Dialects are an integral part of Singapore culture: Singlish is a mesh-up of the various dialects and we all know the kopitiam lingo for ordering coffee.
However, the younger generations, and I speak for myself too, are often called “bananas” or referred to as people who “jiak kantang” (eat potato) for being “yellow” with our Chinese skin colour but very much Westernised in our thinking and way of life.
Not many of my friends are able to communicate well enough to converse in dialect.
Yet, Chinese dialects are used in our everyday speech, regardless of race, and there are also Indian and Malay dialects that are lesser known today.
This Rice Media article sums up the importance of knowing our dialects quite clearly, that it is so much part of our culture that without knowing how to speak it, we lose footing as a nation.
However, apart from the seemingly drastic repercussions of not knowing how to speak our dialect, let’s get down to the basics on why we should learn our dialects – communicating with our grandparents.
I live in a three-generation household with my grandmother, and sometimes, communicating with her can be difficult.
Even with my average ability to converse with her in the Hokkien dialect, some things are just easier to say in English.
However, some seniors are not as fortunate, and we find ourselves looking at our phones when visiting our grandparents.
Having no one to communicate with them clearly and effectively can be alienating for our seniors.
Imagine going to a foreign country and being unable to talk to anyone even for a day!
It sounds extreme, but as society slowly slips into speaking only English, seniors who do not know how to will find it difficult to express themselves well, leading to miscommunication.
Being able to properly converse with our grandparents also opens many doors of information.
They hold a wealth of history, not just family stories, but also national history.
Stories of olden day Singapore and living through the Japanese Occupation become alive to us, other than just reading from the Social Studies textbook.
They become a common topic to talk about and we get to learn so much more from them, bridging the generation gap.
Those studying in the healthcare sector are also taking up dialect classes to better communicate with seniors, especially when advising them on their medical needs and health concerns.
Pharmacy students, as well as social work and medicine students are picking up the language especially as our population ages.
Taking care of their health requires us to communicate well with them, and learning dialects will be a great way to start.
Aging is tough. We need to find ways to bring joy back to our seniors.
Last week, my grandma had quite a bit of difficulty getting out of the room. She fell the day before. Although she had no injuries, it made her weaker.
It was an intense and stressful situation getting to the dinner table. My family crowded around her. We had our hands all around her to support her as she painfully took each step to the dining table.
She had furrowed brows and perspiration dripping down her face as she inched forward. There was alot of yelling as we tried to help her navigate. (My grandma has difficulty hearing) It was uncomfortable for all of us.
For her, in that moment, she was frustrated that she lost the ability that we all take for granted daily. The ability to move around freely.
For us, her family, watching her struggle was stressful. One filled with emotional loss. Not knowing what to do and also fear of what more this grim journey of aging would bring.
After dinner, she wanted to go back to her room and call it a day. But, I told her to stay to play bingo with us. She was reluctant but I persuaded her to.
As we played the game, she laughed when she could find items on the bingo sheet. That was the first time she laughed in two hours of being in pain and struggling with her mobility. Aging is tough for seniors and the family members.
If you can find a chance, break away from the tense situation and laugh. Find something to laugh about. Maybe it’s a game, a story from a past or a joke.
Aging is what it is.
And, we must find a way to laugh, cheer and encourage even when there’s nothing to laugh about.
We may lose our abilities physically. But, may we never lose our ability to connect emotionally and just laugh.
Buy our games for seniors here. Take the stress away for a while. Make them laugh while you can.
Are you looking for activity ideas to engage seniors in Singapore?
You may be looking to engage someone at home, or maybe, you’re planning a visit to a nursing home or senior activity centre.
Fret Not! Here’s some activity ideas for you.
When we think of caregiving, it is often about ensuring that our loved ones’ physical needs such as safety, food and hygiene are met.
But, what about their psychological well-being?
A recent study
shows that seniors who are more engaged socially, are less likely to show a
decline in activities of daily living.
Before we lose the ability to communicate with our
loved ones, it’s important for us to continually find ways to engage them.
We can change the way that we administer care by
injecting fun activities into our routines.
Here are 17 activities to get you started on this journey!
