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Music Therapy: Bringing Special Voices to Seniors

There is often much talk about creating an inclusive society for people with special needs.

Last week, we met someone who is doing this with the Singapore Special Voices.

Magdalene Wong is not creating an inclusive society by treating children with special needs as beneficiaries.

Instead, she is empowering them to give back to the community, and hone their talents in some way or another.

Meeting the Singapore Special Voices

Last saturday, we brought the Singapore Special Voices to Bright Hill Evergreen Home.

The Singapore Special Voices is a choir made up of special needs children who perform song and dance.

The seniors were very excited to participate in the performance.

The seniors have dementia and they dont often respond very much during volunteer engagement.

But, they were very ready to join in the song and dance segments with the children.

The Singpore Special Voices is set up by Magdalene Wong, a mother to 14 year-old Chalmers. She discovered that Chalmers had moderate to severe autism when he was close to two years old.
The Singpore Special Voices is set up by Magdalene Wong, a mother to 14 year-old Chalmers. She discovered that Chalmers had moderate to severe autism when he was close to two years old.

Motivations behind the Singapore Special Voices

Magdalene was motivated to set up the choir because she strongly believes that special needs children are born with talents.

She believes that they have the potential to do much better, given the right intervention.

Her son’s talent when playing the drums, piano and bowling, or dabbling in art has also inspired her to encourage families with special needs children.

She wants to make music and art either free, or at the very least, affordable for special needs children.

Music is one of the best therapies for special needs children.

The musical performance that they brought to seniors at Bright Hill Evergreen Home was also a great form of engagement.

The seniors were very enaged with the children’s song and dance as they performed melodies that they were very familiar with.

Children do have a magical ability to bring smiles to children. I blogged about a previous visit by children to the home during Christmas.

Challenges to Overcome

However, it has not been an entirely smooth sailing journey for Magdalene.

“As a working Mother with a special child, I face challenges in getting sufficient help and juggling between office work, son, choir and art classes for children with special needs. I’ve to constantly come up with new and creative songs and dance steps, charting choirs schedule and collating attendance,” said Magdalene.

She sources for funds to buy materials such as hand chimes for the performances.

She also gets sponsorship help from family and friends who believe in the project.

The Singapore Special Voices comprises a tight community of special needs children and their parents.

The Singpore Special Voices is set up by Magdalene Wong, a mother to 14 year-old Chalmers. She discovered that Chalmers had moderate to severe autism when he was close to two years old.
The Singpore Special Voices is set up by Magdalene Wong, a mother to 14 year-old Chalmers. She discovered that Chalmers had moderate to severe autism when he was close to two years old.

Magdalene’s Goal

Magdalene’s vision is to develop stage performing talents amongst children with special needs.

She wants to provide an avenue for them to be engaged in meaningful activities.

She believes that this will help improve their social skills and allow them to build self-confidence.

She is already seeing the fruits of her labour as parents have been sharing improvements of their children’s social skills and self-confidence.

Through the choir, Magdalene’s son has also become more sociable and open in interacting with others.

Her dream is to produce albums for the choir and bring them overseas to share this visions with special needs families in different part of the world.

She hopes that the Singapore Special Voices will bring Love, Joy and Hope to the rest of the world.

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Why should you take Turmeric?

I think many of us have heard that Turmeric has been said to improve memory and moods. But, does it really work? How do you take Turmeric?

Joy Julian, caregiver to her mother (right) has seen positive results after giving her mum Turmeric.

I think many of us have heard that Turmeric has been said to improve memory and moods.

But,  a few questions come to mind — does it really work? And, how do you take Turmeric?

Curcumin which is a substance found in Turmeric, is often used in Indian cuisine, where there seems to be a lower prevalence of dementia.

While there is no conclusive evidence that proves Curcumin has a direct effect on dementia.

I believe it’s worth a try.

