SINGAPORE - Retiree Chan Chew Lock, 78, and his brother Chew Mun, 75, suffer from slight dementia and live on their own in a one-room rental flat. Until a week ago, there was no one to check in daily on them in case they needed help.
But now they have a friend in one of their neighbours in Block 51 Chin Swee Road - Mr Goh Kim Eng, 73, who visits them twice daily for a chat. "I'm healthy and I have so much time, so I decided to help," said Mr Goh, a retired restaurant cleaner.
They were "match-made" under a pilot programme started by grassroots groups in the Kim Seng precinct of the Kreta Ayer neighbourhood.
Some 13 people have benefited since its launch six months ago, the area's Member of Parliament Lily Neo told reporters yesterday.
Called Ageing Gracefully @ Home, the programme was started at Blocks 51 and 52 Chin Swee Road as they have the highest proportion of seniors, said Dr Neo, who is an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and adviser to the grassroots groups there.
Almost half of Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng's population, or 16,324 people, are aged 50 and above.
More than half of them are older than 65.
Dr Neo said she has met frail elderly citizens who have problems looking after themselves.
But the programme matches seniors with a befriender - usually a neighbour living in the same block - to help look in on them.
Befrienders will not only make daily home visits but also inform grassroots organisations, such as the Senior Activity Centres, if the senior citizen needs care.
Former jade salesman Lee Thiam Seng, 81, said he was grateful to retired cleaner Ho Ah Ching, 86, a befriender who cooks for him and reminds him to take his medicine.
Madam Lin Peilian, 70, a programme coordinator of the Kreta Ayer Senior Activity Centre (Chin Swee branch), said the befrienders provided additional help in caring for the seniors. "They help us monitor the seniors and escort them to the centre for activities."
The beneficiaries were identified through house visits and referrals from the centre.
Yesterday, Dr Neo also gave updates on two other community programmes in the precinct. Its year-old Catch Plus Programme for youth has seen an almost fourfold increase in uptake, she said.
Fewer than 10 children went to the Catch Plus Centre in Jalan Kukoh daily when it started last April. Today, more than 40 children aged seven to 16 visit daily.
Community partners such as volunteers and social workers would also help the young people by giving them tuition; they also reach out to them through outings as well as activities in sports or arts and crafts.
Dr Neo also gave details of another initiative called the C.A.R.E Ambassadors project, which will be launched on July 6 to foster "gotong royong" - Malay for "community spirit".
Under the project, an ambassador, who is also a grassroots volunteer, will be appointed as a "modern village head".
He or she will come up with activities, such as parties, game nights or cook-outs, so as to get neighbours to bond. Dr Neo said: "We left our kampung houses - huts with zinc roofs - many years ago, but we still want to maintain gotong royong."
This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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