Senior activity centres in Singapore
With age comes wisdom, so the adage says. But it also comes with cute grandmother and grandfather stories. That’s what I got to hear when I recently visited Lions Befrienders at Ang Mo Kio.
Through the befriending service provided by Lions Befrienders, I thought I would sit down, chat with them and listen to them share love stories. From surviving a 2-year long distance relationship to just loving life, here are 5 of the cutest ones shared by the seniors I got to meet:
1. Hong Pat – “We survived a 2-year LDR before getting married”
I’m originally from Malaysia but my wife is from Singapore. She was introduced to me by my cousin. Back then, I was still living in Malaysia, working in the mines, so I couldn’t go down to Singapore often to visit her. Instead, I would visit her two weeks a year whenever I had my annual leave to paktor.
Our dates were simple – just meals at her home while I got to know more about her. What made me fall in love with her was her character. She was hardworking and very skilled as a hairdresser. She was very good at doing beehive hairstyles, which were trendy those days.
We got married two years later when she was only 18 and I was 23. Our plans were to move to Malaysia after that, but we couldn’t get a visa for her. It was much easier for me to get a Singapore citizenship instead!
It will be our 62nd wedding anniversary this year. When people ask how we managed to survive such a long marriage, I tell them it takes patience. I try not to fight with my wife. I remind myself that fighting with her means fighting with her family. The last thing I want is to let them down because they entrusted me with her when she was still very young.
2. Koh Guat Kwee – “We only had one date before getting engaged”
As a teen, I lived in an attap house and had lots of neighbours. One of them was this guy that sold vinyl records. A neighbour thought that we would be a good match and made an introduction. We went on a group date to watch a movie together.
After the date, he arranged to visit my family to ask for my hand in marriage. He came with his parents and grandparents to settle the engagement. My parents gave their blessings, but ultimately it was my decision to make.
I decided to take a leap of faith and agreed to marry him. So yes, we were engaged only after one date. We only got to know more about each other after we were married.
Thankfully, the marriage worked out. We were able to live comfortably together. We even have four children together. I think it worked out because we had distinct roles coming into this marriage. I looked after the house while he took care of finances.
I understand that such an arrangement would probably not be able to work out now. For couples today, I say it might be better to have a longer dating period before committing to marriage.
3. Ng Choon Phuan – “I have no regrets not having dated before”
I know many people think dating is part and parcel of life, but I’ve never gone on a date before. It’s okay though, because I have no regrets about it. Instead of relationships, I have my family as my true loves.
I love my older brother especially. I may be 77 years old this year but I still call him kor kor. He lives just a couple of blocks away from me so we see each other frequently. He comes over with food and takes me out to go sightseeing around Singapore. Usually we’ll go to Chinatown or Little India just to walk around, but sometimes we’ll eat too.
My older brother has been looking after my siblings and I since our mum died when I was three years old. So because of him and the care and love he has shown me, I’ve never felt like I’ve missed out on experiencing love in other measures.
4. Guinet Marie – “Food is the ultimate love of my life”
Some people eat to live, but I live to eat. Food is the ultimate love of my life. It all started when I was a young child and had to move into a Malay kampung after my father passed away. The Malay family that raised me owned a hawker stall and they would feed me with all the delicious food they were also selling. That’s how I developed my love for food.
I like to eat just about anything but I think the one thing I could eat forever is durian. But I only love the Malaysian kind with bitter seeds. Those are the best.
When I was younger, I used to follow my neighbours around whenever they would buy durians, in hopes of getting a few free seeds. Even back then, durians were expensive treats, and I remember my neighbours would sometimes trade their sarongs for durians.
Of course now that I’m older, I get my own durians. But I usually wait till the shops are about to close then I can get a better deal on my beloved durians.
I must watch what I eat due to health issues nowadays, but durians will always be the one thing I allow myself to indulge in.
5. Liew Kee Sieng – “I love life, so I live it to the fullest”
I’ve been single all my life, but I still find it meaningful without a traditional romantic relationship. Instead of chasing after romance, I’ve chased after my passions instead. There’s just so much to do in our limited time here on earth so I try to fill it up with things I love doing.
One of the things I love to do is to sing. My favourite songs to sing are Chinese oldies, like from Teresa Teng and Huang Fei Ran. I even joined a singing competition just so that I could share my singing with everyone. I’m proud to say that I even placed third in the competition.
Another thing I’m passionate about is drumming. We had a percussion troupe here at Lions Befrienders Ang Mo Kio with a few of the other seniors. We even had the opportunity to perform at the Istana as part of the 2019 Community Chest Awards.
We haven’t had a chance to perform since the pandemic but there are other things that keep me busy. I usually come down to the centre to participate in the activities here, like making handicrafts or dancing to K-pop.
Overall, I would just say that I’m glad to be alive, so I live mine to the fullest. While I don’t have any children of my own, I hope to be able to share this zest for life with the younger generation. Please drop by to talk to us if you can! We love getting to know and interact with you all too.
Support senior activity centres through SHARE
The stories above come from seniors who regularly attend Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre at Ang Mo Kio, one of the many social service agencies supported by Community Chest. The senior activity centre runs a befriending programme to keep them meaningfully engaged. But these programmes also require resources to maintain long-term sustainability.
Seniors at Lions Befrienders learning Chinese calligraphy for Chinese New Year
Image credit: @lionsbefrienders
Community Chest supports many such social service agencies like Lions Befrienders. To keep these programmes up and running, they rely on monetary donations from the public.
You can do so via SHARE, a donation programme from Community Chest that has been encouraging regular giving since 1983. From as little as $15 a month, you’ll be able to support seniors like Mr Liew and Mdm Guinet. This amount is enough for a week’s worth of befriending services provided at these centres.
Every year, Community Chest needs to raise over $50 million to fund more than 100 social service agencies and 200 critical service programmes in Singapore. 100% of your donation goes towards providing a reliable and sustained source of funds to support over 41,000 users of these services.
This includes children with special needs and youths-at-risk, adults with disabilities, persons with mental health conditions, and families and seniors in need of assistance.
It is hassle-free to participate in the SHARE programme, and can be done in just a few minutes. Click on the link below to complete your registration to start donating. You’ll then get an e-receipt sent detailing your contribution. Community Chest will also submit your donation details to IRAS on your behalf, of which you are entitled to a 250% tax deduction.
Additional donations made through SHARE over and above what has been given in the preceding year will also be matched dollar-for-dollar by the government from now till 2023.
By simply forgoing a few pleasures in life, like just two gourmet cups of coffee, you too can make an impact on those in need.
This post was brought to you by Community Chest.
Photography by Brad Lee.
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