I came across a post by Joy Julian in the Alzheimers’ & Dementia Caregivers support Facebook group. 

Joy who is from Florida, shared about how she has been giving her mum Turmeric root. She has since seen positive results in her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.

I was quite intrigued by this because I’ve read that Turmeric is great for the mind.

In Singapore, Indians supposedly are less likely to get dementia because they take loads of Turmeric in their food.

I asked Joy if she was okay with sharing her experience and she very kindly agreed. 

1. Tell us about yourself and your experience as a caregiver?

I moved in with my mom six months after my father passed away. I didn’t think that she should be living on her own for the first time in her life at 86.

I didn’t know she had dementia – she was recovering from surgery on her brain. She has a Meningioma – which is a benign tumor on the lining of the brain. It’s been removed twice (it grew back after it was removed the first time).

She managed to bounced back after the first time it got removed.

But, the second surgery seriously impacted her. She currently lives with Alzheimers’ Diease.

We’re not too sure if the tumor was the cause of it.

2.When did you start giving your mum Turmeric root? What made you start your mum on this?

I had read about it, and saw the fresh root at my Farmer’s Market, so I bought some and started giving it to her.

3.You mentioned that she seemed to be clearer, what are your observations of her after taking Turmeric?

Recently, she has been able to dress herself independently. The only help that she gets from me is laying out her clothes.

Before taking turmeric, she was not able to get the sequence of dressing herself right. She sometimes, skips underwear, or ignores the clothes that I laid out.

When left on her own, she usually would wear something like three tops and no pants.

In general, she seems sharper. However, there are still some off days.

Photo by Taylor Kiser on Unsplash

4.How do you prepare turmeric root and how often do you give it to her?

I simmer it in a pan with a little coconut oil and Basalmic vinegar. It doesn’t taste great, but she doesn’t mind.

Sometimes, I give her a piece to chew on, sometimes I mince it and put in her food. She doesn’t object.

I usually give her a few pieces of turmeric in the day.


5. Are there other ways to prepare Turmeric?

When eaten with fat (virgin olive or coconut oil or meat drippings) as is done in India, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby partially bypassing the liver.

A recipe for this is the Tumeric Golden Paste which can be consumed as it is or mixed into rice, dishes or drinks.

Extracted from the article:

What is needed for making Turmeric Golden Paste?

  • 1/2 cup turmeric powder (125 mls) – Use organic powder.
  • 1 cup water (250 mls) or a bit more to get desired paste consistency
  • 1 teaspoons ground black pepper (7.5 mls) (or even 1/2 tsp. if pepper is too irritating)
  • 1/4 cup (70 ml) cold pressed Olive or un-refined Coconut oil – enhances the bio-availability of curcumin another seven to eight-fold

Add turmeric to water in a pan. Heat gently along with stirring. Do this till you get a thick paste, approximately 6 to 10 min. Adjust thickness by adding some water or adding a bit more turmeric.

Finally, add the pepper and oil. Keep stirring to ensure that all ingredients are mixed properly. Allow it to cool.

Bottle in clean jar with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate it for 4-5 weeks or more. (Antimicrobial Un-refined, virgin Coconut oil will help keep it from spoiling sooner). This will ensure you can make it once and use for days.

6. Are there any other natural remedies you recommend for seniors?  

YES – although we haven’t tried, MCT oil is next on my list. I bought it for my son and he LOVES it. 

MCT oil are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid with health benefits like improved cognitive function to better weight management.

also shared about early intervention and how my grandma benefited from taking Coconut Oil here.

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11 Services for Seniors in Singapore

If you are caring for a senior, you may be wondering how to keep your loved ones occupied.

You may be looking for activities, companionship, caregiving or exercise related services for your loved ones.

I’ve compiled a list of options that you can consider. This is definitely not a comprehensive list.

If you know of any services that you think I should add, please let me know!

