Looking at the intricate weave work on the handwoven bag, it might surprise you that it’s the meticulous handiwork of an independent 93-year-old who lives on her own.
Madam Wong Lai Peng not only makes woven bags that require time, concentration and energy, but she also teaches fellow seniors how to make them.
Healthy, active, and mobile, the spirited senior has been a Senior Ambassador at the AWWA Senior Activity Centre (SAC) for 20 years. She visits the centre around three to four times a week for lunch and participates in the SAC’s programmes such as bingo and singing. Madam Wong also joins outings organised by the SAC. These activities help her stay physically and socially engaged.
This is all part of AWWA’s senior empowerment initiative that encourages seniors to take on voluntary micro-jobs to make meaningful contributions, while cultivating their independence and sense of ownership.
These seniors are called Senior Ambassadors and are shown appreciation and rewarded for their work, which help boost their self-esteem while inspiring other seniors.
In the case of Madam Wong, her hand-woven bags are put on sale as part of the SAC’s handicraft project. The proceeds help the SAC sustain its services and programmes. Madam Wong also conducts cooking lessons, as well as co-facilitates Taichi and chair exercises at the SAC.
Madam Wong appreciates being given the chance to be a volunteer, “It gives me a sense of pride and a way of showing my gratitude to the SAC staff who have continuously supported me all these years.”
The roles that these Senior Ambassadors have been selected for are based on their abilities and their interest level. Some of these volunteer work include helping out as medical escorts to fellow seniors, contributing artworks, and cooking and serving food.
Over at the AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre (DDCC) at Ang Mo Kio, 79-year-old Madam Teo S.K., is chosen to be the Centre Ambassador due to her friendly disposition and interest in interacting with people.
Madam Teo used to work at one of the major fast-food chains before she was diagnosed with dementia. Since 2015, she has been part of the DDCC and is now tasked with bringing visitors around the centre and informing them on the various activities and facilities available.
Being the Centre Ambassador has also made a positive impact on Madam Teo’s self-esteem. After two years of interacting with visitors, her communication skills have improved and she has become a role model for fellow seniors. Madam Teo’s children are proud of their mother’s role and achievements at the DDCC. Inspired by Madam Teo, seniors at the DDCC have started to volunteer in leading group exercises and conducting Zumba sessions with guidance from centre staff.
Madam Teo proves that having dementia doesn’t take away her ability to live a normal life. By being empowered and taking ownership, she continues to lead a dignified and fulfilling life.
Sairam Azad, Deputy Director of AWWA Health and Senior Care, said that such empowerment initiatives go beyond boosting the self-esteem of the seniors, they “also allow the seniors to remain physically and cognitively active with functional independence.”
Moving forward, AWWA has plans to expand the senior empowerment initiative through the introduction of proper training and a structured curriculum for new micro-jobs introduced.