Care for the Aged - International Perspective

Ms Clara Bleger, a 3rd year social science major with University College London, joined us for a 4 week attachment - Aug-Sep, to gain insights to how a typical Singapore based IPC charity is run, from strategy development to operational activities on the ground. A french national who grew up splitting her time across Shanghai, Singapore and now London, this article is contributed by her.

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Having always been interested in the charity and the NGO sector as a future career, I was very grateful to be offered this internship opportunity at Blossom Seeds. My role as an intern was a mixture of office work and fieldwork to be able to understand how strategic decisions affect the hands-on practical work and vice versa, and understand overall how to run such an organisation.

This internship was also the first opportunity I had to really interact with the elderly population. I have been studying about ageing populations and their consequences, but my time volunteering gave me a different perspective. Going to one-on-one visits with Blossom Seeds beneficiaries and hearing their stories helped me see the issues they face every day; health, mobility, loneliness, lack of independence, lack of help. Blossom Seeds not only provides services to help with the practical side of their lives, but also provide companionship. Whilst they may be beneficiaries and need our help, one very important thing I saw during my volunteering is that my interactions with the elderly goes two ways. I could help take them to appointments, push their wheelchair, carry their groceries, but they also had a lot to teach me. Many of them lived through the second World War, they saw many changes in Singapore and had very interesting stories worth listening to.

 Working closely with local communities in Singapore also made me realized how well and quickly the city is adapting to its elderly population. Having lived in different countries (such as France, the UK, China) allows me to compare different governments’ methods in this area. First of all, I was very impressed by the hospitals I visited. They were very well built, with pleasant architecture and lots of greenery, and I was told some people went to the food courts there even when they had no hospital appointments. This helps take off some of the stress of going to hospital for patients, making them more comfortable and also improves the mental health of more long-term patients.

Second of all, many apartment blocks have a local clinic and an activity centre nearby. They offer both physical activities as well as social time, which helps the elderly maintain their health as well as make friends, both of which contribute to better mental health. Volunteers are either from a younger generation, which helps bridge the generation gap and keep younger people involved in the well-being of the elderly, or are also elderly, which encourages them to give back to the community in whatever way they can. This is also reflected in Blossom Seeds, as they hope all their current beneficiaries will in turn also become volunteers and give back to those in need, encouraging the elderly to look after themselves. As the number of elderly is growing, this is a very smart and sustainable strategy for the future.

 This was overall an eye-opening opportunity, both personally and professionally, and I am very grateful to Blossom Seeds for their warm welcome, for all they have taught me and for all that they do to give back to the community.

pei shan leow