1. Activities

Activities for seniors
Colouring for seniors is a great activity

I’ve been to AMKFSC’s Senior Activity Hub in Punggol with my grandma. It is quite a positive experience. They have a weekly schedule of activities that range from afternoon exercises, karaoke to arts and craft.

I’m not too sure if all the Senior Activity Centres are open to everyone though? According to Singapore Silver Pages, you have to meet their eligibity criteria and apply first.

There’s too many senior activity centres that it’s impossible to list them all. But, you can definitely look for one near you with the help of Google.

Some of the Senior Activity Centres that you can consider are Hovi Care  and SASCO.

2. Exercise

Exercise gyms, services and programmes for seniors in Singapore.
Exercise gyms, services and programmes for seniors in Singapore.

There are a few exercise options for seniors.

Enabling Village ActiveSG Gym

Extracted from their site — This space was set up by SG Enable, a government-established body that is dedicated to enabling people with disabilities. This is the first inclusive gym where people with disabilities, seniors and the able-bodied can come together to work out and participate in selected sports programmes together.

It is near Redhill MRT station.


Extracted from their site — The ASPIRE55 Introduction Programme is designed to help you improve on your muscle strength and balance after 10 weeks. Over 150 older adults have graduated to date. You will experience our small group strength training programme twice a week, led by an ASPIRE55 trainer. Each week, learn new exercises that will assist you with falls prevention, improvement of balance and muscles strength.


1 Commonwealth Lane #08-34
One Commonwealth
Singapore 149544

Gym Tonic

I’m not exactly sure how Gym Tonic works but I read about it in the news previously.

They offer strength training for seniors using gym equipment (I think). I believe that they are still in the pilot phases but you can still sign up if you’re keen.


One of our friends in our Fighting Dementia group shared that she tried  silver circle active sg gym, enabling village active sg gyms and ASPIRE 55. She prefers ASPIRE 55  even though it has  a higher price point. Because, the trainers are extremely encourging and hands on.

Her mother works on core mobility, stretching and exercising smaller muscle groups during these sessions. They are important muscles becuse they support the larger muscles.

It’s a good mix of machine, stretching and very light weights. Cardio wise, they will do up a health check and advise accordingly.

3. Befriending & Care Support

Seniors need to feel a sense of belonging is the third highest in the Maslow's hierrachy of needs, after safety and phsyological.
Seniors need to feel a sense of belonging.

If your loved ones require companionship, caregiving, nursing or physiotherapy at home, you can engage services via online sites such as JagaMe or Homage.

If you’re looking for  active rehabilitation, community nursing, and personalised dementia care, you can check out NTUC Silver Circle.

There’s also organisations like AWWA, TOUCH Community Services, NTUC Health and Home Nursing Foundation that provide care in varied forms for seniors.

There’s also Senior Day Care options that range from $900 to $1500 monthly and provide exercise, personal care and social and recreational activities. You can apply here.

4. Seniors with dementia

Five big insights into alzheimers/ dementia?
Five big insights into alzheimers/ dementia?

Seniors with dementia can try out Alzheimers’ Dementia Association’s Families of Wisdom programme which is a small group programme where facilities will engage caregivers and seniors in activities.

Seniors are broken into small groups based on the severity of their condition, and their various interests.

Montessori for Dementia Care also offers sessions for seniors to exercise their memory, staying creative, and purposefully active with the goal of continuing to learn and live a life of dignity.

They have an Activity Centre, providing daily 3-hour sessions with diverse activities, with group or individualised sessions. Activities like cooking, music, arts and crafts, exercise, and conversation offer a diverse and social experience.

AWWA Dementia Day Care also offers a programme that aims to help seniors in slowing down the progression of the condition.


I believe that there are many more services out there? And, I may have barely scratched the surface.

But, the objective is really to list some available services out there in case you’re looking for something.

I’ve also heard about the red tape involved in getting seniors placed in some of these programmes.

