Every morning, Ming Hui looks forward to his work as a Senior Programme Assistant at a Seniors Activity Centre, where he plans and carries out programmes that help keep our seniors active and engaged. Hear what he has to say about the role he has taken on in the successful aging of seniors.
I work at a Senior Activity Centre in Toa Payoh. My work involves the planning and carrying out of programmes to help keep our seniors active and engaged. This includes activities like exercises, art and dance classes, news sharing and games, which encourage them to interact with one another while keeping them mentally agile. Besides working with the seniors, I also work hand in hand with schools and social service organisations to plan various programmes.
What led you to join social service?
While I was serving my National Service, I began thinking about which field I should study and work in. After giving it much thought, I realised that what I really want is a job that motivates me. I personally find it rewarding to be able to serve the needs of others.
What is the significance of your work?
I’d like to think that my work has led to some improvement in the quality of the seniors’ lives - physically, mentally and socially. Whenever I see them become more active – be it helping to rearrange the chairs and tables in the centre or delivering dinner to the less mobile – I feel happy that I am able to play even a small part in their successful aging. Once, a client from my exercise class stayed back to thank me, telling me how she has a better sense of balance when taking the bus or train now. For me, the surge in her confidence that she is in better control of her own life – that’s the best example of successful empowerment.
What’s the biggest challenge you face at work, and how do you overcome it?
Being firm - as we are brought up in a culture where talking back or even telling a senior what to do is considered disrespectful. So as a young adult, getting the seniors to listen to me and comply with my instructions was initially quite challenging. But later on, I saw the bigger picture and understood how being firm was necessary for the activities to run smoothly. These activities include cognitive games like “Spot the Difference” and “Charades”. By making them spot the difference between objects, the first game enables seniors to sharpen their observational skills, while the second game, “Charades” helps them to communicate their thoughts via actions and expressions based on their analytical abilities. Some seniors were initially reluctant to participate in the activities, but I overcame this by forging a relationship of trust and respect through time spent listening to their woes and meeting their needs. As a result, they were more accommodating and willing to participate in the activities.
Tell us something about your colleagues and workplace?
My colleagues are very helpful and I can always count on them to lend me a hand. For example, if I am not familiar with a certain dialect that a senior speaks, they will act as my translator. We also share all our knowledge freely. While we may run our own programmes, we always cross-learn from one another, so that no one activity is entirely dependent on a single individual. We enjoy each other’s company and often meet up for exercise or dinner after work. So, I would say we are more like family than colleagues, and my workplace has the familiar feel of home.
What advice would you give to fellow social service professionals to carry on in the face of challenges?
I’d say: Learn to look beyond ourselves. As small as we might be individually, the seeds we sow everyday can bear many fruits in the lives of those we care for. Like growing a plant, we need time and patience to see growth and breakthroughs in them.
Ming Hui’s colleague, Angie, sharing some toast with seniors on a break from the day’s programme.