Campaign initiates death conversations with older Chinese Singaporeans

Getai veteran Wang Lei spoke about his participation in the movement. "Death could come to anyone, anytime. My friend Ah Nan is an example. None of his family or friends knew about his end-of-life wishes because we never talked about it."
PHOTO: Campaign initiates death conversations with older Chinese Singaporeans

SINGAPORE - Putting a new twist to tradition, the Lien Foundation and Ang Chin Moh Foundation are injecting the getai with a deathly new purpose.

Dubbed "Die Die Must Say" or 死都要讲, the initiative engages elderly Chinese Singaporeans in conversations about death and dying using getai as one of the key platforms.

It aims to raise awareness of end-of-life matters and hospice palliative care among elderly Chinese.

The recently released Death Attitudes Survey commissioned by the Lien Foundation showed that awareness of hospice palliative care is low among older Chinese Singaporeans. Only 33 per cent of those 50 years and above said they knew about it, 88 per cent said they wanted more public education on hospice palliative care and 86 per cent supported national conversations on this topic.

On the need to engage older Singaporeans, Founder of Ang Chin Moh Foundation Mr Ang Ziqian said: "Presently, there are not many outlets or platforms to talk about death and dying, especially for older Chinese Singaporeans who sense the need to do so as they grow older. Oftentimes the elderly are more accepting and willing to talk about death, but their children stop them out of love and denial.

"But talking about death and dying is very important. It enriches understanding and family relationships, and reduces the chances of regret or misunderstanding when a loved one passes on. Talking about death and dying and planning one's funeral wishes in advance will not lead to anyone's demise. If we can sort this out before our time comes, we leave behind love instead of problems and regrets."

This is the first time end-of-life education is being brought to the community through a getai.

"We have created simple information tools and conversation touch points to encourage older Chinese Singaporeans to discuss and reflect upon death. We approach this with much empathy, using positive appeal and dark humour to brighten the sombre topic of death and make it less intimidating," said Mr Lee Poh Wah, CEO, Lien Foundation.

"It is healthy to view death as an inevitable part of living the good life, and talk about it while we are still well and when circumstances are less fraught."

Getai veteran Wang Lei and local artiste Lin Ruping will be hosting five getai shows over five weeks from May 11 to June 10. Guest appearances at the getai shows include Liu Ling Ling of "881" fame, Marcus Chin and Li Peifen.

Members of the public with questions or concerns about death and dying, hospice palliative care, or who simply wish to have someone to talk to about these issues can call a Mandarin hotline (1800 3535 800) manned by trained volunteer counsellors. The hotline is available seven days a week from 10am to 10p, except on public holidays.

The hotline is presently active and will be in service beyond the duration of the campaign.

In addition, there will be a weekly talk show on Chinese radio station Capital 95.8 to educate listeners about end-of-life issues and hospice palliative care.

There will also be copies of a Chinese guidebook on the topic distributed at each getai show and in places like nursing homes, hospices and hospitals. The guidebook discusses four topics: 1) Leaving well; 2) hospice and palliative care; 3) "say it and let go"; and 4) living well.

Talking about his participation in the movement, getai host Wang Lei said: "Even the simplest things, like where my bank passbook is, could become a headache for my loved ones should I die. Death could come to anyone, anytime.

"My friend Ah Nan is an example. None of his family or friends knew about his end-of-life wishes because we never talked about it. So it's best to talk now, while we are alive. And that's what I did. I have talked to my wife and children and now they know my wishes."

Getai Locations

Date

Chinatown Kreta Ayer Square (Behind Buddha Tooth Relic Temple)

Sun 11 May, 7pm

Tampines Community Square (Next to the Tampines MRT)

Fri 16 May, 7pm

Blk 336 Woodlands St 32

Sun 25 May, 7pm

Large field at Blk 367 Yung An Road

Wed 4 June, 7pm

To be advised

Tue 10 June, 7pm

yamadak@sph.com.sg