So, I guess if you’re waiting too long to hear back from one service provider, maybe you can try other services?

Let me know if I got anything wrong of if you have anything that you want to share.

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Early Intervention: Does Hua Hee help your grandma?

After experiencing the pain of dementia at home, Christel Goh creates games for people and communities to engage seniors.

When i share with others about my card games, many often ask, “So, your grandma is better now because of your card games?”

To which, I would reply that my family does many different things, in the area of early intervention.

In this blog post, I share about the various lifestyle interventions — food, activities, exercise and social inclusion.

Through all of these, we’ve seen an extremely positive change in my grandma.

Here’s some context:

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

My grandma showed early warning signs of dementia two years ago. She got agressive. She had signs of short term memory loss and suspicion.

This was unsual because she’s usually very sharp and is very mild mannered. But, my mother was very determined not to let her “get” it.

My grandfather had dementia more than five years ago. It was a time where there was much less knowledge/support on the condition in Singapore.

Lots of Research

My mum did extensive research on dementia — from understanding the condition, how it occurs, how to prevent and slow it down.

While many people would say that it’s impossible to reverse the condition of dementia, we’ve seen vast improvement in my grandma. Although, we’ve never gotten her diagnosed in the first place.

The positive change in her memory, behaviour and temperamant shows us that early intervention is really important.

I feel that many people in time starved cities like Singapore dont have the time to watch for behavioural changes in their loved ones, much less embark on early intervention.

People may only see the need to intervene when the symptoms of a condition become servere. By then, it may be too late? I don’t know.

Here’s what my family does for my grandma:

1. Food

Coconut oil is great for persons with dementia or show early warning signs of dementia
Coconut oil is great for persons with dementia or people who show early warning signs of dementia. 

My mum is very health conscious so my grandma eats homecooked food everyday.

My family also hardly eats rice so we limit her rice intake.

Even when she does eat rice, our rice at home is a mix of white, brown rice and barley.

My mum is also against processed food so we don’t really eat things like luncheon meat and spam. (haha)

According to my mum, if whatever you’re eating doesnt have a face, it is processed.

We also take loads of spices in our food like tumeric, cinnmon etc. Tumeric is one of those things that appears to be good for the brain.

My mum also read about the benefits of coconut oil for the brain. Since then, my grandma religiously takes  a spoonful of coconut oil everyday.

While there isn’t sufficient research to back the benefits of coconut oil, there are many stories of it benefiting others online.

We’ve also seen a significant change in her memory and disposition ever since we got her started on coconut oil.

You can get coconut oil at a DISCOUNTED PRICE HERE.

2. Activities

We thought about what would be able to engage her or keep her occupied.

During the daytime, both my parents are at work and if we didn’t find things to engage her with, she would just stare at the tv screen or spend her time sleeping.

One day I brought home the Secret Garden colouring book. She got really intrigued by it.

She spent a long time colouring when we got her the book.

Over the next few days, she stopped staring at the TV screen. She would be colouring all day and night.

To date, she’s gone through many colouring books. We now have stacks and stacks of her coloured books.

Helping her find an activity that she enjoys and keeping her occupied has been one of the best things ever.

Some people have told me that it could be because when i was little, she would be colouring with me.

So, it could be an activity that brings back positive memories.

I’m currently trying to find other ways to engage her so she is continuously exposed to different things and is kept engaged. But,she doesnt seem to be interested in other things. I’ve tried crossword puzzles, drawing etc.

If you’re looking for activities to engage seniors, you can check my games out HERE.

3. Exercise

Last year, she fell down at home a few times. Those were scary experiences. We struggled with getting her off the floor . Thank God she wasnt hurt in those episodes.

Those were signs that she needed to gain strength in her legs. My mum then found some chair exercises off the internet. We got her to go to the psyiotherapist who directed us to those exercises too.

Getting up from a chair is an exercise that she is supposed to do three sessions a day (10 times at each session).

