By Say Kwee Neng, CEO, Tsao Foundation
Andrew Lau is an active ager in the Whampoa neighbourhood. Prior to participating in the Enriching and Mobilising Participation of Whampoa’s Elder Residents (EMPOWER) programme, he was an introvert. Today, he is a different person – he teaches yoga for free, made many friends and has a packed social calendar where campfire gatherings, community design thinking workshops, and monthly planning and implementation sessions fill his days. Andrew is actively ageing in the community, and we are thrilled there are many like him in Whampoa, and that Tsao Foundation has a role to play in this.
The EMPOWER programme is a ground-up initiative that aims to give seniors a voice and purpose. Since 2019, seniors like Andrew came together to identify issues confronting older persons living in Whampoa. The top pressing issues include high medical costs, social isolation, dementia and caregiving, workplace age discrimination, and mobility and transportation. Working hard to find solutions for these, they achieved what surprised many, including themselves: they conducted over 90 of a total 150 interviews with their peers, presented their cases to stakeholders from Land Transport Authority to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and even created assets from posters to videos to support their cause.
The recent launch of a shuttle bus service in Whampoa is proof in the pudding that older persons are productive well into their later years. Thanks to Community Advocates from the EMPOWER programme, the shuttle service makes it possible for older persons and their caregivers to get around the neighbourhood easily, whether it’s to the nearby mall, wet market, polyclinic, hospital or MRT station.
Empowering seniors to take charge of their individual wellbeing by being active and having a strong life purpose contributes to the creation of a healthy, vibrant, and supportive community. Watch out, world: Whampoa’s seniors are only just beginning. Graduating from the EMPOWER programme this June, Andrew and other Whampoa Community Advocates are joining ComSA Club – a “Club Med” for seniors to engage in social and sporting engagements, but also with a purpose – and contributing productively to the community they live in.