Heritage tours led by seniors for seniors launched
Having lived near Balestier for much of his youth, retiree Jerry Low, 65, thought he knew the area like the back of his hand.
But he was surprised to learn the elaborately designed Sim Kwong Ho shophouses in Balestier Road used to be owned by a Nonya - hence the Peranakan motifs on the shopfronts.
"I was shocked. I've been passing by the shophouses for years, but I never knew the owner was a Nonya," said Mr Low.
Mr Low learnt that while training to be a senior ambassador for Reminiscence Walks, a new heritage tour programme for seniors by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and Sage Counselling Centre.
Today, he is one of 10 senior ambassadors who take their fellow senior citizens on a guided tour of Balestier every month.
The tours were officially launched yesterday, with Mr Low and his fellow guides taking the first batch of seniors on a visit to historic sites and traditional businesses in the area.
Each tour lasts four hours, and each group has about 20 seniors. Tours will also be rolled out next year in Kampong Glam and Little India.
The programme aims to help reduce the social isolation of seniors-at-risk. It also allows seniors to help their peers by being guides, said Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community.
The places were chosen with the aim of triggering memories among the seniors, enhancing their mental agility, he said.
"We wanted to take participants out to explore the precinct and reacquaint them with the heritage," said Mr Tan.
For example, as part of the Balestier tour, senior citizens set off from the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall to tour the intricately designed Sim Kwong Ho shophouses.
They stop at Lam Yeo Coffee Powder, a traditional coffee grinder, and the old-fashioned Sweetlands Confectionery and Bakery. Retiree Koh Kee Seng, 70, who took part in yesterday's tour, said it was interesting to see how bread was made the old-fashioned way.
Triggering old memories could help slow down the onset of early dementia, said Ms Shannen Ang, centre manager and senior counsellor of Sage Counselling Centre.