At first, she really struggled to get up and took quite a few seconds trying to get up from the chair.  After doing it regularly, she has progressed quite well. She can now get up without supporting herself with her hands.

The speed at which she gets up from the chair has also increased quite a bit. This shows that she is much stronger in her legs now.

I shared about how consistent exercise helped her gain strength in her legs previously.

4. Social Inclusion

Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash

What she gains out of 2 & 3 is social inclusion. It has been reported that hearing loss can lead to dementia and it’s easy to imagine why.

We often have to speak very loudly, slowly and repeat ourselves multiple times for my grandma to hear us.

You can imagine a setting such as dinner – everyone is in the midst of a conversation, but the senior who is hearing impaired is physically present but he or she can’t get involved because they can’t hear.

The need to feel a sense of belonging is the third highest in the Maslow’s hierrachy of needs, after safety and phsyological needs. If they can’t get involved, they can’t feel like they belong.

My mum also gets her to walk around the house everyday after dinner. She always sings and prays with my grandma regularly. We also try to bring her out for walks whenever we can. She’s not very mobile so she cant leave home on her own.

But, she’s very sociable by nature and can strike up a conversation with literally, anyone.

The simple activity of going down to the park gives her much needed sunshine, fresh air and conversations with neighbours.

She also gets to play with pet dogs if the neighbours bring them down.


These are simple everyday things to do. But, many times its really about discipline and commitment. What works for us, may not work for you… I encourage you to just keep trying different things. You may only find something that works on your 99th try.

I started on a Preventing Dementia Mooc and you can read my learnings here and here

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Seven resources for people caring for seniors

Seven resources for people caring for seniors

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

If you are caring for a senior or a loved one, you probably have many unanswered questions.

Questions that come to you in the middle of the night. You wonder if anyone goes through the same challenges as you.

If other caregivers also encounter the problem of having the smell of pee everywhere in the home. Or, if they struggle to respond when their loved ones start hallucinating.

This is why I put together a list of seven resources for caregivers.

Since I started the Fighting Dementia Facebook Group,  I’m always on the look out for caregiver tips, resources and various things to share in the group.

Here’s a compilation of some of the sites that I follow. I hope they help you on this journey too.

  1. Daily Caring

This is probably my favourite resource for seniors because it’s really informative. It’s targeted at the family caregiver.

You can subscribe to their mailing list and they will send you weekly (I think) emails. They cover a wide range of topics. In their email, they focus on a topic for the week, and include other recommended readings.

Here are examples of their recommended readings.

Recommended reading:

  • 4 Tips for Managing Multiple Health Conditions
  • 7 Tips for Helping Seniors at the Doctor’s: Being a Health Advocate
  • 10 Medications Seniors Should Avoid Taking
  • How to Approach Someone with Dementia: 6 Tips for a Positive Care Experience [Video]
  • Celebrate Father’s Day with 18 Gifts and Activities for Seniors

2. Golden Carers

Golden Carers offers activities for seniors. They have a list of free activities and there is also a subscription fee where you can pay for more activities. But, many of their activities are quite targeted at the western audience. So, they may or may not be relevant for seniors in Asia.

3. Activities for Seniors Facebook Group

This is a group created by the people who started the Golden Carers. There seem to be many individuals who work at senior facilities. They share the activities that they organise at their centres. Some of them have really creative activities.

It is also quite interesting to see the effort that goes into creating these experiences for seniors. It is a closed group so you have to request for access into the group.

4. Alzheimers and Dementia Caregiver Support Facebook Group

This is quite a big group of caregivers to loved ones with dementia. Most of the caregivers in the group are from America. They are very open about their sharing and it can get quite emotional. But, many people in the group are also very encouraging and comforting.

Many of them seem to be dealing with loved ones in the moderate to severe stages of dementia. If you’re looking for an outlet to share your struggles, you can consider joining the group.

