There’s a saying that goes, “Still waters run deep” — it means that people have hidden depths, and you never really know what someone is like until you take the time to get to know them. Take Mdm P Davanyaki P/O Prashaman, 80, for example. She’s a bit reserved and quiet at our first meeting, but her smile and twinkle of the eye may be your first clue that she has a zest for life and a positive outlook for what each day brings.

It helps that she has a morning routine that sets her up for a day of activities. “I do some light exercise, then I shower and meditate. After that, I have a good breakfast,” she says. 

After breakfast, Mdm Devi, who has been living alone for a decade, heads to her local AAC. “I’m here by 10am every day,” she tells us when we meet up with her at the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) Active Ageing Centre (AAC) GreenTops@Sims Place. Her day at the AAC revolves around having conversations with the friends she has made, finding out what activities are scheduled for the day, and which ones she would like to participate in. These days, the AAC is also the place where she can hone her art.


An eye for beauty

Mdm Devi's journey into arts and crafts, particularly paper flower crafting, began when she started coming to the AAC about six years ago. “My mum always had a creative side to her, when we were growing up,” says her daughter Mdm Puganes, 51. “But it wasn’t this type of creativity. It showed mostly through her cooking — she’s a very good cook. She also did some colouring before. But I think she really blossomed when she discovered paper flowers.”

When asked about her hobby, Mdm Devi’s eyes light up. “I like arts and crafts. We make colourful flowers and other crafts. I also like sharing stories with other people while we’re making things,” she says, becoming more animated as she tells us why colouring and crafting paper flowers bring her joy.

When asked about where she got the inspiration for her floral crafts, Mdm Devi says it comes from observing her surroundings and embracing the challenge of perfecting each creation through trial and error, as well as through interactions with her fellow crafters at the AAC. 

She believes that sharing skills with fellow seniors is an enriching experience. “It’s fun to learn new things and find new interests, share them with other people and also learn other things from other people. It’s a good way to spend our time.”


Empowering seniors through art

Though Mdm Devi picked up most of her craft skills on her own, the arts and crafts sessions at the AAC augmented her artistry. She is part of a group of approximately 10 regulars.

Mdm Joanna Koh, a 67-year-old volunteer who spearheads the sessions, says, “Doing these projects makes them happy. When they see what they can do, they become even more inspired and creative. It’s also a great way to exercise their hands because arts and crafts require manual dexterity.”

The collaborative nature of these sessions also fosters a sense of community and camaraderie, enriching their lives beyond the crafting table. Mdm Devi, for one, is very willing to share her techniques. “If they want to learn how I do it, I can teach them,” she offers. 

The enthusiasm of these crafters has spurred Mdm Joanna to think of projects that would challenge their creativity — such as the Chinese New Year decoration project at the AAC last month. “I was amazed by the ideas they came up with,” says Mdm Joanna. “We had some brainstorming sessions and they showed me videos from YouTube and TikTok. Their digital knowledge impressed me.” These brainstorming sessions eventually culminated in the seniors decorating the centre with Chinese lanterns and paper flowers.


A sense of camaraderie, community, and connection

This sense of community, of looking out for each other that Mdm Devi found at the AAC was put to the test when she had a health concern a few months ago. 

She recalled an episode where she had a dizzy spell after she changed her blood pressure medication last January. The AAC staff, whom Mdm Devi refers to as “very helpful, very sayang (loving),” rallied to help her. They visited her daily and gave her the assistance she needed. The staff provided her with a blood pressure monitor so she could record her blood pressure.

“Mdm Devi is very active and independent. Once she learned how to use the BP monitor, she told us that there was no need for us to go and visit her every day. She would just call and tell us her daily reading,” says Mdm Melissa Teo, Volunteer Management Executive at the AAC.

Mdm Melissa says that the seniors at the AAC are like family and would go out of their way to help one another, especially when they’re ill. The relationship goes beyond mere assistance, creating a sense of assurance and family connection.

When Mdm Devi became ill, her friends from the AAC took turns to visit and helped with her errands. “They went to the market and helped me buy what I needed,” says Mdm Devi, which reassured her that she had people she could call on when needed.


Words of wisdom and community building

This strong connection with the staff and friends at the AAC sustains Mdm Devi, who spends most of her time at the centre. “I’d go back to my place to have a quick lunch and rest a bit. Then around 2pm, I’d be back at the AAC.” Being at the AAC gives her a sense of community and belonging, which makes her happy.

As she says, “I think seniors need to try and be happy. There’s no use in thinking about things that will make you worried. Your family are all busy with their lives, so you should be busy with your own as well. Take care of yourself, and find something that you like doing. Go down to the AAC, even if it’s just to read the newspaper,” she advises. Her call echoes the ethos of AACs in Singapore, where seniors build a community that supports and enriches their lives.

In Mdm Devi's story, we find a testament to the sense of community that thrives within AACs. As she continues to craft paper flowers and share her joy with others, Mdm Devi exemplifies the spirit of embracing life's passions, proving that age is no barrier to a fulfilling and active journey.

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