COPE organizes its first-ever camp for the elderly, with workshops, competitions and interesting activities for senior citizens.
Contributed By Lau Ber Nard
COPE, or Community Outreach Program for the Elderly, is one of the many services offered by City Harvest Community Services Association with a mission to befriend the elderly in the community and improve the quality of their lives in their golden years.
While events and activities involving the elderly are usually thought to be humdrum and routine, COPE believes in doing things less conventional. In May, COPE held a Mrs. Classic Queen Pageant on Mother’s Day, allowing several senior citizens to experience a make-over, catwalk and a chance to showcase their talents. The program lineup included a percussion group, comprising elderly individuals playing classic Mandarin tunes. In line with Racial Harmony month in July, COPE also organized a Racial Harmony tour, an event which brought the elderly to four prominent places of worship in Singapore to learn about the cultures and faiths of different religions. Their outings this year also included a trip to the Night Safari and a Dumpling Festival block party.
On Sep. 24 and 25, COPE held a two-day-one-night Happy Camp, the first-ever overnight camp for the elderly. The purpose of the camp was to equip elderly volunteers to become more effective in their communication and leadership skills, while promoting personal growth and self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. Said Irene Ho, program manager of CHCSA, “Through the camp, we hope to see the elderly become key volunteer leaders serving in future COPE events.”
The Happy Camp, involving a total of 11 elderly participants and 16 volunteers, started off at the entrance of Iluma Bugis where everyone was given a briefing on the program for the two days. Participants were also informed of their respective groups and some rules and regulations that had to be observed throughout the camp. Each group, comprising up to four elderly participants and four volunteers, were given a total of S$20 to purchase ingredients, table settings and decorations for their evening task—a competition where each team had to prepare two dishes for dinner. The groups had to take into consideration factors such as taste, presentation and budget for this task.
Bustling with excitement, the teams brainstormed on what to cook and how to present their dishes. They were given an hour to scour the area in Bugis and buy all they needed before making their way down to Changi Village together as a team, using public transport. The journey from Bugis to Changi served to help team members get to know one another. Upon arriving at Changi Village, the teams had their lunch and took a shuttle bus to the Aloha Chalets at Changi Village where they were to stay for the camp.
WORKSHOPS, COMPETITIONS AND GAMES
The camp continued with a session conducted by Mary Tay from the Tsao Foundation (a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for older people) focusing on creating a happy mindset in the golden years. Tay highlighted that being elderly does not make a person useless. She encouraged the elderly, saying, “Age is just a number. Yes, it is important to know that certain strenuous work should not be done, but instead of seeing the glass as half-empty, focus on the strengths that you possess. No matter young or old, we all need to choose to see our circumstances, even the bad ones, as an opportunity for growth.” Ler Choon, a 59-year-old homemaker, learned that one who ages gracefully can continue to relay important life lessons to help others through their journey in life.
|CN PHOTOS: Michael Chan & Spencer Soh|
After the session, the participants moved on to the next workshop, one that they had been looking forward to. The workshop was conducted by Stella Goo, a massage therapist who taught them techniques in finger and hand massage. Goo took the participants through the various connections of nerves and muscles to the key joints in the body. She also demonstrated how applying a little amount of pressure on the joints around the thumb can do wonders for the neck. The elderly were understandably intrigued by the workshop, hanging on every word and the techniques that were being taught.
When the workshop came to an end, the participants had to gather in their teams to prepare for the cooking competition. Teams bustled around the chalet, cooking up a storm. In no time, they had whipped up a total of six dishes, scoring on both taste and presentation.
After dinner, the elderly had a short rest before two more rounds of games. Without using their hands, teams had to keep balloons in the air. To up the challenge, more balloons were added by the minute. In another game, teams had to pit their skills against one another in a tallest and strongest tower-building competition in which only straws and sticky tape were provided.
After a good night’s rest, the elderly were up the next morning, energized and ready for a brisk morning walk along the beach, with some easy exercises to help stimulate muscle movement and blood circulation. Following breakfast, a workshop on Becoming An Effective Care Partner was conducted by CHCSA’s program executive, Eden Sim. Sim highlighted the various roles of a senior volunteer, the dos and don’ts as a volunteer, as well as communication skills that a volunteer should possess.
To illustrate some of the points, the participants were divided into their teams for two activities. In one of the activities, one person in the team was blindfolded and had to wrap some items using wrapping paper. Being blindfolded, he or she had to listen to and follow the instructions given by their teammates. This activity reiterated the importance of effective communication in every aspect of life. In another activity, teams had to transport marbles on an inverted cup, balanced on a handkerchief, from one point of the chalet to another. This activity taught the teams the importance of trust, teamwork and having more sensitivity toward their future elderly charges.
The third activity involved wits. With mathematical questions and number riddles posed to them, their timer was a balloon being blown until it completely popped. Team members had to quickly but calmly decipher each question, pick up the corresponding numbers that was laid out before them, and arrange them in their proper order whilst ensuring that the task was completed before the balloon popped.
Participants also discovered their personality traits as Jonathan Goh, program manager of CHCSA, led a session on personality profiling. “The purpose of getting the participants and volunteers to do a personality profile is to provide an understanding of each one’s unique attributes and values, so as to maximize the individual’s contribution to the community,” explained Goh.
The camp ended on a high note with each participant being awarded individual personalized certificates and an affirmation card with a Polaroid picture of themselves, with words of encouragement written by team members.
For Low Pock Him, a 65-year-old, it was his first time joining a camp such as this. He was extremely impressed by how all the activities and workshops were conducted with much thought given to detail. Low is looking forward to future COPE events and intends to bring along a friend to take part as well.