Learning > Inspiration

Raising a Toast to the Kopi Buddy


Real Stars E-Magazine


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The keenness to keep discovering new things makes life an invigorating journey. What keeps life engaging is the inclination to share these discoveries with other people. These intrinsic predispositions make Stephen Low a much-sought after individual amongst his peers.


“Curiosity might have killed the proverbial cat. But in my case, it has kept me alive, ticking and triumphant!” laughs 70-year old Stephen Low. In fact, he has been a curious cat since his childhood days in Kampong, where scraped knees and bruised elbows were run-of-the-mill affairs for him. Be it conquering the Bukit Timah hills or exploring McRitchie Reservoir and Pulau Ubin, Stephen won it all.


Even today, he reminisces about plucking fresh fruits in hilly areas, or waiting for a ripe durian to drop in the night. His competitive streak came forth when he vied with his friends to catch the biggest fish, spiders and butterflies. Later, this spirited attitude resulted in him joining the school’s table tennis team, and going on to win a championship in 1957.


Always ready for action, Stephen worked in various industries: ranging from manufacturing, to shipbuilding and petroleum, finance and insurance, and F&B, in varying capacities. Throughout his career, he maintained his thirst to pick up and share new skills with those around him.


Since he was an excellent coordinator and loved the outdoors, Stephen organised several excursions and overseas trips for the youth club during his early working life. His simplicity and friendly demeanour attracted lot of likeminded people. That is when he discovered something about himself – he loves being around people and inspiring them, in some way or the other.


With this realisation, Stephen decided to keep himself engaged in activities that would help him stay active and meet his contemporaries in the process, even after retiring. “Engaging with people at activity communities I was involved in, such as walking or outdoor pursuits, was not just my way of being vigorous, but also of keeping my mind recharged,” Stephen shares. In his quest to find interesting ways to live a meaningful life, the enthusiastic nature lover found what he was looking for in a buddy network for seniors called Kopi & Toast programme.


Conceived in 2013 by Council for Third Age (C3A), Kopi & Toast programme aims to promote smooth transition into successful ageing through the development of friendship, where a trained “Kopi” voluntarily pairs with newbies “Toast”, supporting them in the journey to self discover an active interest.


Kopi & Toast provides a fulfilling experience for both the Kopi (seniors who have successfully found their ways to live meaningfully and step forth to help other fellow seniors to make a difference in their lives) and the Toast (seniors who are keen to discover an active interest, however unsure of where to start). “It was just the thing I was looking for when I retired,” says Stephen who has successfully groomed one of his Toast to become a Kopi buddy. This Toast buddy was a classic example of one who re-lived his childhood experience through this journey.


The ever-enthusiastic Stephen trained to become a Kopi buddy, which enabled him to lead a group of fellow seniors in various activities. Together, they shared their stories, experiences and knowledge to make gettogethers not only enjoyable but also extremely enriching. Sharing his love for nature with fellow Toast buddies not only gives him joy, but also an immense sense of satisfaction. Stephen feels that when one shares knowledge, vision and values, one automatically creates a circle of people who will further share their passion. This circle keeps growing, thereby creating a community of positive thinkers. To ensure that the Kopi-Toast buddy relationship works well for both Stephen and his buddies, he often gets them together for walks along nature trails. But before he takes his mates for these outings, he does a recce on his own to understand any difficulty or danger involved.


“Just like, in adventures, a buddy system keeps us away from dangers as we look out for each other, the Kopi-Toast relationship helps us enjoy the diverse interests together, which makes it more fun and meaningful.” he commented.


Besides engaging his Toast mates in outdoor activities, Stephen also keeps them involved in various mind and soul enriching experiences through educational, social and musical events. Once every while, they just meet to have lively Kopi-time conversations which keeps their minds stimulated.


When asked about how being a buddy to people his age was different from guiding younger people, Stephen said, “Younger people tend to be more flexible and agreeable to go along with what you haveto share. Coaching mature adults can be more challenging and I need to be flexible, compromising and accommodating. It is a humbling experience for me and I have benefitted by learning to be extremely patient and tolerant.”


Now that he is living his life to the hilt, Stephen exhorts his fellow seniors to forget about their age and focus on their health. “Stay positive and keep yourself engaged in various activities. It’s not important to do things to escape boredom, instead look at these activities to make your life an enriching experience,” he stressed.


Stephen’s curious streak continues to manifest itself. And he harnesses it by figuring out innovative ways to keep his Kopi-Toast mates involved in newer and more challenging discoveries.


Source: Real Stars E-Magazine

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