You are here

TAKING HEART

DBS, Lions Befrienders launch Singapore's largest-ever virtual befriending initiative

The virtual befriending initiative aims to help ease social isolation and loneliness among seniors amid Covid-19

BT_20200615_VADBS15_4145055.jpg
Following a successful pilot programme, the virtual befriending volunteer initiative - LB Virtual Befriending@ SAC (Senior Activity Centre) - will allow 1,000 at-risk seniors to interact with 1,000 DBS volunteers in activities such as online conversations, sing-along sessions and games.

BT_20200615_VADBS15_4145055.jpg
Following a successful pilot programme, the virtual befriending volunteer initiative - LB Virtual Befriending@ SAC (Senior Activity Centre) - will allow 1,000 at-risk seniors to interact with 1,000 DBS volunteers in activities such as online conversations, sing-along sessions and games.

Singapore

DBS and Lions Befrienders (LB) will roll out in early July Singapore's largest-ever virtual befriending volunteer initiative - LB Virtual Befriending@ SAC (Senior Activity Centre).

The project aims to tackle social isolation and loneliness among seniors, and 1,000 DBS employees will engage the same number of senior beneficiaries till August 2020 through activities such as online conversations, sing-along sessions and games.

The programme is a culmination of pilot sessions run by both organisations since early June, and helps widen LB's potential pool of volunteers by enabling more people - including those with mobility issues, transport issues, who are immuno-compromised or those who simply have little time to spare - to connect with beneficiaries remotely.

Tan Suan Heok, senior vice-president at DBS's Technology & Operations and an active DBS volunteer with Lions Befrienders since 2015, said: "Over the years, my colleagues and I have developed strong friendships with the seniors at Lions Befrienders, simply by lending them a listening ear and bringing them out for fun activities that they enjoy … With safe distancing measures in place, such activities are on pause. I'm glad that this initiative still allows us to interact with our senior friends online. At the end of the day, what matters is that we can be there for them to help make them feel less alone."

Since February, LB has conducted twice weekly check-in calls following the cessation of activities at SACs and noticed a gradual decline in the seniors' emotional and mental health.

During the eight-week circuit breaker period, LB was alerted to four attempted suicides among their seniors - up from the average of one attempted suicide every three to six months prior to Covid-19.

And despite the recent reopening of nine SACs, LB continues to face challenges in giving visiting seniors the full attention they require due to constraints on the number of on-site staff.

Anthony Tay, chairman, Lions Befrienders, said: "While we have reopened our doors, we found that our seniors long for human interaction more than anything else, especially when socialising is currently not encouraged. This LB Virtual Befriending@ SAC programme adds a bright spot to their day and gives them a sense of purpose as they embrace and adopt technology into their lives. We plan to continue to grow and expand the virtual befriending programme even after the guidelines on social distancing are relaxed."

Greater societal awareness

Shee Tse Koon, DBS Singapore country head, said: "We can all empathise with the emotional impact of social isolation. Pre-Covid, this was something that many seniors in Singapore had already been experiencing involuntarily, and the lack of online access or smart devices among seniors is now making it even more challenging for them to connect with others. We are glad to continue our long-running outreach efforts with LB through our People of Purpose volunteer movement, to ensure that the seniors who have been pivotal in building our nation are not neglected during these trying times . . . Our hope is this initiative will go on to catalyse greater societal awareness around at-risk seniors and action among fellow Singaporeans."

The initiative will potentially reach out to LB's pool of some 6,000 seniors in future.

BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to t.me/BizTimes