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Sunday, 05 February 2017 00:00

Keeping Lonely Elderly Company during Festive Season

Written by  Loo Chia Chia & Low Siew Lian, Melaka / Translated by Ong Mooi Lin

Volunteers from Bacang mindfully arranged for a Lunar New Year celebration at the Warm Homes Care Centre, with a volunteer dressed as “God of Prosperity” to send blessings to everyone there. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]

Tam Lye Kuan, the hostess, was busily serving the guests at the Chinese New Year get-together, while Cheah Cheh clapped along to the rhythm of the songs… The unprecedented lively atmosphere at Lye Kuan’s home, and the volunteers’ thoughtfully prepared programmes, brought cheers to the lonely elderly.


It is common for the Chinese to enjoy a family reunion meal on the eve of Lunar New Year. Tzu Chi volunteers in Melaka extended their love for their families to others in the communities. Bringing along their family members, they mindfully organized a reunion party for the elderly, who would otherwise be missing their families and feel extra lonely on this festive season.

You are not alone

When asked by volunteers, “Grandpa, normally who do you have reunion dinner with?”
the Grandpa responded with “I eat alone.”

To many elderly who live alone, Chinese New Year is just another day spent alone without companionship or festive dishes.

On January 27, 2017, Chinese New Year’s eve, Tzu Chi volunteers in Melaka specially invited five lonely elderly to a festive reunion dinner at an outlet ran by volunteer Yong Ai Wah. In the absence of their family members, the volunteers’ thoughtful and caring gestures had warmed the hearts of the elderly.

That evening, each volunteer brought from home festive dishes like vegetarian fish, spring rolls and so on. Hosting the dinner at her eating outlet, Ai Wah was seen busily preparing dishes in the kitchen and sourcing dinnerware for the volunteers. Although busy, she exclaimed joyfully, “We are most happy looking at the elderly enjoying themselves.”

When asked, “Are you happy having so many volunteers eating together with you?” Lim Hye Gong, a care recipient, happily responded that the food were delicious. Tan Ban Lee, on the other hand, replied that he was happy to meet and chat with many people.

A blessed Lunar New Year

On February 4, 2017, while many people were returning to their normal routine from the holiday break, a group of people filled the living room of an old-style single-storey terrace house at Kampung Lapan. The house owners, wheelchair-bound Tam Lye Kuan, and her husband, Lim Soon Bee, warmly welcomed the volunteers and three other care recipients.

The couple, who are in their 60s and 70s respectively, are childless and has only each other’s company normally. The arrival of the 32 volunteers that afternoon created a lively atmosphere for the first time since they moved in over a decade ago. The joyful reunion gathering was what the couple had longed for.

Volunteers were thoughtful and creative in preparing dishes for this reunion lunch. There were local delicacies, such as, herbal mushroom soup, beancurd stew, vegetable dumplings, stir-fried vegetables, ice-cream and others; and of course, not forgetting the “yee sang” (Prosperity Toss), which symbolizes auspiciousness. Everyone gathered around the table and tossed the colourful vegetables high into the air while uttering words of blessings, wishing for happiness, prosperity, peace and good health. There were also Jing Si Aphorism bookmarks for everyone to pick from, hoping that the wise words would evoke kindness in all.

Playing hosts to the reunion lunch, the couple kept asking the guests to have the food while enjoying the delicious dishes themselves. Delighted with the simple, yet merry reunion lunch, Lye Kuan expressed, “This year is the liveliest!” and Soon Bee nodded in agreement saying, “It’s very meaningful; very meaningful indeed.”

Joyous ninth day of Lunar New Year

On February 5, 2017, the ninth day of the Lunar New Year, volunteers brought cheers to some elderly by singing a song creatively adapted from a Chinese New Year song by volunteer Tay Yu Sing.

That particular day, volunteers from Bacang organized a Chinese New Year get-together for seven elderly residents at the Warm Homes Care Centre, which started operation in June 2016. Among them was Cheah Cheh, a Tzu Chi care recipient, who was sent to this Centre by his friends as he was living alone and had weakening legs.

Person-in-charge of the Centre, Jenifer Chee Siew Yeong, is a young, jovial girl in her 20s, who treats the elderly like her own grandparents. As Tzu Chi volunteers visit Cheah Cheh on a monthly basis, she conveyed her thought of holding a Lunar New Year celebration for the elderly. As her suggestion coincided with volunteers’ plan, a party for more than 70 people was organized.

With music playing in the background, the children offered the elderly a back massage, and entertained them with songs and dances. Besides steamboat and other delectable dishes, a volunteer dressed as “God of Prosperity” distributed mandarin oranges to the elderly. Volunteers then presented their favourite oldies, tapping on their shoulders and passing the microphone around, getting them to join in the singing and clapping, thereby bridging the generation gap.

This precious moment of the elderly showing their cheerful side made Jenifer’s day. She was glad to have the volunteers there to shower their care and concern on the elderly, thus freeing their minds from undue thoughts. Cheah Cheh expressed his joy for having a jolly time with everyone.



There are many different reasons why the elderly live alone. But one thing is for sure and that is, they all yearn for a lively festive celebration. While celebrating the Lunar New Year with their own family, Tzu Chi volunteers did not forget about these lonely elderly. The happy moments may be short, but they will always be sweet memories to recall, knowing that they are cared for. The smiles on the elderly’s faces, and their courage to leave their comfort zones to contribute to society, are surely sources of motivation for volunteers to continue their charitable mission with perseverance.

 

Volunteer Chiew Lay Hsia is seen here interacting warmly with elderly care recipient Tan Ban Lee, who lives alone, at the Lunar New Year get-together. [Photograph by Loo Chia Chia]   Volunteers thoughtfully prepared a variety of vegetarian dishes for the elderly to enjoy. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]

Volunteer Chiew Lay Hsia is seen here interacting warmly with elderly care recipient Tan Ban Lee, who lives alone, at the Lunar New Year get-together. [Photograph by Loo Chia Chia]
 
Volunteers thoughtfully prepared a variety of vegetarian dishes for the elderly to enjoy. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]
 
Volunteer dressed as “God of Prosperity” presented a token of blessings to care recipient, Tam Lye Kuan, and her husband, Lim Soon Bee. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]   On the eighth day of the Lunar New Year, 32 volunteers arrived at the home of Tam Lye Kuan (in green top) and her husband, Lim Soon Bee, for a reunion lunch. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]

Volunteer dressed as “God of Prosperity” presented a token of blessings to care recipient, Tam Lye Kuan, and her husband, Lim Soon Bee. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]
 
 
On the eighth day of the Lunar New Year, 32 volunteers arrived at the home of Tam Lye Kuan (in green top) and her husband, Lim Soon Bee, for a reunion lunch. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]
 
Children entertained the elderly at the Warm Homes Care Centre with songs and dances. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]   Cheah Cheh (3rd right) and Tzu Chi volunteers had a “toss of prosperity”. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]

On the eighth day of the Lunar New Year, 32 volunteers arrived at the home of Tam Lye Kuan (in green top) and her husband, Lim Soon Bee, for a reunion lunch. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]
 
 
Cheah Cheh (3rd right) and Tzu Chi volunteers had a “toss of prosperity”. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]