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Senior volunteerism can bring joy and meaning during one’s silver years

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the National Senior Volunteer Month Opening Ceremony 2019, at ITE College Central (Auditorium)

Mr Koh Juay Meng, Chairman, RSVP
Ladies and Gentleman,

  1. A very good morning to all of you. It is my pleasure to join you at the opening ceremony of National Senior Volunteer Month, which is now in its 5th year running. Thank you all for being a part of this movement, to celebrate the many ways that our seniors contribute to society.

    In the spirit of SG Cares, we must work together to engage our seniors early, and support them in their active ageing

  2. Our seniors have a wealth of skills and expertise that can benefit the community. Many of them, especially those in the Merdeka Generation, wish to make a difference in their community, by passing on their wisdom and values to the next generation. While ageing and retirement can be a disorienting journey, it need not be so. We should collectively support our seniors, all of us across the public, private and people sectors, and in two main areas: enabling them to work longer if they so wish, and enabling them to age well.
  3. The government strives to improve our seniors’ well-being. Apart from extending the retirement and re-employment ages, we are empowering seniors to take charge of their physical health, through the National Seniors Health Programme. Seniors are encouraged to go for regular health screenings and participate in physical activities such as brisk-walking and Tai Chi. We have also broadened efforts to support their mental and social wellness, through initiatives that encourage them to stay active through work, social activities, learning and volunteering. Senior volunteerism is an important aspect of active ageing, and can provide seniors with a meaningful platform to stay engaged, and establish social networks where they can feel a sense of purpose and belonging.
  4. In the community, we hope to see more volunteering opportunities catering to a wide range of our seniors’ interests and skills. We call on  more community partners to step forward to support volunteer training and matching.
  5. Companies can participate by helping their employees plan for retirement, as well as supporting senior volunteerism as part of good human resource practice. Getting involved in the community can help seniors manage their transition out of working life. This is why two years ago, RSVP launched “Retire With A Purpose”, Singapore’s first pre-retirement initiative of its kind. “Retire With A Purpose” is designed to promote a culture of giving in companies, while encouraging those approaching retirement to continue living a purposeful life through volunteerism. Today, over 20 corporates are on board, with over 900 employees being deployed as volunteers in various activities.
  6. Under the Singapore Cares (SG Cares) movement, we seek to work with an ecosystem of partners to engage our seniors, and support them in their ageing journey. MCCY will be signing an MoU with RSVP, to expand its efforts in engaging seniors early at their workplaces, and introducing volunteering opportunities to them, so that they can be connected to the community. We will work closely with RSVP to engage corporates and match their senior employees to various community partners, including the SG Cares Volunteer Centres. This partnership will seek to create opportunities for seniors to volunteer, and find more volunteers for the community.

    Volunteerism boosts the social and emotional well-being of our seniors, and can be easily integrated into their lifestyles

  7. Today, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) will also be releasing the findings of its first Silver Volunteerism study. This study enables us to better understand our seniors’ behaviours and sentiments when it comes to giving.
  8. I wish to highlight two key findings from this study.
  9. First, the study found that volunteering helps seniors feel healthier, happier and more connected to society. Seniors who volunteered reported better physical health and higher life satisfaction as compared to those who did not. There is also an association between volunteering and social connectedness. Compared to seniors who did not volunteer, 16% more seniors who volunteered have someone whom they could reach out to in times of need, and 18% more seniors who volunteered meet up regularly with their friends and family.
  10. Second, volunteerism can be easily integrated into our lifestyles and preferences. Many seniors cited family commitments, time constraints, or the demanding nature of volunteering as reasons they did not volunteer, believing it was burdensome or required a level of physical fitness. However, volunteerism can in fact be convenient and accessible. There is a myriad of ways we can give back, be it formally or informally, in the places we live, work and play. You can volunteer with your friends and family, at places that you frequent such as your neighbourhood or place of worship, and even as part of your own personal enrichment: as a way to acquire new skills, or as a form of relaxation.
  11. This is the case for 66-year-old Ms Evelyn Tan. Evelyn began her volunteering journey with RSVP two years ago as an ad-hoc volunteer. Today, she volunteers regularly by providing concierge services to visitors at the Indian Heritage Centre. This has allowed her to mingle with different people, be exposed to new experiences. Thus adding new meaning and excitement in her life.

