During the festive lunar new year period, Tzu Chings from the Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) brought cheer to the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home residents. The day dawned bright and clear on 21 February 2016, and the Home was filled with laughter that Sunday afternoon.
Tzu Chings started preparing the giveaways for the residents a week before the event. Taking into consideration that some of the elderly residents could not consume Mandarin oranges due to health reasons, they crafted handmade versions instead as gifts. With close to five hours of handiwork put in, lifelike “Mandarin oranges” that were symbolically rich with thoughts of blessings and love were created.
On 21 February, members of the organizing committee arrived at the Home early at 10am, to decorate the surroundings and to rehearse their programme for the day. Though it was a hot day and there were space constraints to think of, the Tzu Chings were filled with energy and enthusiastically ran through their programme with the person-in-charge at the Home.
“We hope that the programme we’ve prepared can bring cheer to the elderly residents, (and they can) enjoy an unforgettable new year!” said Dai Ming Han, a Tzu Ching coordinator who had the role of the “Big Head Doll” in the lion dance item.
When the programme started at 1pm in the afternoon, the Tzu Chings and the elderly residents sat down together to watch the performance. Emcees Lin Zi Xiong and Xu Wei Bin spoke in Hokkien, Cantonese and other dialects in order to cater to their elderly audience.
The programme opened with a lion dance and “Big Head Doll” performance and though the performing team did not have much practice, they succeeded in bringing smiles to the faces of the elderly folks. The “God of Fortune”, too, played by a volunteer school facilitator, did his part to bring cheer by handing out well wishes together with the craft oranges.
A Special Performance for the Elderly
Many of the Tzu Chings were in the midst of preparing for their exams, but they still made time to come up with a varied programme for the residents. Tzu Chings from the National University of Singapore presented familiar Chinese New Year songs on stage, to which the elderly residents showed their enjoyment by tapping their fingers along to the tunes. Nanyang Polytechnic Tzu Chings presented a skit about a meeting between the Monkey King and “Liang popo (a familiar local comedy character)” and the jokes earned much laughter and applause from the audience.
Xiao Ji Xiang who played the role of the Goddess of Mercy, was not proficient in dialects but spent much time learning how to deliver her lines in Cantonese. “The elderly folks are actually more focused on the feel (of the whole play) and will not be too focused on my accent. Though my lines were not delivered fluently but as long as the audience enjoy it, I am happy to be able to perform (for them).”
Xiao has never missed an opportunity to participate in a care visit to such institutions and likes to interact with the elderly here. She learnt how to communicate with the elderly and feels happiest when the elderly folks lose their reservations and chat with her.
During the performance, the lights tripped but the Tzu Chings continued with the show calmly, mindful that they were there to bring joy to the residents. Volunteers from other charity groups who were present watched the Tzu Ching’s performance and wanted to join in too, and the organizing committee took the initiative to invite them to perform together with the youths on stage.
A Meaningful Way to Pass Time
Apart from putting up a performance for the residents of the home, the Tzu Chings also spent time interacting with them. Li Yu Hui from NUS was busy preparing for her exams but decided to participate in this meaningful activity. “The elderly residents here are warm and friendly; I try my best to visit them when I can,” she said.
Zeng Xiang Li has started working, and even with her busy hours as a nurse, she makes it a point to drop by for visits—all because of her promise to the residents to “see you (all) again.” In fact, she has even taken on the responsibility as the activity coordinator.
For first-time participant Huang Zhong Li from NTU, a simple new year greeting was his way to get the elderly to open up. When he spoke to them, he squatted down so that he could communicate with them in a more personable manner. While watching television programmes with them, he also kept up a narrative of the events on screen so that the elderly folks could understand. Though sometimes he did not get a response from them, he was never disheartened and showed his concern for them through smiling. “Whenever I see their smiles or get a cheery reply, I would feel that what I do is especially meaningful.” This warm interaction also made Huang think of his relatives living far away from him.
The day’s events brought satisfied smiles to the faces of the elderly residents. Their smiles and praises showed the joy in their hearts. Many of them grasped the hands of the Tzu Chings tightly and thanked them. Grandma Pan was pleased that the youths had spent the day with them and her eyes reddened during the rendition of the Tzu Chi song entitled “Love and Care.” She even expressed looking forward to their next visit. At the close of the day, the Tzu Chings carefully wheeled the elderly folks in their wheelchairs back to their rooms and mutual goodbyes were said.
It has been half a year since the Tzu Chings started their care visits to the Home, and they have built up relationships with the elderly residents to the point that the latter can converse freely with them. With youthful effort, they have built up “love credits” that help bridge the barrier of any age gap.