Treating lonely seniors to chicken rice

This young Singaporean bought 180 packets to cheer up the seniors at a nursing home.

Nigel Chin

Published: 18 March 2020, 12:49 AM

It hasn’t been easy to deal with the fall out from COVID-19 for everyone, especially the elderly.

In Singapore, senior-centric activities have been suspended as part of its measures to curb the spread of the virus. It may not seem like much, but for the elderly living in nursing homes, it might mean that they won’t be able to head out at all.

Realising this, 30-year-old Owen Tan, a Youth Corps Singapore leader, decided to do something. He worked with the Thong Teck Home for Senior Citizens to bring 180 packets of chicken rice for the seniors there on Saturday (Mar 14).

“We initially had a plan to take this group of seniors out for activities, but because of the COVID-19 situation, we had to call it off. But I wanted to do something still,” Owen shared.

“If this situation is going to get prolonged, we can’t just tell the elderly that they cannot do any activities. This group of vulnerable seniors are already lonely and can’t go out on their own or have the choice to choose what they would like to eat… it’s sad for them.”


The volunteers, including Owen Tan, wanted to make a difference for the lonely seniors. PHOTO CREDIT: OWEN TAN


Over two days last week, Owen set up a fundraiser on Facebook and collected more than enough money to purchase the food for the seniors at the home.

Together with three volunteers, Owen bought the packets of chicken rice from the Nur Khairiah stall at Haig Food Centre on Saturday morning and brought it over to the home. They spent about an hour with the elderly at the home – feeding them and chatting with them over lunch.

“I remembered one of the uncles I was feeding, he was tearing because he felt touched,” shared Owen. “They were all very happy. Honestly, this is not the first time we have done this. We have been visiting this group of seniors for some time already, so we know them quite well.

“They were all quite understanding why the activities were cancelled, but at the same time, they were also very appreciative for what’s done for them.”

Owen was also quick to point out that he and the other volunteers took the necessary precaution before heading into the home.


The packet of chicken rice might not have seem much, but it meant a lot to the elders at the home.  PHOTO CREDIT: OWEN TAN


They all wore masks, sanitised their hands, and also minimised physical contact with the elderly. They also cut down on the time spent with the elderly, by going in pairs to hand out the food in the home.

While setting up the entire activity might seem like a lot of work, Owen said that it was “simple” for him as he had experience of coordinating with the home.

What impressed him the most was how others responded to his fundraiser – he had enough money to buy another round of lunch for the seniors, which he will do this coming weekend.

“I find it encouraging during this period to see how united Singaporeans are. It shows that many Singaporeans are not selfish; they are still thinking of the vulnerable out there,” he shared.

“The most important thing now is to allow people to pay the kindness forward, and have the ripple effect. It makes me proud that Singaporeans as a whole are doing this.”

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