IMPACT 0103: ADDING LIFE TO DAYS
Natalie Shou, 20, a university student at the University at Buffalo Psychology program has a heart for the silver generation of Singapore. As she enjoys giving back to the people who built Singapore, she is continuously looking for different avenues to invest in the lives of our nation’s elderly, even going as far as to make it part of her field of study.
Tell us about your volunteering journey!
I began volunteering at NTUC Health Silver Circle, located at Heartbeat Bedok, in 2019. I volunteered there till COVID-19 started and there were restrictions. However, after things stabilised a little, I managed to apply for an internship there for three months.
I began volunteering at the Silver Circle daycare during my second year of polytechnic, for at least one day a week. Whether I had class or not, I would go down to spend time with the old folks. I would play games with the elderly and chat with them.
Later on, when I took up the internship there, the scope of work included more responsibilities such as feeding them and helping to bring them around.
What is the reason you decided to work with the older generation?
My first experience with the elderly in the community was when my church had a local missions program at a nursing home. It broke my heart that most of them were so lonely and appeared as though they had nothing left to live for.
From that day on, I was inspired to help this particular age group as they are so vulnerable. I want to help them see a purpose in their lives and to put a smile on their faces.
How has your experience working with the silver generation been so far?
I thoroughly enjoy being with the older generation! But one major thing I struggled with was having patience. My internship at Silver Circle gave me a chance to work with old folk with dementia or physical disabilities.
I often found myself frustrated as they were harder to interact with. Having to learn how to feed them and move them from place to place, I did feel overwhelmed and stressed out as these types of elderly needed more care than I expected. It was not just fun and games but a continual effort to ensure their safety and well-being.
Taking care of them was a challenge, yet it showed me that this was the very reason why they need people to be with them and cannot be left alone.
Have you ever felt burnt out with all the volunteer caregiving?
Yes, sometimes it can be a struggle, but to see that those I am helping are happy makes all the difference and makes it all worth it. As long as they are happy, I will be happy.
What would you say is one misconception people generally have of the older generation?
Thinking that they have nothing to offer to society. The responsibility to take care of the older generation can sometimes take much effort and get tiring, but it is worth it at the end of the day.
Don’t ever think lowly of the older generation. They have so much to offer despite their age, and there is much to learn from them – I’ve forged some valuable friendships with those I’ve met.
Volunteer caregiving with the elderly has been such a rewarding journey for me and I would not trade it for the world. So, be open-minded and you’ll find yourselves blessed and rewarded in many areas!
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to get a masters in social work after completing my degree in sociology. Thereafter, I hope to become a social worker, either working with the elderly or youth-at-risk.
Having volunteered and been exposed to the needs of society has pushed me to continue this route and be someone who can and will give to others in any way that I can.