From cooking for good to helping mental health patients, volunteering gave these seniors a new lease of life.

It’s National Senior Volunteer Month, a time to encourage seniors around us to volunteer!

You’ve probably heard your parents exclaim “I can’t wait to retire!”, so volunteering during their golden years may sound counter-intuitive. After all, retirement is often seen as a time for blissful idleness, whereas volunteering can sound like “unpaid work”.

But what if volunteering is a chance for your loved ones to share their hobby or skills? Maybe your father loves gardening, or your aunt loves to bake. Studies have also shown that seniors who volunteer tend to report better health and life satisfaction outcomes (for more, stay tuned for NVPC’s Silver Volunteerism research study – out later this month!)

Hear from these folks who volunteer with RSVP Singapore, a non-profit that engages seniors to volunteer and serve the community. Hopefully this inspires your parents and elderly relatives. We welcome you to brainstorm ideas with them!

A former accountant who cares for recovering mental health outpatients

Linda Quek started volunteering for RSVP Singapore under the Mentally Disadvantaged Outreach Programme (MDOP) in 2011. Through MDOP, she interacts with ex-patients of various rehab centres. Some have chronic conditions and others have regained a certain level of functional ability. “Volunteering can be very rewarding, especially when you see the clients blossoming under your guidance. Many times, all they need is a friend to talk to,” she quips. Whilst Linda feels that volunteering can sound like a foreign concept to some, she invites everyone to give it a try. She is constantly amazed at those who have very little but who still give back what they can.

A relocation consultant who uses her cooking hobby for good

For the past 6 years, Elaine Teng has been a freelance relocation consultant. Her keen interest in cooking led her to volunteer with RSVP’s Gourmet Activity Circle (GAC) during her spare time. Under GAC, she cooks and bakes for various special occasions, for instance preparing snow skin mooncakes as gifts for RSVP’s VIPs. This later progressed to baking for annual corporate social responsibility workshops that RSVP hosts with businesses and beneficiaries. She also now runs cooking workshops and varies her “menu” based on seasonal festivities, for instance making egg mayo sandwiches for Easter and “zongzi” (dumplings) for the Dragon Boat Festival. Some of the people she teaches include members of the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore). “My experience with the children has had a powerful impact on my life. Their positive responses remind me that selfless, unconditional love and patience are important qualities,” Elaine reflects.

A former TCM business owner who became a tech-savvy teacher

“When I first attended computer classes at RSVP, I felt so lost!” Cheow Chin Wang recalls. Yet she was determined to keep up with technology, and continued to attend IT courses. After gaining confidence, Chin Wang wanted to help other seniors learn tech skills too so she started volunteering as a trainer in RSVP’s Cyberguide programme. A determined lifelong learner, she attended the MUP (Microsoft Unlimited Potential Powerpoint Course) and became a certified trainer. Aside from guiding her peers, she is proud to be able to help her grandchildren with their schoolwork, especially when it involves online homework. “Through volunteering, I regained my confidence and most importantly, self-worth, and am leading a happier life than before,” Chin Wang shares.

A former professional in the banking sector who mentors at-risk school children

When Morni Sulaiman retired in the early 2000s, he was looking forward to more free time for himself. Yet he also wanted to stay healthy both physically and mentally. This was why he found volunteering to be a good option. Aside from volunteering for RSVP, he has also volunteered for The Baweanese Association of Singapore, Tsao Foundation and even the Health Promotion Board as a Senior Health Ambassador. At RSVP, he volunteers as a mentor for a group of at-risk school primary children from low income families. He engages the students through after-school activities which include story-telling, arts and craft, and role-playing to impart moral values. “I almost gave up because of a defiant student. However I realised that his behaviour would only get worse if I walked away. I feel very happy when I can see positive changes in the students,” Morni reflects.

To launch National Senior Volunteer Month, RSVP is hosting the Opening Ceremony on 14 September (Saturday). Know anybody who may be interested? Get them to sign up here.