From social learning to starting social movements

From social learning to starting social movements

The college started out as one of the first few agencies in Singapore to offer lifelong learning courses in 2005.

It was for senior citizens who had missed out on education opportunities to go back to the classroom. But over the years, the role of the college Yah! (short for Young-At-Heart!) evolved.

Now it not only encourages learning, but also gets the elderly to be involved in volunteerism and advocacy work.

Mr Samuel Ng, the college's principal, said: "We did some soul searching and realised that learning should be a means to an end rather than an end in itself."

"We wanted to get the seniors to move from social learning to social participation to starting social movements," he added.

For instance, about 50 senior citizens have been knocking on doors of one- and two-room rental flats in Telok Blangah, Taman Jurong and Bedok South to get the elderly out of their flats to mingle with others and to take part in activities like the monthly void deck parties, Mr Ng said.

These home visits also help the Yah! seniors identify the needs of their peers, from health to financial, and refer them to community resources.

Yesterday, a fresh batch of 123 seniors aged 50 to 83 donned graduation gowns at a ceremony where they were presented with lifelong learning certificates by Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor.

The ceremony comes after three months of classes at Yah! Community College in Jurong Point where they learnt about everyday topics like communication to more sober subject matters like dealing with death.

More than 1,600 seniors have graduated from the course over the years. Among yesterday's graduands was Madam Anna Toh Em, 71, who never dreamed she would go back to school after she quit her studies in Primary 4 to help manage the house upon her father's death. "This is the happiest day of my life as I used to envy others who had the chance to study and graduate," she said.

When not hitting the books, she can be found making home visits to befriend the elderly.

The course has given Madam Toh a sense of empowerment: "It's good because suddenly I find that I can not only learn but also help my peers and change mindsets within the community."

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