5. Caregivers Connect Facebook Page

Caregivers Connect is a Facebook page set up by AWWA. It shares news, stories and tips for caregivers.  They share content very regularly. And, much of the content is relevant to the Singapore audience. This is a great page to follow for updates in Singapore related to caregivers.

6. Project We Forgot

Project We Forgot shares stories of caregivers to persons with dementia. Many of these stories are inspirational.

Project We Forgot shares stories of caregivers to persons with dementia. Many of these stories are inspirational. They depict the dedication and sacrifice that caregivers have to make for their loved ones. They also organise sessions for caregivers in Singapore to come together.

7. ProjectCare

ProjectCare shares caregiver stories, tips and tricks and resources like How to videos. Its a resource for seniors.
ProjectCare shares caregiver stories, tips and tricks and resources like How to videos. Its a resource for seniors.

I just found out about Project Care recently. It’s managed by the same person who also runs Ageless Online. They share caregiver stories, tips and tricks and resources like How to videos.

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Consistency means running for the long haul

I grew up wanting things fast. But, i've learnt that consistency means running for the long haul. Pick yourself up if you fall.

Photo by Alex wong on Unsplash

I grew up wanting things fast. In an efficient city-state like Singapore, everything comes to you with a click of a button. Words like “persistence” and “consistency” seemed like text book stuff that I could never really relate to.

But, seeing my grandma gain strength in her legs reminds me why consistency needs to be celebrated.

In the book Originals: How Non conformists change the world, studies showed that geniuses like Thomas Edison and Einstein had stellar work not because they were once of geniuses but because they had a huge body of work, this resulted in there being a higher probability of  success.

So, it’s about trying and trying again until something works out.

Consistency builds muscle

This is a story of my grandma’s strength journey where she gained strength in her legs. My grandma is 81 this year.

The past year, there had been a couple of instances where my grandma fell and had trouble getting up. I shared about how we learned to help her get up by watching youtube tutorials previously. We thank God that she wasn’t hurt in those falls.

But, those falls sent a warning that we needed to do much more. She currently uses a walking frame to move around the house. And, much of her strength is in her upper body. She uses her arms to support her with the frame as she moves around. But, her gait isn’t steady.

So, my mum did alot of research and found chair exercises that seniors can do to improve strength and stability in her legs.  A friend in our Facebook group suggested that we raise this when my grandma goes for her regular check-up. We went to a phsyiotherapist and they also directed us to those exercises.

When she first started, she struggled to push herself off the chair. But, now she can stand up from the chair, without the support of her arms. And, she can do this eight times in a row!

This wasn’t achieved in a day. It was through consistent practice over many months. It really shows me that we can do anything we put our minds to.

She progressed from pushing herself off the chair once to pushing herself off the chair multiple times. We encouraged her to do the exercises almost everyday (though it doesnt always happen).

My mum then thought her to get out of the chair without the support of her arms. And, then she progressed to doing that multiple times.

Important to give yourself a break

My grandma requires quite a lot of nagging before she exercises. She’s quite resistant to this. So, I usually insist that she exercises even though she says no.

But, I’ve learnt that it’s important to read her expressions when she’s incredibly reluctant or tired and just give her a break.

After all, we don’t want her to feel tortured in her golden years.

This is something that I try to do with Play Huahee so that I don’t feel emotionally drained too. It’s incredibly disappointing when you don’t see success even after giving a 100%. And, you would naturally fall into a downward spiral.

But, I’ve learnt that this journey of mine is a marathon. Consistency means running for the long haul and not sprinting. You need multiple breaks. And, you need to give yourself a break.

Maybe, I’m speaking to myself as I write this.

Pick yourself up if you fall. And, we try again the next day.

You should never run alone

I say “we try again the next day” because it’s incredibly difficult to embark on a journey of consistency alone. You need the encouragement of those around you.

If my grandma didnt have our encouragement (and nagging), it would probably be a very different story.


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