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Our solo-living seniors deserve to feel connected, valued, and seen. Unsplash/@lvnatikk

A Little Time, A Lot Of Love: Connecting With Solo-Living Seniors

In a world of constant digital interaction, staying connected is second nature to most of us. But while we’re busy scrolling through what our friends are up to on TikTok and Instagram, some of our elderly neighbours living solo might be feeling a little left out.

Worse still, this year alone saw seniors dying alone in their homes every month in Singapore, a trend that doesn't seem to be fading away anytime soon. 

Bernie Poh, CEO of Allium Healthcare. | IMAGE: ALLIUM HEALTHCARE

Bernie Poh, the CEO of Allium Healthcare, (which offers residential care, day care, rehabilitation, home care and caregiver support among its suite of services), sheds light on the importance of social connections for seniors: "Loneliness can exact a profound toll on older adults' emotional and physical well-being. The emotional consequences are particularly noteworthy, with loneliness being closely linked to an elevated risk of depression and anxiety in this demographic."

But why does this matter? The Department of Statistics paints a stark picture: the number of elderly persons living alone in Singapore is projected to increase from 47,000 in 2016 to 83,000 by 2030. Forging a genuine bond with our senior solo-living neighbours can curb the effects of loneliness. It's all about making time to do so, and sharing some love. Here’s how:

The power of a simple hello

According to Bernie, “Emotionally, community connections serve as a potent antidote to loneliness by fostering social interactions with neighbours, friends, and fellow community members, cultivating a greater sense of belonging. This communal bond also extends to emotional support, providing a crucial network for seniors to lean on during stress, grief, or other life challenges.”

What can you do to start? Bernie suggests starting with the power of a simple “hello”. “Regularly checking in on elderly neighbours through simple conversations or quick visits combats loneliness and establishes valuable connections.”

Whether it's a quick chat in the hallway or a short visit, this small act is all it takes to make a person's day. It's easy to get caught up in our daily hustle, but these small gestures can go a long way in making our solo-living seniors feel seen and valued.

Sharing is caring

Bernie encourages us to identify shared hobbies or interests with our senior neighbours, and engage in activities like gardening, reading, or crafting. Offering transportation assistance for seniors ensures they stay engaged, fostering a sense of connection.

Sharing doesn’t have to be as grand as baking extra cookies for Ah Ma next door; it just needs to come from the heart. You could help them by tending to their plants, or offering to help buy their groceries if you’re already heading out to get your own. It's a way to show that you're thinking about them – and, more importantly, means a lot more to them than you can imagine.

Joining a community programme

Community programmes play a crucial role in connecting generations. Bernie recommends participating in intergenerational programmes like game nights, storytelling sessions, or art projects, which bring people from different age groups together, fostering community.

"Social inclusion is essential, and extending invitations to seniors for community events, social activities, and local club gatherings ensures they feel like an integral part of the larger community. Creating or supporting community initiatives like senior support groups fosters a sense of belonging and offers a platform for sharing experiences and providing assistance,” says Bernie.

But if there isn’t such a programme in your HDB block, how about initiating a little programme of your own? Offer to makan together, and in exchange, you could ask them to share stories from their youth. You might be surprised by the insights, laughter, and life lessons that come your way. It's a win-win situation, and you might just find yourself with a newfound appreciation for the wealth of experience that exists within your own community.

The digital dilemma

In our digital age, Bernie emphasises the role of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram in reducing feelings of isolation. "Video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime enable participation in virtual gatherings and family events, fostering face-to-face communication across physical distances,” he says.

While many seniors may not be as tech-savvy, Bernie sees it as an opportunity for us to bridge the generational gap. Offer to teach your neighbour how to navigate the world of social media. You can explain how they might benefit from it – for example, help them find their friends and family on the platform. Plus, imagine the joy on their faces when they finally get the hang of emojis!

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