SPEECH BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT THE LAUNCH OF THE NATIONAL SENIOR VOLUNTEER MONTH 2015 A ON 4 SEPTEMBER 2015

Mr Koh Juay Meng
President of RSVP Singapore

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


It is a great pleasure for me to join you today to launch the inaugural National Senior Volunteer Month (NSVM), organised by RSVP Singapore to promote senior volunteerism.

Seniors Tomorrow : A New Social Force

Last month, Singapore celebrated our golden jubilee. We have achieved much over the last five decades both economically and as a society. The success we have today is the fruit of the labour of our pioneer generation.

Many in our pioneer generation will continue to play an important part in nation building. Though Singapore is faced with a rapidly aging population, our seniors in the next one to two decades will be healthier, more active, and more talented. We are already seeing the emergence of a generation of “modern active agers” in Singapore – older Singaporeans who are more educated, more confident and with so much more to offer.

Let me give you one or two examples. Ms Noorjahan binte Kamaruddin, who is 55 year old this year, is a wonderful example. She joined RSVP last year when she decided that it was time to give back to the community. Wanting to put her years of experience as a trainer and tour guide to continued good use, she chose to volunteer with RSVP's Senior Guiding Programme. Her volunteer duties at Changi Airport include greeting visitors, offering directional assistance and helping travellers to utilise Changi airport's vast array of facilities and amenities.

Another example is 66 year old Ms Lily Kow, an avid volunteer at the Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS). After working for more than 35 years in the banking sector as a secretary, she has been serving at WINGS in various roles including as lead volunteer coordinator, trainer for the balloon sculpting class and “ChairXercise” Coach. Lily is passionate about reaching out to more women through WINGS, to encourage women to live active, meaningful lives and stay engaged in the community and society even as they age

Over the past year, the Ministerial Committee on Ageing held close to 50 focus group discussions and reached out to over 4,000 Singaporeans and grassroots leaders. Many seniors say that with their children grown up, they now have time to contribute more to society as volunteers – both to pursue meaning in life as well as to stay in touch with society. Some think that by volunteering, they are acting as role models to show the young that one can contribute back to society at any age.

This can-do spirit is what brought us to SG50, and we should empower older Singaporeans to continue to play a part in building Singapore. Through senior volunteerism, we can harness the immense creativity, energy and talents in our older Singaporeans. Through senior volunteerism, older Singaporeans can be a positive new social force in our nation building beyond SG50, helping to drive our nation forward in the years to come.

In this regard, it was a far-sighted decision in 1998 to set up RSVP to promote senior volunteerism. The founding members of RSVP, who are from the Pioneer Generation, wanted to use their wealth of talent and life experience to serve the community through purpose-driven volunteerism. Seventeen years on, RSVP with the support of corporate sponsors and a strong pool of over 1,000 committed senior volunteers, provides a diverse range of programmes and activities, serving over 150,000 beneficiaries. Run by senior volunteers, the objective of these programmes is not only to give retirees meaningful retirement that keeps them healthy and physically active, but also to enable them to continue to contribute to society’s development. This year, RSVP elevated their senior volunteer week to a full month of activities aimed at reaching out to more seniors to join in as volunteers. This is a meaningful tribute to our seniors as we celebrate SG50 – the recognition that our seniors are a social force for positive change!

Initiatives to Catalyse a National Senior Volunteerism Movement

Volunteerism provides new opportunities in longevity, both for us as individuals and Singapore as a nation. As a senior myself, I will personally champion senior volunteerism to help catalyse a National Senior Volunteerism Movement.

This has to be a national campaign involving all segments of society, including civil society groups and corporations. To encourage more seniors to come forward as volunteers, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) will introduce a new senior volunteerism category in the annual President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards for deserving senior volunteers. The first award for this category will be given out later this year.

President’s Challenge has since its establishment in 2000 focused on raising community resources to support good causes. Since 2012, President’s Challenge has been expanded to also encourage volunteerism. This year, in celebration of SG50 and the 15th Anniversary of President’s Challenge, I will initiate a Silver Volunteer Fund under the auspices of the President’s Challenge. The Fund will support partner organisations in their work to boost senior volunteerism by building up capabilities to create and sustain volunteering opportunities for seniors. Besides enhancing organisational processes and systems, this would include funding for outreach programmes, training courses, and recognition programmes for committed senior volunteers. Through these initiatives, the Fund aims to create a corp of senior volunteers of all ages and expertise, who are involved in contributing to the various causes in our society.

Through the President’s Challenge Silver Volunteer Fund, I hope to provide a platform for members of the public, people and private sectors to be involved in creating a Singapore where Singaporeans of all ages can continue to be involved in creating an inclusive and vibrant society as active valued members of the community. I am pleased to announce that the Government has agreed to match donations to the Fund, dollar for dollar up to $20m. To kick start the fund-raising, Tote Board has pledged close to $10m to the fund. The President’s Challenge will target to raise another $10m over the next five years to bring the total Fund size to $40m.

With the support of all segments of society, we hope to create an expanding corp of seniors of all ages and expertise, giving their time and energy to various social causes.

Conclusion

I am happy to see so many older Singaporeans today. Age is relative. Many of you are younger than me but we all believe that age is no barrier to doing good. Active aging is simply to be engaged in life. And if you ever feel that you’ve grown old and dull, the best way to get over this feeling is to get up and do something useful. In giving and doing good, our spirits are also uplifted. Let us embrace life together as seniors, confident in the knowledge that we have much to offer.

Thank you very much.