Several days ago, I was able to visit Cherington Place with my friends, a nursing home located in Surrey. Our task was to keep the elderly company, so we made them cards and cookies, and prepared performances to keep them entertained (offering our time, treasures, and talent).
In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect. It was hard to imagine the difference we could make in their lives, since we were just a bunch of strangers giving them a visit. But now I know not to underestimate a stranger’s capacity to impact another’s life, because the effects can be tenfold.
I would’ve never predicted how amazing the effects of my visit to the nursing home would be. After greeting the elderly and speaking to them one-on-one, I was amazed by how appreciative they were for my visit. Perhaps they felt lonely or abandoned before, but now tears of joy glistened in their eyes. Maybe all people need is to know they are cared for, even by a simple stranger.
Moreover, I was stunned by the optimism they had for their future, even at old age. They were so youthful in spirit, regardless of their frail bodies. They were selfless enough to tell me to take care of myself, even if they were the ones in wheelchairs. It taught me that happiness can exist, even at old age, regardless of discouraging circumstances or diminishing health.
I learned that the rewards of volunteering is a two-way street. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll get back – whether it’s a new outlook or a warm smile – when you give your time to help another.
So volunteer. It truly is a beauty.
Got any similar experiences? Share them below!
By Celine Diaz
Posted on September 27, 2011
“Each one of us can do a good deed, everyday and everywhere. In hospitals in desperate need of volunteers, in homes for the elderly where our parents and grandparents are longing for a smile, a listening ear, in the streets, in our workplaces and at home” in the words of Shari Arison.
NUS /USP and Ren Ci Nursing Home, I am glad that I found out about it. Thanks Andrea for coming with me to discover and work for our real passion towards ‘people who need help’. Not for a formality CIP (Community Involvement Program) related reasons but because we care. There were uncountable takeaways from this visit. It was my first time I had a close interaction with the elderly. The camp was really an eyeopener!
It was quite exciting initially and I became much much more sensitive to the feelings of the elderly. In retrospect, I would correct my above phrasing ‘people who need help’, elderly do not actually need as much help as we think they do. They are quite independent and strong willed to support themselves. Here are some learnings and memories:
- The 87 year old Ah Gong Alicia and I was assigned to was really cute. He told us enchanting stories of his past. Though he has visual impairment and weak ligaments, he is quite optimistic towards life and is so strong enough to wheel himself up and down relatively steep slopes.
- It isn’t easy to use the wheelchair. I tried because it seemed fun but I got tired after awhile. We had to navigate through Tan Tock Seng hospital with different disabilities as an experiential learning (simulation). My friend (supposed to be blind) accidentally pushed me towards a dustbin 😛 haha
- Most of the elderly there are friendly and will wave when u wave to them! Its heartwarming to see them smile or even laugh when u talk to them!
- We made kites and uncle told us about kite competitions they used to have in the past, cutting one another’s kites. (: I think it should have triggered some childhood memories from him! Seeing his face recollecting the memories, made me so happy.
- We folded origami with them and Andrea and her friends started giving the swans to many patients (: they were genuinely happy! Such simple joys is all they desire and makes us think that we shouldn’t ignore these joyful moments in our own lives.
- Unfortunately some of the elderly were very sad, their family members visit them very rarely. They may have their own reasons but if they are just lazy and ignorant it’s very irresponsible of them. Neglect isn’t a good feeling, not at this stage of lives. Actually at any age, being neglected is the worst feeling no?
- Speaking to so many of them from different nationalities we got Teochew, Cantonese, Hokkein, Malay conversational 101 lessons! 😀 Well I didn’t put the learning to use after that, but it made me more interested in those dialects. Maybe one day, I will learn one of them properly
- I met a hearing impaired and mute lady who was trying to tell us something, but we couldn’t decipher 🙁 We felt really bad to not be able to help her. But the next day we had a paper and pen. We found out that she likes playing five stones! (Why didnt we think of writing down questions to ask her?) So the facility brought a five stones set for her 😀 Honestly sometimes we need to analyze others’ problems and think of ways to solve them as much as possible
- Good food 😛 HC canteen food, big chicken leg, duck rice!
Well on the 3rd day, we tried starch water and blended diet which patients usually consume. That food really wasn’t appetising and we were wondering how the patients have this everyday.
- Met meet my group: Taichi masters! We created a video talking about ‘dialect lessons’, the story plot was funny but the sound system failed us ): Okay this is supposed to be reflection not journal.
Though the camp was only four days, the lessons that we learnt can be applied in life! Hopefully the campers will utilise those lessons well in the society (: Caring for elderly should not only be contained within the camp or within nursing homes, but should be spread to other areas in life. I realised that I am more sensitive towards elderly’s feelings.
Yesterday, Andrea and I went to an eating shop and saw an elderly eating by herself. We thought about going and joining her. It’s the kind of feeling which we never had before the camp and before we went to ren ci to volunteer. We kind of realised the fact that they might feel lonely and we should empathise with them. Moreover, I felt confident because now I felt more comfortable to strike a conversation with an elderly 🙂 (We can talk about their olden day experiences which are almost always very interesting) However, two more older women came and sat there eating alone too! So we just scraped the thought! If each one of us starts taking the first step to interact more with the elderly outside, other youngsters might be influenced and do the same as well!
There are many elderly in our society who are actually quite approachable but do not show it! There will be more in the future as the society is aging. So if we want to bridge the generation between elderly and youth, we have to take the first step to clear any misconceptions we have towards them! And connect more with them through simple actions like smiling at random elderly on the streets, talking to our grandparents more and even chatting with random elderly at any public area like lifts, parks. The gap will be filled up with patience, understanding and love and elderly and youths can even form friendships!
Really admire those nurses and doctors there, they selflessly gave their time and put in the extra mile to ensure that the elderly are living comfortably there. They had to change their diapers and endure many unpleasant situations. The doctor said that being in elderly healthcare sector is most rewarding and fulfilling because the elderly are really grateful and adorable! (Moreover u confirm wont get retrenched haha thats a joke) but yeah its indeed very meaningful! <3
Story by Jia Qian Lee
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