Table top activities are ideal for
seniors who are less mobile as it requires very minimal upper body movement,
while being easy to facilitate with a set of structured rules for the group to
Some popular table top games to play with seniors include Snakes & Ladders, Chess, Checkers or Scrabble. For the local table top games, try Hua Hee, Five Stones, Country Erasers or Kuti-Kuti.
Activities To Improve Cognitive Function
Cognitive engagement activities can serve multiple functions including serving as a positive distraction, improving moods and enhancing coping efficacy – all of which can help to enhance a senior’s wellbeing and reduce their health problems. Conditions like dementia or anxiety can be improved with memory games that challenge and improve mental alertness
Puzzles are great for self-enrichment
and aiding in problem-solving skills, especially for seniors who want a sense
of control and taking charge of something without the need of a caregiver by
Not forgetting that sense of accomplishment when they’ve placed in the final piece to the puzzle! When deciding which puzzles to prepare for seniors, go for easy-to-piece puzzles with pictures that are colourful, easy on the eye or familiar scenes like holidays or the different seasons.
A popular local game to keep the brain supercharged, Mahjong’s tile-matching game not only helps to regain physical agility in the arms when they rearrange or discard tiles, it also helps to keep the mind more mentally sharp while aiming to complete a set. It’s a low-cost leisure activity that is great for nurturing social interactions and mental training.
3. Card Games
Card games are so versatile, involving as many people at once and can be played anywhere. It’s a great way to socialise, easy to pick up and keep the mind razor-sharp. Some of the more popular games to try include Bridge, Jin Rummy, Go Fish, or local ones like Huahee Matchoonary, Huahee Snap, Happy Family or Old Maid.
When choosing card games for seniors, you might want to consider using large-sized playing cards with large prints or fonts that is friendly for the eyes and hands of seniors.
4. Draw On Your Head Game
As strange as the name of the game sounds, this is
one of the more exciting activities that will be sure to energise the group and
get everyone laughing no matter how great their drawing skills are.
Plus, it’s a great game to improve the motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
To begin, each participant will need to hold a
paper plate on their heads and follow along to the instructions given to draw!
– Draw a line
– Draw three circles on top of the line
Draw a sun on the top left
Activities For Creativity and Freedom of Expression
Therapeutic recreation can contribute to the health and happiness of seniors, especially when it involves their commitment, personal views and meaningful affirmation of valued self-attributes.
5.String Art Ice-cream
activities especially art that you can take home is a fun way to inculcate your
own personal flair while at the same time creating something tangible you can
share with family or friends, or as a gift idea. This string art ice-cream can
be cultivated as a month-long project, where individuals can regularly come in
to string in each segment based on the colour scheme they’ve chosen for the
ice-cream. Though this activity requires more preparation and careful guidance,
it’s a really great activity to showcase one’s skills and aptitude.
Painting is a great diversion
activity for seniors and a channel for expressing their inner most thoughts and
emotions. Besides improving hand-eye coordination and serving as an
occupational therapy, creating art can help with self-empowerment too. Types of
painting activities include acrylic, watercolour or oil painting.
For seniors with moderate to severe dementia with issues using a paint brush, you can perhaps hand them a sponge or get them to engage in finger painting.
A fun and easy activity to
learn, cross-stitching is great for improving one’s concentration skills and
hand eye coordination.
It’s a great project that can keep individuals occupied for months while patiently stitching the thread onto the canvas. There are varying cross-stitch kits with patterns, shapes or photos, designed for both the elderly and beginners.
8. Folding Origami
Complete with a set of
instructions and a multitude of crafts you can make, folding origami is a
practical activity that can be repurposed as wall art.
It’s a wonderful hobby that
can be undertaken solo or in a group with many benefits – resulting in a three
dimensional form with just a piece of paper!
It also hones imagination
and creativity skills as they create their colourful masterpieces.
For Greater Social Interaction & Relationship Building
Having company is often overlooked – since most of their day-to-day needs or recovery is done in isolation. One of the most effective ways we can help to alleviate their feelings of isolation or frustration is by simply showing up and providing companionship in a group setting!
9. Pass The Cling Wrap Ball
group activity is an easy game to start while having the excitement of a prize
at the end! Before you start this game, make the cling wrap ball first!
loads of cling wrap and prizes.
Start by wrapping one prize up.
