Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A ride down memory lane

Stories that build bridges between young and old
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 11 Mar 2013

Generation gaps, language barriers and racial differences have not posed a problem for retiree Wan Po Man, 67, and Outram Secondary student Shanger Punnerchalvam, 16.

They meet regularly, exercising and playing games like five stones together. Shanger also often helps Madam Wan with grocery shopping.

Madam Wan said: "I don't have any grandchildren or children of my own, so I really enjoy spending time with him."

With 24 other youth-senior pairs, they went for a trishaw ride around Chinatown yesterday. This was part of the Riding Down Memory Lane event, organised by The Silver Yarn Project, by four final-year students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University.

Launched in January, the project aims to foster intergenerational bonding through the sharing of the elders' life stories.

"We believe that a story is the shortest distance between two people, and that it is a doorway that connects one generation to another," said Mr Nicholas Teo, 25, one of the students behind the project. The others are Miss Sarah Wan and Miss Regina Koh, both 22, and Mr Alan Choong, 24.

The project was inspired by the "not-in-my-backyard" phenomenon last year, which saw some residents in certain estates opposing the building of elder-care facilities in their neighbourhoods.

The team wanted to change negative mindsets towards the elderly.

While most of the participating youth rode trishaws with their grandparents, some pairs, like Shanger and Madam Wan, were not from the same family.

They met last May through the Grandparent Fostering Programme started by the Jalan Kukoh Residents' Committee, Jalan Kukoh Seniors Activity Centre and Dr Lily Neo, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Shanger said he initially thought the elderly were "tiresome and nagged a lot". But he has since learnt to appreciate them, and his own grandparents, he said.

Some of the life stories can be found on and on Instagram under the hashtag #SilverYarn.

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