Recognising the importance of senior volunteerism and active seniors
Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at RSVP Singapore’s Volunteer Appreciation Day 2019 at Suntec Convention Centre
14 February 2019
- 去年，你们都参与了至少36 个小时的义工活动，充分体现出 “关爱新加坡行动” 的精神。你们以行动证明：只要有关爱，年龄不是障碍！我希望每一位新加坡人都能以你们为榜样，打造一个具有凝聚力、爱心和包容心的新加坡。让我们以热烈的掌声感谢在座的义工们！ Let me now continue in English.
Importance of senior volunteerism and active seniors
- Why is senior volunteerism important? By 2030, the number of Singaporeans aged 65 years and above will be doubled, making up one quarter of the nation’s population. 500,000 Merdeka Generation, who are between 60 and 69, have retired or will retire over the next few years. Many of these seniors, had received more education and developed good skills from their time at work compared to their brothers and sisters in the Pioneer Generation. While there is no doubt that some will require more medical attention, many seniors are likely to remain healthy with the provision of higher quality healthcare in Singapore. These seniors are ready to pursue a new phase in their lives that gives them greater flexibility but deeper meaning in their engagements with people. They will be a deep pool of resource to the society and silver volunteerism will be an important means by which society can benefit from their talents and their experiences. In fact, studies have shown that volunteering also improves the mental and physical well-being of volunteers themselves, particularly those aged 60 and above. Through volunteering, our seniors can widen their network of friends and remain engaged in society. Volunteer Welfare Organisations also stand to benefit from the skills seniors have acquired over their careers and past experiences.
- Take Ms Noorjahan Kamaruddin for example. Although Ms Noor is still working as a freelancer, she finds time to contribute as a trainer for RSVP’s Cyberguide Programme and Volunteer Learning Centre. Not one to shy away from a crowd, Ms Noor has also showcased her flair for public speaking by being a volunteer emcee for various RSVP events.
- Like Ms Noor, I believe that there are many other active seniors who have much to offer to society and their communities through their skills and experiences and we can do more to encourage more seniors to volunteer. One way is to create more volunteering opportunities. In 2015, the Silver Volunteer Fund was launched to grow senior volunteerism in Singapore. The Fund has supported the creation of 3,500 new volunteering opportunities for seniors over the last three years. RSVP has tapped the Fund to develop its “Enriching Lives of Seniors” programme or ELSP for short. This programme offers seniors the opportunity to reach out to their peers who may be more socially isolated via Senior Activities Centres and Residents’ Committees.
- One such volunteer is Mr Lai Chong Kian. Mr Lai has been actively involved in the ELSP for the past two years, and has since built up a good rapport with fellow seniors in his community. He has become an influencer of sorts, having earned the friendship and trust of the seniors he has interacted with, and of the volunteers he has helped trained as a team leader. I understand that many of you like Mr Lai have participated in ELSP. Thank you for really helping others live well and age happily!
Building capabilities and growing opportunities for senior volunteerism
- It is encouraging to note that many seniors, like you, recognise the benefits of volunteering and are doing so regularly. A survey conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre showed that the rate of volunteerism among seniors has more than doubled - from 13 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2016.
- And we want to do more for our seniors. This requires the government, community and corporate partners to work together to train more senior volunteers, create more volunteering opportunities, and match volunteers to these opportunities. The RSVP has stepped forward to serve as a centre of excellence for senior volunteerism. Since its establishment in 1998, RSVP has provided seniors with opportunities to offer their time, skills and experience to the community, and as a centre of excellence, it will go further to coordinate efforts and resources to grow senior volunteerism, particularly among the baby boomers, to achieve its vision of making every senior a volunteer.
- I am heartened to note that RSVP is partnering Standard Chartered Bank for 3 years to develop the capacities of our seniors and enable them to meet the needs of the community. This partnership will look into creating a nation-wide pre-dementia programme, and piloting a volunteering initiative for seniors and youths to collaborate and make a difference to our community.
- Shortly after this, RSVP and Standard Chartered will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding that will mark the beginning of this partnership. I hope that this will encourage more corporates to consider such partnerships to grow their CSR initiatives, and motivate their employees to start on their own volunteering journey.
- And if you have read the newspapers, there was actually a really long debate in Parliament about how the society should care for our elderly, our aged, and also on how we as a society should support the caregivers. I think in total there must be 17 MPs plus five political office holders – Ministers, Ministers of State, who delivered remarks and made announcements. I think this issue about caring for the elderly as some MPs have put it very appropriately, i.e. how we treat our seniors will reflect on us as a society, as a people. They are the people that have raised us, that have nurtured us, educated us and have ploughed for the development of the country. I think how we treat them in their golden years will be very important.
- We want to treat them with the same respect, same care and same support as they have shown us. And in this process, the Government will be doing more. Some of the announcements would be to give more flexibility in our subsidies to caregivers, and also to support our caregivers in balancing employment and family chores, and supporting the community in caring for the elderly because we know that there is a lot of need that is best served in areas where they live so that they do not have to travel far.
- In this process of building the infrastructure and the programmes, there’s a limit to what the Government can do because as I have said many times, we cannot be the pair of hands, the pair of warm hands, the pair of caring eyes and the pair of attentive ears that is going to be there face-to-face with the elderly, with the people who are in need on the ground. And for that, we really need you. You will be that pair of hands, that pair of eyes and that pair of listening ears, that will be there to give them the attention that they need, the respect that they deserve and the dignity that they so desire. Because everyone of us I’m sure will either be a caregiver or will be cared for. And I think we want a society where we reciprocate the kind of love that we have received, we want to pay forward, we also want to do something for the elderly amongst us. And this caring nation initiative that is full of love and concern is really something that we want to strive for, especially on this day on Valentine’s day, where the love and romance should not be limited to just your loved ones, your partner, your boyfriend, or your spouse. It really should be expanded to everyone around you, next to you, your neighbours living next to you.
- It is time for us to make a stand that we want to care for the people around us, we want to provide opportunities for our elderly, for our seniors, to play a meaningful part in our society and also to support our seniors well in our society. So on this note, we cannot do all that without you. You are a very important part of the caring nation and I think RSVP particularly, will have a very important role of providing that resource, that capability building, the leadership, the infrastructure, the support that is given to support silver volunteerism.
- To all RSVP volunteers, let me thank you again for contributing your time and effort in helping others. Keep up the good work! And let us all continue to strive for a more caring and inclusive Singapore. I think Singapore will be better, and is better because of you. Thank you RSVP!
Last updated on 12 March 2019