June 20, 2022
Words by: Chong Jern Yen

(Photo above) Mr Nicodemus Ching, 34, a social worker from AWWA CREST and Ms Valerie Teo, 28, a civil servant, came up with the idea to create hyperlocal Telegram channel, Dementia Search Activation Network (DSAN). Photo: Caroline Chia

When Madam Ling, 72, (not her real name), a senior with dementia, got lost, her distressed family immediately sought help from its immediate community. In just a few hours, they found the elderly woman.

Tapping into the power of local communities, a newly launched community group hopes to help people like Madam Ling. Dementia Search Activation Network (DSAN) is a hyperlocal Telegram channel operated by AWWA Community Resource, Engagement and Support Team (CREST) for the Sembawang-Woodlands community. The one-way broadcast channel, through which subscribers will receive periodic tips and information on dementia-related issues, will be activated whenever it receives details of lost seniors within Woodlands and Sembawang from national apps such as CARA by Dementia Singapore and Dementia Friends by Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).

When its team is notified of a case of a lost senior through AWWA’s dementia cases, community partners, agencies, and social media channels, its chat function will be activated for 48 hours to allow participants to share critical information to help locate the lost senior.

The Telegram channel, launched in May this year, hopes to receive a critical mass of 200 or more participants residing in Sembawang-Woodlands. That number will help it become optimally effective.

Social worker speaks to residents at the gate of a HDB flat

(Above) Mr Sebastian Ho, Senior Social Worker of AWWA, conducts door-to-door community outreach in the Woodlands precinct to share mental health resources with residents. Photo: AWWA

Mr Nicodemus Ching, a social worker and one of the channel operators from AWWA CREST, said: “One common distressing stressor for families of clients living with dementia is the fear when their loved ones lose their way home due to impaired orientation caused by dementia.

“I recall an incident where after a senior with dementia went missing, the family immediately sought help from their neighbours. As they reside in a tightly knitted community, their neighbours knew the lost senior, and she was found a few hours later.” 

Speaking with more than 10 years of experience working in the health and eldercare sector, Ms Teo Ying Ying, Centre Manager of AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre @ Ang Mo Kio, shared that when persons with dementia lose their way, it causes anxiety for themselves and their caregivers. “We often come across social media posts from desperate caregivers trying to locate their loved ones. Having a hyperlocal dementia search broadcast channel where contacts are residing in the zone can help to boost chances of looking out, or better still, activate neighbours nearby to search the familiar neighbourhood where the senior might be.”

(Above) Staff from AWWA Community of Care (Woodlands), AWWA Community Resource Engagement and Support Team (CREST), and Woodlands Health are briefed on the day’s programme before they went door-to-door learning about residents’ social concerns and sharing mental health resources with them. The team reached out to over 120 homes in Woodlands. Photo: AWWA

This would be an initiative through which the community can come together to build a more caring and dementia-friendly environment,” Ms Teo said.

Singapore has an ageing population, and will see an increase in the number of persons living with dementia. Leveraging on a hyperlocal telegram channel that will help the community locate lost persons with dementia can create a dementia-safe Singapore and keep the kampung spirit alive.

According to AIC chief executive Mr Tan Kwang Cheak, around 86,000 people may have dementia, and this number may increase exponentially to 130,000 or more by 2030.

To enable seniors to age-in-place, estates in Yio Chu Kang will be dementia-friendly by 2025. It will be the first entire town in Singapore to incorporate, from the planning level, dementia-friendly features such as colour zoning of HDB blocks to allow seniors to find their way home. Recently, SBS Transit and Dementia Singapore came up with an initiative to help people with dementia find their way home through nostalgic murals plastered around bus interchanges and MRT stations.

Members of the public who are interested to join the community can click on the following link: www.bit.ly/awwadsan. For more information, members of the public can contact crest@awwa.org.sg or call 9784 9247.

Chong Jern Yen, executive of corporate affairs at AWWA, completed the Temasek Foundation-WhatAreYouDoing.sg Non-Profit Organisation Storytelling Capability Programme.



  • Jern Yen starts his day with a cup of coffee in one hand and imagination in the other. He ends his day with a cup of coffee in one hand and insomnia in the other.

  • Caroline loves photography and trekking, and never turns down a trip to the mountains.


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