On Thursday 31st December 2015, The Straits Times ran a report, with photographs on how the residents in some nursing home is able to get spiritual care from volunteers , many of who are students who were took a course to better understand the needs of seniors
As rightly pointed out by Mr Raja Chowdhury, deputy director of business development and marketing at the Social Service Institute, there is a need to carry out a stock check of what is going on within the person (“Schooled in spiritual care”; Thursday 31st December 2015) .
There is an abundance of support and care for residents in nursing homes and those on public assistance, but this vital support is clearly lacking for seniors who lived all alone within the four walls of their homes, which has demoralised isolated seniors, leaving them vulnerable to falling into depression and in some cases, suicide. The marginalised in this group are crying out for help, so let us learn to feel for them.
For Christians, the church has a moral obligation to help to support our lonely elderly in many ways so that they can look forward to a better tomorrow with renewed hope. Most certainly, there is nothing like the power of the handshake or a hug from the clergy and his volunteers to show love, care and concern.
Here are some suggestions that can help our lonely and isolated seniors have a better quality of life, with reduction in the high cost of living that is troubling for many Singaporeans– especially for those who no longer are employed.
(a)The Archdiocese in Singapore can encourage its parishes to start and maintain a Senior Clubs where seniors can get together on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis to play scrabble, cards and socialise over breakfast or lunch. If there is a Social Development Unit (SDU) for our young graduates, I do not see why, a Seniors Club mirrored on the same objectives cannot be implemented.
Then the church can organise outings for these seniors so that they are not cut off from the outside world and made to feel worthless. Through these informal gatherings, there is a healthy chance for our lonely elderly to forge ties with new friends and even have pen-pal relationships which can, with the right chemistry, develop into loving relationships.
(b) Seniors who live all alone need to stay connected with the limited number of friends they have. Thus, they depend heavily on their home telephones and mobiles to keep in touch with the outside world. To this end, it will be useful if SingTel could offer better rebates for all seniors from the age of 60 onwards. Just as Singapore Power offers rebates on electricity tariffs periodically, so too should this Telco company which has been making profits year in and year out. This can be a corporate responsibility for companies to give back to society when they have benefitted from consumers.
Raymond Anthony Fernando