Friendship Alone is Enough

Sep 05, 2018   |   By: Mira Kahar

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There is no end to news relating to eldercare in Singapore.

But of recent years as mental health is brought to the forefront, there has been recurrent talk on chronic loneliness and depression that casts long shadows over the silver days of seniors.

And it kills. Literally at a record high of 129 lives ripped away as of last year.

Loneliness works in tandem with companionship – the more meaningful relationships are, the less lonely we are.

So we sat with a senior – volunteer pair from our Support Our Pioneers programme to learn their thoughts on it. Seated on worn, beaten furniture in an immaculate living room with the morning sun spreading its warmth on the cool tiled floor, we began our heart-to-heart talk.

 

Let’s talk about companionship. How do you understand this word – companionship?

[Senior]

Maybe to a young, healthy person, they might not think about it much, or for them it is not important to learn from.

But from our side, we are lonely. We have sickness, we need help, and at that time we really need the companionship. In our hearts, it is really hopelessness. We’re not really useful, and maybe we think of committing suicide – we have this sort of mindset. Why don’t we just die?

The government takes care of us, gives us subsidy for lots of thing. But our heart is lonely, and no one will subsidize for that.

So we need the companionship. For somebody to at least talk to us, check on us whether we’re okay, and if we need any help. It is important if we got any problems, at least we have somebody to share, and will give us encouragement to make us happy!

 

Who do you talk to whenever you feel sad or have problems?

[Senior]

I go to the day care center. I will talk to the people there usually, so it’s not so bad. Sometimes if I really have any problem, we can talk to the person there, especially when there was a time I really wanted to commit suicide. So it is really important to us to have friendship.

Sometimes, I see a lot of people sitting alone. It is not easy to see it here. A lot of lonely old people gather around, and they don’t know what to do. It’s a poor thing.

 

Do you think the young people now have meaningful relationships?

[Senior]

Yes, just like how the old people needs friendship, young people need friendship to talk about study problems. Last time when I studied, I also had problems talking to someone about it.

Everybody has their own problems. The only thing is, some people don’t want to share openly, so people have to come to them to talk about their problems. Or else, they will just keep these problems inside their hearts. People could end up in mental care centres because they cannot handle them.

[Volunteer]

Yes, that’s true. I also want to share something about my generation.

I think there is a lot of opportunities for youths to meet different groups of people. For a typical Singaporean that goes to school, we have friends from CCA groups on top of our classmates. There are a lot of times we can meet like-minded people.

So maybe back then, there were less opportunity to meet different groups of people? We are fortunate now being able to expand our social circle. But if we keep meeting the same group of people, so we won’t be able to meet people from other backgrounds or ages.

So take companionship to another level is to step out to meet people with different backgrounds.

 

Do you think we are able to share our problems so freely?

[Elderly]

Singaporeans they don’t like to share their problems with other people so easy. For example, I have not met you. I don’t know how you are as a person. I won’t share things with you, and will keep things to myself.

But I’m that kind of person. I don’t share out loud.

My father was a very strict teacher, and he didn’t like noise. If you talked or made noise, he would shout ‘quiet!’. So that’s why we were always quiet and talked little.

And he didn’t want me to be with my friends after school. He would chase them away and asked them to return home. Most children nowadays just need to focus on studies, but for me, I needed to cook for the family. I felt that my father was selfish, and that changed my character.

 

How about someone being physically there for you, even if there is no conversation?

[Elderly]

It helps. For example, when my parents passed away, I felt very lonely, but I had a friend to accompany me. I feel secure even if they don’t talk a lot.  At least there is someone who can take care of me by being by my side.

 

How do you find the company of the volunteers that visits you?

[Elderly]

Elderly – The volunteer is good. At least I have someone to talk to and keep me company. If I have problems, I can share them and they can help to solve the problems. For example, SingTel came and fixed the adapter for me but it was still not working so the volunteers lent a hand.

[Volunteer]

One of the Nanyang Junior College volunteers was from AVA club. He was good with devices and helped her with the cables.

[Elderly]

Yes, one person might not know how to do it, but another can do it. Just nice, the volunteer had the skills to help out.

 

Whatever the volunteers are doing right now, is it sufficient? Do you need something more?

[Elderly]

I think it should be enough.

 

And as a volunteer, how do you find the company of the seniors?

[Volunteer]

It is a good experience. Seniors have a treasure house of knowledge, valuable for people of my age who have less experiences. It is an eye-opener. So hopefully my visits to you are beneficial.

[Elderly]

If you have the heart to visit the old people, we would be very much delighted.

[Volunteer]

For now, I can’t do much. I can only offer you friendship and companionship.

[Elderly]

Friendship alone is enough for me.

 

Recruitment for Support Our Pioneers 2019 is now open!

Know more on how you be a companion to our seniors here.