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HomesingaporeRemembering the good old days: NHB pilot uses heritage resources like murals...

Remembering the good old days: NHB pilot uses heritage resources like murals to engage seniors

SINGAPORE – Former Commonwealth resident Tee Tong Hua, 83, fondly remembers the bowling alley below Queenstown Cinema, which she used to visit some 40 years ago.

Despite moving to Pasir Panjang a few years ago, she still visits Commonwealth frequently because of the memories and friends she made there.

Ms Tee was part of a group of 20 seniors aged 60 and above who took part in a walking tour of housing development SkyVille@Dawson on Dec 19. Together with 10 volunteers, they viewed wall murals by local artist Troy Chin, depicting scenes from Dawson and Queenstown’s past and present.

These include scenes of void deck and hawker centre activities, and the present-day Dawson neighbourhood with iconic landmarks such as SkyVille@Dawson and Alexandra Canal Linear Park.

The session was part of a pilot programme launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and FaithActs, a non-profit community care service, which wants to tap existing heritage resources in the neighbourhood to improve the well-being of seniors in Singapore.

The Heritage for Well-Being programme is part of NHB’s efforts to pioneer heritage-based interventions for health and well-being under the recently launched Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0, which charts the way for Singapore’s heritage and museum sector over the next five years.

In total, three pilot sessions will engage about 60 seniors, and the programme is expected to be officially launched in the middle of 2024.

NHB’s deputy chief executive Alvin Tan said it hopes to extend the sessions to more parts of Singapore and work with other social service agencies.

The mural scenes were selected because they were familiar to the seniors, he said.

“(We) felt that they can spark memory recall and help seniors generate conversations with volunteers and among themselves.

“What we wanted to do was to increase opportunities for group-based heritage and cultural activities for seniors and, in doing so, we really hope that by participating in these activities, we increase their sense of social connection with other seniors, with volunteers in the community, and contribute to their overall well-being,” added Mr Tan.

The programme also involves a rooftop tour on the 47th floor of SkyVille@Dawson, where seniors can enjoy scenic views.

They were later invited on a catered bus to FaithActs Centre in Commonwealth where they could draw images inspired by the walk to be printed on tote bags to take home.

The 90-minute styrofoam printing workshop was conducted by a certified art therapist, and aims to improve the seniors’ motor skills and provide an outlet for their creativity.

Ms Chow Wai Fong, 72, who has not done art in many years, said her favourite activity of the day was “playing around with paints”.

“It’s good to go to the murals and see the pictures, and I can chat with others about the old days,” she said, adding that she hopes more of such outings can be organised for seniors.

“They can be taken out for an outing to socialise, and they would be very happy.”

Madam Siti Mohd Nor, 74, has lived in Commonwealth, which is part of Queenstown, since her 20s, and has watched her children grow up there. She said she has many good memories of the area, especially with its wide array of food options.

Describing the food depicted in the murals, she said food plays a big part in the Singaporean identity.

Similarly, the murals elicit fond childhood memories from Ms Tee, who reminisced about her kampung days of catching earthworms, climbing trees and plucking guavas to eat. She recalls having a close encounter with a water snake as she went into a river to catch fish.

So much has changed in the Commonwealth estate, she said. “I’m happy to see memories from the past so beautifully carved into the walls.”

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