Learning > Nostalgia

Talking to seniors about the old days, with nostalgia kit

Photos of bygone lifestyles, places help care workers, volunteers engage them more deeply

Melody Zaccheus on 22 Nov 2017

The Straits Times


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As a child, to contact her friend living a few floors below her flat, Ms Maria Yee would open the flap of her unit's rubbish chute and yell into it.


This was way before the age of mobile phones, and Ms Yee, 60, recalled the inventive ways friends stayed in touch, when prompted by photos of games from the past.


She said: "We had to get creative and innovative, using our surroundings to keep ourselves entertained."


The photos are part of a new conversation starter kit launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) yesterday.


Ms Yee, a senior from Touch Senior Activity Centre, said the kit helped to structure some of her memories and recall forgotten moments. The retired laboratory technician recounted how she was lost as a seven-year-old, but found her way back home after approaching a police officer.


She also remembered how floodwaters the colour of "Lipton tea" became a swimming pool for children, despite the dangers. She said: "We had such wild days and stories. We were bold and adventurous."


The kit features 40 photos, mainly from the 1950s and 1960s, with the images split between two booklets - one on lifestyle and the other on places. They have been designed as prompts for volunteers and eldercare workers to use while engaging the elderly on heritage topics.


The lifestyle booklet includes photos of a mobile tea stall, charcoal stove, meat safe, spittoon and Setron television set. The other booklet features sites such as Happy World Amusement Park, Capitol Theatre and a village in Seletar.


Targeted at the elderly, it was co-developed with the National Council of Social Service and a number of social service organisations including Care Corner Seniors Services, Sage Counselling Centre, Touch Community Services and Yong-en Care Centre.


The kit will be made available to about 60 eldercare centres next year. It will also be available for use at the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, the Malay Heritage Centre and the Indian Heritage Centre in January.


Touch's senior director of social work and programme development, Ms Julia Lee, who is the project leader, describes it as a facilitation tool with multiple purposes.


She said it enables volunteers to go beyond basic greetings and engage the elderly in more meaningful conversation. It also helps the elderly stimulate their minds. The conversations that follow contribute to the elderly person's sense of dignity, according to Ms Lee.


The kit is also one of NHB's initiatives under its Our SG Heritage Plan. Announced earlier this year, the plan aims to make heritage more accessible to Singaporeans and to map out a national vision for the museum and heritage landscape.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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