    Longevity can be positive and productive

  12. In growing senior volunteerism, we seek to redefine longevity as something that is positive and contributing, by showing that our seniors can remain active not only at work but also in the community, as they age.
  13. Take for example Mr Ling Lik Kwok, who is 64 this year, is an inspiring example. Mr Ling discovered the joy of volunteering during his career. As part of his company’s CSR, he and his colleagues got involved in several community programmes. These proved to be eye-opening experiences for him, and he also found that volunteering kept him physically fit, as well as mentally and socially active. Even in his retirement now, Mr Ling’s days remain full of exciting social activities, which he says has made him even busier than when he was working! Mr Ling joined RSVP in 2017 and his many roles include being a team leader at Care Corner Singapore and teaching fellow seniors IT skills. On top of this, he also plays the ukulele in an interest group that performs regularly at nursing home and grassroots events.
  14. Active volunteers like Ms Tan and Mr Ling remind us how important it is to provide our seniors with opportunities to develop themselves and pursue their passions. Many of our seniors are driven by altruistic values to give back, and our society can indeed benefit greatly from their contributions.


  15. Lastly, I would like to thank RSVP for making this event possible, and all of you here for your strong support to the movement. Together, we can harness the energy and experience of our seniors to meet the needs of community, while passing on the value of care to future generations.
  16. 华人的传统理念中,提醒我们 “幼吾幼以及人之幼,老吾老以及人之老” 。我们人与人之间要互相帮忙,既要照顾我们的小孩与长辈以及其他人的小孩和长辈。在我们的社区里面有非常多类似的例子。
  17. 不久前,我们区里面的关爱中心带了一群年长居民到裕廊花园去。在那里,我碰到一名视力不好的居民,他几乎看不到。他能够到公园去,是因为他有一名义工带着他去。这名义工不仅带他出游,平时也会到他的家里探访他。这位视障老人家已72岁,你们猜他的义工有几岁?原来是74岁!我之后在做家访时,就遇到这名74岁的义工。她曾经是一位小贩,与她的丈夫在小贩中心做了大半辈子,在退休后决定参加义工团队。
  18. 所以,如果在座的各位觉得年纪大了,觉得自己没什么读书,心想可以做什么?其实,这是一个很好的例子,大家可以考虑当义工。因为,我们区里还有很多年长的居民需要你们的关怀。正如你们参加活动,在生活里得到一份精彩,其实你们可以招呼朋友和邻居一起来加入义工团队,带领其他的年长居民出游。
  19. 我还有一个例子。我们区里有一名年纪很大的独居老人。他不久前因为身体不适而得入院动手术。之后,我问他有没有人照顾他的饮食起居。他说: “你不要担心,邻居已经开始煮粥给我吃。”以实际行动来帮助我们周边的人,大家都可以做到。他的邻居大多是家庭主妇,她们以朋友、邻居关怀彼此的心态来照顾这位老人家。
  20. 所以,我觉得我们区里以及新加坡各区,都有很多类似的力量。如果我们每一个人都能够以实际行动把关怀的心表现出来,照顾我们周边的长辈们,新加坡其实将会是一个充满温馨的一个国家。希望我们能以这个目标前进。新加坡不应该仅是一个繁华的国际都会,更应该是一个充满爱心,充满关怀的一个 “甘榜” 。欢迎大家加入义工行列!谢谢大家!

English translation of Mandarin speech

  1. In the Chinese tradition, there is a saying that advocates that we care for the children of other families as one’s own, and similarly care for the aged parents of others like one’s own. In our society, there are many such examples.
  2. Not long ago, in my constituency, Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre brought a group of elderly residents to visit the new Jurong Lake Gardens. I met a resident who was visually-impaired and the only reason why he was able to participate in this activity was because of a volunteer brought him there. Not only does this volunteer bring him out on outings, she also visits him at his home regularly. I was surprised to hear that the volunteer who had befriended this 72-year-old resident was actually 74! I later met her during my house visits and found out that she had spent her life working as a hawker along with her husband. After she retired, she decided to become a volunteer.
  3. This is a great example to all who may think your age or educational level is hindering you from helping others. There are many seniors in the community who require your help and care. Even as you enjoy the activities you participate in your personal life, I encourage you to give your time by volunteering to help those in need, and invite your friends and neighbours around you join in as well.
  4. Another example I would like to share is about one of the seniors who is living alone in my constituency. He recently underwent surgery and when he was discharged, I was concerned about his daily needs such as his meals. He assured me that his neighbours had already started taking care of his meals, such as by cooking him porridge. Such caring acts, whether or not undertaken by a formal volunteer, are important. The neighbours who were caring for him were housewives that were usually at home caring for their family members. They have shown him genuine care, as a true friend and neighbour.
  5. In conclusion, we already have a community that cares strongly for one another. If each of us can show a compassionate heart for others through our actions, Singapore would be a place full of warmth. Let us work towards this goal. Beyond a flourishing business hub, our nation should be a “kampong” filled with love and care. I encourage all of you to give your time to causes, and volunteer.

Last updated on 17 September 2019