Many people view learning as something that mostly takes place from childhood to youth. However, the World Health Organization views learning as an important part of healthy ageing. Learning in one’s silver years boasts many health benefits, such as slowing down the decline of cognitive health, boosting self-esteem, promoting social interactions, and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Betty Tan, 71 years old, is a living testament to the wonderful benefits of lifelong learning. Her face always beams with joy in her pouch-making class, which she conducts twice a week as a Senior Volunteer at LB AAC @ Mei Ling 150. The sense of happiness within her radiates through her patient and uplifting mentorship to the LB seniors in her class. She often encourages the seniors to continue to take the learning journey in their stride by reminding them during class, “This is not a time of competition among ourselves, so take your time to research and learn this new skill.”

During her class, she also shares with her fellow senior pouch-making enthusiasts the latest handicraft techniques which she picked up in professional handicraft workshops. The happy and family-like atmosphere in her pouch-making class, coupled with her patience in teaching the LB seniors, began to attract a consistent number of senior attendees. Since running the pouch-making class from September 2022, what started out as a small 3 to 4 students-strong class grew to a class that sees 7 regular students, as of today.

The seniors enjoy being under Betty’s tutelage so much that sometimes, when the seniors wish to seek her advice on their pouch-making projects, they will gather at the AAC for impromptu classes. She said with a sense of pride that for seniors who are fast learners, they could make a pouch in 2 days.

Betty started sewing artworks from young. Surprisingly, at her current age, the main motivation for her joining a variety of handicraft courses voluntarily is no longer merely an interest in sewing. “What gives me satisfaction is that when I finished a handicraft, the seniors in my class respond enthusiastically, ‘whoa…’ which made me feel really happy. Because I felt that they really appreciate my effort, I felt encouraged. Hence, I want to give them even more. I resolved that whatever I learned in the handiwork courses which I have attended, I will teach it to them,” she said.

She experienced firsthand that when she shares her knowledge and wisdom in the things which she is good at, she gains valuable friendship and companionship, which encourages and motivates her to continue learning. “I have quite a happy time here [at the AAC],” she remarked as she shared that she also actively took part in the exercise activities at the centre and enjoyed joining meal sessions with food cooked by other senior volunteers there.

Since getting involved with the activities at the AAC, she saw retirement in a new light: it is a time to learn, grow through mastering new skills, and afterward share that knowledge with her peers and make new and meaningful friendships. Hence, it is no wonder she has been encouraging her husband to sign-up for the AAC’s activities too. She also noted that through such activities and meeting fellow LB seniors, she can remain socially connected, which she believes keeps dementia at bay.

After retiring from a long career in accountancy and HR, Betty’s new role as a pouch-making art coach to the LB seniors is a completely different life that might not have been easy to transition into. However, as she continues to gain knowledge and pass it down to other seniors, helping them to relish in discovering their own potential anew, Betty has found herself making a new meaningful artwork – the silver years of her life, by creating a tapestry of experiences that is fulfilling and fun.

We hope that these stories would inspire you to reach out and touch the lives of others.

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