While most people accept that ageing is inevitable, the prospect of spending their twilight years in a nursing home fills many with dread. It is not hard to imagine why. The mental associations are gloomy – sterile environments, impersonal care and intrusive communal living.
By tackling these stereotypes head-on, one local nursing home is determined to shift mindsets about residential aged care. Through its human-centred care philosophy, the management at St Theresa’s Home (formerly the Little Sisters of the Poor) firmly believes that as society progresses, nursing homes can be a conducive place for seniors to thrive as they age.
Early on a weekday morning, a group of Colabs participants from various sectors came to volunteer at an equine therapy session at St Theresa’s Home. Standing amidst the lush greenery, it was easy to forget that one was in a nursing home. Perched atop a hill, the sprawling estate’s pre-war architecture offers the warmth and charm of yesteryear, while providing shady nooks for gardening corners cared for by residents.
Joshua Chui, Deputy Director, took the team on his rounds. Calling out and responding to each resident by name, he stopped by Madam Rose (not her real name) and cheerfully asked why she was back on her wheelchair when she could walk the short distance previously. Mr Chui explained that residents are encouraged to carry out their activities of daily living as independently as possible. While there are set times for meals and baths, they are free to choose what to eat, when to begin and end their day, as well as what they want to do in between. Once a week, various groups of residents look forward to their breakfast outing to a nearby hawker centre.
A walk through the airy dormitories provided glimpses of the residents there. Photographs and personal knick-knacks were proudly displayed. The array of colourful bed linen reflected the residents’ individual tastes. Along the way, Colabs participants noticed that beds and wardrobes were thoughtfully angled away from each other, noting the home’s sensitivity towards the residents’ need for privacy.
Finally, at a quiet sheltered shed, two calm and stately horses stood ready for their ‘duties’. Their handlers and trainers from Equal Ark explained the workings and benefits of equine therapy for improving the psychological health of seniors. Working with the residents, Colabs participants were able to witness first-hand how interaction with the friendly animals lifted their countenance and spirits.
It was a thought-provoking morning for Colabs participants at St Theresa’s Home. The home’s commitment towards empowering seniors to live independently, while preserving each resident’s identity and dignity left a lasting impression. Their progressive approach, and vision for creating a community for seniors to age in a ‘home within a home’ encouraged and inspired everyone.
Colabs is a philanthropic initiative by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre. It drives collaboration by bringing together the public, private and social sectors to tackle complex social issues. It enables philanthropists, businesses, non-profits and sector experts to collectively build insights and co-create solutions for lasting change.