March 5, 2024
Words and Photographs by: Caroline Chia

(Photo above) Mr Ang Lye Hock and other volunteers, known as micro-jobbers, move chairs from the Thye Hua Kwan office to a pavilion where seniors exercise. Through the micro-jobs scheme funded by the Tote Board, these micro-jobbers are paid a small fee per task.

You might catch them in your neck of the woods, delivering meals, reminding their peers to take their medications, or helping to set-up spaces for activities planned for their peers.

They’re keen to help those in their own age group through a scheme run by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities and the Centre For Seniors. Launched in August 2023, it offers micro-jobs to seniors, engaging them for tasks for which they are paid a small fee. The programme is supported by the Tote Board under the Tote Board Community Health Fund (TBCHF).

Mr Ang Lye Hock, 71, knows that staying active will keep him healthy both physically and mentally. The retired taxi coordinator at Changi Airport who lives on his own has been a regular volunteer at Thye Hua Kwan Active Ageing Centre @ Cassia (THK AAC @ Cassia) since it was set-up seven years ago. 

“I live alone so I want to keep myself occupied,” Mr Ang explains in Mandarin. “Being home alone all day is not good. My mind will deteriorate very quickly.” 

At THK ACC @ Cassia, Mr Ang works from Monday to Friday every other week. His tasks typically include moving chairs from the THK ACC @ Cassia office to a nearby pavilion for residents to do their morning exercises while seated. He also delivers food provided by THK’s lunches and dinners, supplied to homebound seniors in nearby blocks twice a day. 

“I would continue to volunteer even if I wasn’t paid. But the extra allowance is a bonus,” said Mr Ang with a smile.

Mr Ang has lived in the neighbourhood for over 30 years. Having been a volunteer with THK since they opened an active ageing centre at his block seven years ago, he is a familiar face to other seniors living there.

(Above) Mr Ang has lived in the neighbourhood for over 30 years. Having been a volunteer with THK since they opened an active ageing centre at his block seven years ago, he is a familiar face to other seniors living there. PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

To keep himself occupied, Mr Ang exercises, volunteers and chats with his friends at the nearby coffee shop. He was previously a taxi coordinator at Changi Airport and retired two years ago.

(Above)To keep himself occupied, Mr Ang exercises, volunteers and chats with his friends at the nearby coffee shop. He was previously a taxi coordinator at Changi Airport and retired two years ago. PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Jointly developed by the Centre for Seniors (CFS) in collaboration with Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities (THKMC) and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), its objective is to offer options for seniors to engage in meaningful activities that match the needs in their communities. There are currently about 120 seniors working islandwide under this scheme.  

Engaging in work-related activities can have a positive impact on seniors’ cognitive and social well-being and help mitigate the economic impact of an aging population. Employers, too, benefit from seniors’ strengths and experiences. Despite these benefits, existing challenges such as long working hours, complex processes, and technology barriers may hinder seniors from suitable employment.

On days when they have to do food deliveries, Mr Ang and his food delivery partner, Madam Lee Khuen Chin, 69, receive seven to 10 addresses on their phones for homes that need lunch and dinner. Each meal they drop off earns them a small fee.

(Above) On days when they have to do food deliveries, Mr Ang and his food delivery partner, Madam Lee Khuen Chin, 69, receive seven to 10 addresses on their phones for homes that need lunch and dinner. Each meal they drop off earns them a small fee. Many seniors who receive food do not go out often. To ensure that they are well, Mr Ang also checks on them when he drops the food off. PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

“The micro-jobs scheme helps seniors to remain active in the community and age gracefully,” said Ms Tan Su-Yin, Senior Director of Grants at the Tote Board. “By offering seniors bite-sized roles that have been redesigned to make them more manageable, the scheme allows seniors to fulfil their aspirations for independence while enjoying their retirement.”

In January, THK arranged for some of their micro-jobbers to be medical escorts to their less able-bodied peers. This entailed the micro-jobber accompanying another senior for medical check-ups. As with each new task introduced, it will take some time for seniors to build the confidence to do something new, but the feedback has been positive so far. 

Meal recipient, Mr Ko Boon Piew, 81, (centre) poses for a photo with his packed lunch that was delivered by Mr Ang, and his food delivery partner, Madam Lee Khuen Chin (left).

(Above) Meal recipient, Mr Ko Boon Piew, 81, (centre) poses for a photo with his packed lunch that was delivered by Mr Ang, and his food delivery partner, Madam Lee Khuen Chin (left). PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The growing interest among seniors in the over-65 age group is reflected in the number of completed tasks. Mr Dylan Chew, Human Resource Executive at THKMC, said seniors carried out 22,000 tasks from January to July 2023. But in just the first three months after the scheme officially launched in August, they completed up to 30,000 tasks — or about 36% more than the tasks completed since the start of the year. 

Their response has prompted THK plans to expand micro-jobs from its current range of meal deliveries, medication reminders and logistics to supermarket runs, befriending other seniors, and running the THK centre on weekends.


Tote Board Community Health Fund

TBCHF is designed as a seed fund for Social Service Agencies or non-profit organisations to pilot innovative programmes for the Community Care sector.


 

The Storytellers

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here