Last week, the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) asked me to do a sharing on Play Huahee.
This was for ASEAN students who travelled to Singapore for SUSS Social Innovation Programme.
It was a really fun experience hearing from a room full of students from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore.
Facilitating discussions and hearing from these students gave me a much broader perspective on ageing, in the context of ASEAN.
I shared with them about Play HuaHee’s journey in ideation, testing, prototype and launch.
Beyond this, I also facilitated discussions among the students on their personal experiences with seniors, and ageing in their own countries.
It was so much fun interacting with the students.
One of the organisers at SUSS shared with me that the objective of the programme is not for the students to come up with a solution.
The focus is really for the students to learn design thinking skills that they can bring back to their countries, and also to form strong friendships in the region.
Here are the three things I learnt through the session:
Aware of the Pains of Ageing
The students who attended this session indicated ageing as one of the top issues that they were concerned about.
When asked to identify a senior who they know and the challenges that he or she faces, they were all very ready to share either about their grandparents or seniors in school or at nursing homes.
Some talked about mobility issues, dementia and also isolation.
They were very aware of the challenges that seniors faced. It was quite obvious that these issues meant quite alot to them and they wanted to find ways to help them.
Some difficult moments include a Malaysian student sharing about how she had to watch her grandma go through dialysis.
Another student shared about “Uncle Rojak” who had to work long hours selling Rojak because he needed to care for his spouse.
Governments see Ageing as an Issue
I shared with them about the different avenues of support for seniors in Singapore and facilitated a discussion on the similarities and differences of aging in their own countries.
The students shared that there are care homes (nursing homes) for seniors in their countries as well. However, the seniors who go to care homes are either very wealthy or homeless.
The students also talked about the negative stigma around care homes — it being seen as a place where people leave their parents if they are no longer able to care for them.
The provident fund system where the government institutionalises savings for retirement is also present in some ASEAN countries.
The government also gives out cash bonuses to support seniors and the underprivileged.
Varying levels of Support
While there is support for seniors in different ASEAN countries, all the students agreed that much more can be done.
One of the students from Thailand shared with me that ageing is only seen as a big problem in Singapore because it is a developed country.
He said that there are many other issues that his country is concerned about because they are still developing.
It made me look at things slightly differently.