29-year-old Ms Toh Xiu Yong has been spending two Saturday mornings (February 18 and 25) at the NUHS Tower Block, receiving healthcare training and knowledge, which she will later impart to other volunteers. She is one of 15 instructors chosen to train volunteers in various housing estates, who will then run programmes on health education, exercise and mindfulness practice for seniors assessed to be at risk of developing dementia. Ms Toh has attended two workshops by various expert speakers on a healthy lifestyle and diet, high blood pressure, diabetes and mindfulness practice. Her training will also include topics on preventing falls, depression and anxiety, music reminiscence and stress and insomnia.
Ms Toh, who works in the community outreach arm of Presbyterian Community Services, signed up for the AWE programme for two reasons. “Firstly, the research from previous studies has shown WHAT to be effective, and I believe it will allow more Singaporeans to benefit from it. Also, Singapore needs more volunteers to reach out to more elderly people.”
Titled Age Well Everyday (AWE), this new initiative by Professor Kua Ee Heok of NUS Medicine’s Department of Psychological Medicine aims to tap on community leaders-volunteers to propagate health knowledge to other volunteers, to ensure that more elderly Singaporeans are reached with these important dementia education pointers. AWE is part of Prof Kua’s 10-year Jurong Ageing Study, which uses art, music, exercise, gardening and mindfulness meditation, coupled with health education, in keeping dementia in check for at-risk seniors.
“The success of the Jurong Ageing Study depended on volunteers – many from the NUHS. In order to ensure success at a national level, we cannot just depend on NUHS volunteers. We hope more volunteers can help at their housing estates,” said Prof Kua.
“Another reason is because I am getting older. I cannot be running programmes for volunteers all the time. I am hoping that the AWE will create a self-sustaining system, where trainers with healthcare knowledge can go on to train more volunteers, to allow more elderly across Singapore to benefit,” he added.