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Apr 8, 2017

More seniors stepping up to help

The young student teaching the elderly grandmother how to use the computer.

(Source: The Straits Times, 18 June 2012)

Over 100 take training course to become more effective volunteers

By Leslie Kay Lim

More than 100 people have taken part in a programme rolled out in February 2012 to train older people to become more effective volunteers.

The scheme, called RSVP Senior Volunteer Training Centre, is offered by the Organisation of Senior Volunteers (RSVP) in response to a growing interest among those who want to help in their golden years.

The programme is designed to motivate volunteers, teach them about the realities of what they are getting into, and help them do a better job.

It consists of communication and time-management workshops, as well as discussion of volunteerism."

"Over the years, people have said they wish they were more prepared," said RSVP first vice-president Ngaim Tong Yuen of volunteering.  "The programme is a natural progression."

RSVP, a non-profit group with more than 1,000 members, was set up in 1998 to encourage senior citizens to stay active, Mr Ngiam added that many organisations may not be utilising this group to their full potential, and described them as an "under-tapped" segment of volunteers.

This may be because recruitment efforts have focused on the younger generations, though their commitment has been called into question.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing expressed concern that young people who take up causes may not continue from 6 per cent in 2001 to 22 per cent in 2010.

For the 65 and above group, growth went up from 4 per cent to 10 per cent from 2004 to 2006, and hovered at around 10 per cent in the following years.

In addition to having more time on their hands, the elderly - especially the ageing babyboomers - are now healthier and more educated than the generation before.

In terms of their value as "a rich pool of volunteers", NVPC chief executive Laurence Lien noted that "older workers have been described as reliable, competent and dedicated".

"They need little supervision and make good colleagues," he said.

Retired civil servant James Seah, 63, picked up new interests and friends after the National Library asked him to blog for its "iremember" project.

In addition to posts about events in the past like the Bukit Ho Swee fire for the library, he has maintained his own blog at since 2007.

There are many more like Mr Seah who want to make a difference.  Said Mr Ngiam: "They want to be useful and they want to help others.  They have the skills and life experience that they want to pass on to younger people.

"And they would like to be viewed as a national asset rather than a burden," he added.



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