 by Montfort Cares to revive the kampong spirit with food and activities. The centre believes that good health, good minds, good families, good friends, and good communities contribute to good living.

This 60-person centre with a communal kitchen welcomes anyone who wishes to contribute and invites stay alone seniors for a unique weekday lunch program

“We want to facilitate a social environment where seniors can engage in meaningful activities. Goodlife! Makan becomes a platform for stay-alone seniors to come out of their homes to participate in cooking for their neighbours and friends and, more importantly, to socialise,” said Samuel Ng, CEO of Montfort Care.

This is why activities are organised to cater not only to the physical and mental wellbeing of seniors, but also to boost social cohesion. Many seniors who live alone have been invited to come out of their rental flats and share a meal with their neighbours.

Everyone is expected to participate for meal times; in food selection, shopping, preparation, cooking and eating

Back when the kitchen was first introduced, Montfort staff deliberately placed on each table a plate of bean sprouts to be trimmed. It was a signal to people at the table to trim those sprouts to be cooked for lunch. The cooks are volunteers who live nearby and take time out to plan and prepare lunch for their neighbours.

Offering more than food, the centre is a space for conversations, learning and companionship. It has also been a subtle yet effective way of building up Montfort’s recognition and acceptance by the community.

“Goodlife! Makan is like a big family, created to support the community here. After my wife passed on in 2015, there was nobody to talk to, and I felt isolated. I decided to do something about it, and started coming to Goodlife! Makan. Here I can eat and also contribute. I used to own a bakery, so I take on the baking duty. Talking to friends and baking for them is a good way for me to pass the time. I don’t feel so lonely anymore,” shared Mr Phua Kok How, a senior who lives in Marine Parade.  

Mr. Phua shoiwcases his cake, which he baked with co-baker and friend, Mr. Tan Kia Meng

“I come to GoodLife! Makan whenever I can. We cook Chinese and Malay food here, and we’re all happy to work together. I even bring my recipe scrapbook, filled with recipes I’ve been collecting for years. I sometimes refer to it when I’m cooking. I feel that it’s a good system here. Beyond cooking and eating, it strengthens ties between friends and makes us happy,” shared another senior, Madam Hindon binte Abdul Hafidz.

Madam Hindon (left) pairs with a friend to cook a dish from her recipe book.

Over time, Montfort Care has observed “the formation of supportive networks among the seniors who participate in GoodLife! Makan”. Some have taken on the role of attendance taker – tracking the number of participants each day, while others help out with blood pressure readings.

The community has also come together to form a supportive network for seniors to age in place.

For instance, market stall owners donate food for the stay-alone seniors to cook during the lunch programme. The community also helps to alert GoodLife! should there be seniors who may require support. Likewise, Montfort staff has approached the nearby clinics/stalls for help to support seniors.

Goodlife! Makan is a great example of how the community can come together to support seniors as they age in place. It has also shown how seniors staying alone can learn new skills and contribute to their neighbourhood.

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