Add another prize in the second layer
Continue adding other layers and other prizes in
between the layers
can make it as big as you want!
by getting everyone seated in a circle and give one person a cling wrap ball,
while the person to their left has a bowl and dice.
objective – completely unwrap the cling wrap ball to reveal a prize, while the
person on the left tries to roll doubles to get their turn!
are many variations to this game and it’s ton of fun that requires very little
is a fun activity that focuses on self-discovery and reminiscing through shared
by giving one person in the room a box filled with random pictures of the past,
and get them to pull out a random picture and share anything that comes to
example, pictures of old buildings or kampong estates, food like kueh lapis or
ang ku kueh, or games like gasing (spinning top) or five stones — remembering
the things we enjoyed in our younger days are often fond memories to look back
This rendition of the horse racing game is a fun activity
for the elderly in nursing homes or assisting living. Start by having everyone
in a line as the ‘horses’ in the race.
Then, give each
each person the chance to throw a live-sized dice, followed by moving the
number of spaces corresponding to the number on the dice.
This is followed through by the rest of the group, until someone reaches the finishing line first!
13. Name 5
The ‘Name 5’ game is a simple mind-stretching game that
serves as a great ice-breaker game with no set up required.
Start by giving a subject, and the group has to name five
items for that subject! Some ideas for categories include favourite food, MRT
stations, places in Singapore etc.
Other variations of this game is called ‘Word Chain’, where the player starts by saying a word, and the group has to name another word that relates to the previous word ie. (Ocean – beach – sandcastles – mat – picnic – apples).
14. What’s In The Bag?
This is a great guessing game
that can help to engage train problem-solving skills. Choose a colourful bag
and put in random objects to
guess like coins, utensils,
keys, clothes pegs etc. You can also switch it up and place in objects that are
reminiscent from their past for a more meaningful experience.
Light exercises such as
going for walks, aqua jogging or seated chair exercises have multiple benefits like improved
mobility, joint flexibility, agility, balance and much more. Here are some
other activities to make it more fun and exciting!
Big groups can engage in these activities that require more upper body movement.
15. Balloon Volleyball
rules are simple, keep the balloon in the air!
challenging their agility, balloon volleyball is an engaging activity that can
help seniors relive their younger days and evoke feelings of pure child-like joy.
It’s a fun activity that fosters relationships while improving the mental and emotional well-being.
16. Seated Noodle Hockey or Floorball
A twist from the classic sport, Noodle Hockey/Floorball can be played seated making it ideal for seniors with low mobility. Start by giving out different coloured pool noodle floating aids to each team (to serve as the sticks) which you can get from Daiso, and line the participants in a row on each side.
You can use soft plastic beach balls or balloons as the puck, and get each team to score a goal at the end! To make it even more exciting, toss in a few balls or balloons at once and watch the adrenaline kick in!
Prepare different sized baskets and assign points to each basket. The smaller baskets would be more difficult and thus, have higher points.
In this game of bean bag toss, seniors can score points by getting their bean bags to land in the basket with varying target sizes. It can be played both standing or sitting and are particularly suitable for those who may not be intrinsically motivated to get some exercise.
With so many different
ability levels, it can be easily adjusted for seniors to work on different
skills like balance, upper lifting, hand balance and target aiming.
Keith Jonathan is a thrill-seeker and adrenaline junkie who makes the best of his creative misdirection in his narrative. When he’s not chasing the dream of a wanderlust adventure, he enjoys spending his time dabbling in unsolved mysteries, conspiracy theories and paranormal pursuits.
We create localised games and activities for seniors. It’s time to engage them socially. Buy our games here.
Smol tok is everything that cards against humanity is not.
Nicholas created smol tok as an ice-breaking and community-building card game designed to grow meaningful conversations, trust, and relationships – minus the bullshit.
Every card is a question, and every question is a peek into what makes us human.
1. How did you get started with smol tok?
I was reading viktor frankl’s man’s search for meaning, everyone should read this book at pivotal moments in life.
I was heavily inspired and influenced by his teachings about how the search for meaning and purpose is essential for every human being to not only survive but thrive, and find happiness in life.
Questions are an important tool in this endeavour, and I had created a bunch of questions for myself as a personal heuristic.
Someone I knew saw it and incepted the idea of making it accessible to others who might need it.
I experimented with some designs and put it in a shop. It slowly grew from there organically.
2. How long has the journey been and how has it evolved along the way?
I was still working at my day job when I released smol tok in 2015.
Did it at night and on the weekends in 2015 and 2016. Passion project really.
I wasn’t looking to start a company or a line of products. Just wanted to make stuff that helped people like me find meaning and purpose in their relationships, work, life, etc.
But, sometime in 2016, I took a 2 month long break and went on a backpacking pilgrimage.
The extended time away from what we consider normal in Singapore brought increasing clarity to me.
I decided I needed to redesign and reprogramme my life, and reorient it towards work that was truly meaningful, that I could uniquely carry out.
I returned to Singapore, quit my day job, and started to feel my way forward with smol tok.
Since then, I’ve released one new deck every year, with plans to do so for the next 6 years.
The whole creative process is life-giving to me, and I have a blank slate to create in Smol Tok.
I’ve also met many like-minded and talented people along the way, and together with some of them, are working to spin off and create other kinds of meaningful games and content.
3. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
An ongoing challenge is getting folks to get into the habit of asking questions about their own lives with the intention of getting clearer about what truly gives them meaning and purpose, and not simply cruise along on autopilot.
The Singapore narrative that we’re schooled in is based on a pretty narrow definition of success – the material sort.
I suspect many folks feel trapped in this narrative; some time away on retreat and a few honest questions directed at oneself could help folks write their own narrative, one that’s uniquely tailored to them as individuals.
4. What are your upcoming plans for Starknicked? (It’s pronounced ‘stark naked’)
Expansion. Building a community of folks who seek greater meaning and purpose in life.
Also, there are five more decks of smol tok I need to bring to maturity, including one on work, one on travel, and one on ecology.
Plus a new family of card games rooted in my family’s Peranakan heritage.
Tan Shao Han, 37, and Alanna Yeo, 34, Co-founders of Curious Chimeras
The Curious Chimeras focuses on the art of storytelling via unique experiences that encompass strong narrative, tabletop games, art, and culture.
Through Curious Chimeras experiences and games, players can adventure fearlessly, engage in meaningful interactions with others and ultimately build a community that allows for exploration, self-discovery and the understanding of new and different perspectives.
1. How did you get started with Curious Chimeras?
Shao: Curious Chimeras began with a passion to share the joy of roleplaying games with different people around me.
I was mostly working with kids, and enjoyed adapting and creating roleplaying games into simpler, more robust forms for their enjoyment – that was when I realized I found this process of game-making to be very fulfilling on a personal level.
That realization led me to focus on creating more games, and pushing myself into these endeavors.
Alanna: I joined Curious Chimeras because I have a passion for incorporating play and storytelling into our daily lives.
I had found it joyful to create ‘gameful’ experiences previously, for areas such as education, mental wellbeing, personal communication etc.
When Shao shared with me his vision for Curious Chimeras, I found that it was something I was immensely interested in, so here we are writing games and experiences for a living!
2. How long has the journey been and how has it evolved along the way?
Shao: We incorporated at the beginning of 2018, and we have been operating before this as a community of playful volunteers that uses games to help kids learn and bond with one another.
In the past, we were more of a loose collective with an interest in play, while now we are more of a focused company with an emphasis on creating playable experiences.
3. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Shao: Writing and publishing roleplaying games requires a lot of different skills – just like playing and running them!
I’ve had to become familiar with a lot of different skills like typesetting, graphic design, and the operations of a small business, while also reading and playing a lot of different games to get a better idea of my own visions and voice as a game maker.
As for how I overcame this – it’s just a matter of putting in lots of time, energy, and focus, I guess! 🙂
Alanna: In general, starting a business is never an easy task; immense discipline and communication is needed especially in a business run by more than one.
So far, I think Shao and I work very well together in terms of how our different skillsets complement each other, and most importantly, that the two of us are both direct and honest in the way we communicate with each other.
4. What are your upcoming plans for Curious Chimeras?
We are publishing a few roleplaying games in a mix of the Old School Revival (OSR) and narrative-driven ‘storygame’ style.
The first is “Tales of Saintrest”, a game of mythic fantasy about mortals and spirits in a world healing from a war, and we are also working on products and modules for other roleplaying engines and systems.
On the other side, we also develop and provide corporate services – we design and use roleplaying games to encourage teamwork and bonding in fun and immersive ways. Call us if you’re interested! 🙂