For most, retirement marks a turning point — a chance to trade the daily grind for a more relaxed pace. For Daniel Soh, 61, it was a springboard to discover a new passion and make a meaningful difference. 


Retirement is a change of pace

Daniel spent a rewarding 30 years navigating the fast-paced world of aviation, working at SATS, Tiger Air, and finally Scoot. When he retired from his aviation career, he went into the education sector as an administrative vice principal. He thought that the pace would be much slower than his previous job, but he found it surprisingly demanding. This experience solidified his desire for a true retirement, a chance to do what he wanted, to explore his next adventure. 

“Since I retired, I have been travelling with my family, and attending courses that sparked my interest. One day, my daughter said, ‘Dad, you need a hobby,’” he recalls. “So I enrolled in a coffee-making course. She bought me all the equipment and I got quite good at it.”  What started as a casual exploration blossomed into a full-fledged barista certification. 


Spreading the coffee love to other seniors

Since that first visit, Daniel has been an active volunteer at the centre: He volunteers as a barista every Thursday afternoon and is also a volunteer trainer who teaches other seniors how to appreciate and make good coffee. “Daniel has already taught five seniors how to make different kinds of coffee. They’re the ones who operate the cafe when Daniel isn’t here,” says Boon Cheng. 

Goodlife Makan is a community centre kitchen where seniors can come and prepare their food and eat with fellow seniors, providing them with a place to socialise, have conversations, and share a meal.

“Our community kitchen prepares 40 meals a day, five days a week for seniors who live alone. Seniors can also prepare their meals and share them with their friends here. We also have workshops and activities that help seniors be more aware of what’s new and trendy. For instance, we had workshops on how to make mocktails and kombucha,” says Boon Cheng. “We want seniors to know about what’s out there as well, so they know what young people are into. It helps them to better integrate into the community,” she adds. 

Daniel has already conducted one coffee appreciation workshop for interested seniors at the centre. “I prepared a short lecture in the activity room where I talked about the origins of coffee, the different ways of making coffee, how an espresso machine works, and the different types of espresso drinks.” The seniors were also given practical hands-on training just to familiarise themselves with the espresso machine, and how the cafe was run. 

With Daniel as a volunteer trainer, the centre is aiming to organise two coffee appreciation workshops a year. “It’s not the intention of the workshop for the seniors to become baristas,” he clarifies. “It’s more teaching them an appreciation for coffee — what a good latte looks like, for instance.” 

However, while it would be designed for people to have a renewed appreciation for coffee, the workshop could also pave the way for interested seniors to actually become baristas. “Basically, the idea of the workshops is to raise awareness that we are running a cafe here, and those who are interested in continuing their journey to be a barista can help us in the cafe. And I think Goodlife has the intention of transforming this into a social enterprise at some point in time. If we have enough baristas trained, we can do that. So that whatever money we generate, we plough back to the programme and support the seniors here,” says Daniel.

When he isn’t teaching seniors how to appreciate coffee, Daniel joins in the available workshops — like crafting mocktails or making kombucha, which he was learning when we talked to him. “Goodlife has been good in teaching us in these workshops. For the mocktail training, I helped with the recipes and how to recreate them — I like anything involving drinks!” Daniel laughs. 


Making a meaningful contribution by volunteering

As a volunteer at Goodlife Makan, Daniel appears to have found a calling that lets him use his skills to the fullest while also making a positive impact on the community.“I’m happy to share my knowledge. And, you know, if I can help run this cafe and coach more seniors who are interested in taking on this journey, I'm happy to do that.” 

Adds the volunteer barista, “I wanted to do something in retirement. I had two opportunities to return to the working world, which I turned down because one of the things I enjoy in retirement is the freedom to decide what to do, which I wouldn’t get if I took on another job. Volunteering allows me to contribute while giving me the flexibility to pursue other interests.” 

Would he advise seniors or retirees to try and volunteer? “I would definitely recommend that seniors volunteer. There is much that a senior can share with their years of knowledge and experience either with their peers or the younger ones. Volunteering is an avenue to do this and to make a meaningful contribution in this season of life.”

Daniel's story is a beacon of inspiration for retirees contemplating their next chapter. It's a testament to the fact that retirement is a beautiful new beginning — a chance to explore hidden talents, contribute to your community, and forge new friendships.


Thinking about volunteering but unsure where to start?

Here are some tips inspired by Daniel's journey:

  • Reflect on your passions. What truly excites you? Perhaps it's gardening, teaching a language, or sharing your love of technology. There's a volunteer opportunity out there that aligns perfectly with your interests.
  • Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Like Daniel, you might discover a hidden talent or passion that brings immense joy.
  • Remember, you have a wealth of experience to offer. Whether it's mentoring younger generations or sharing your professional expertise, your knowledge is valuable.

Volunteering isn't just about giving back — it's about enriching your life. It's about discovering new communities, staying active, and feeling a renewed sense of purpose. So, take a leaf out of Daniel's book, and embark on your volunteer adventure. You might just surprise yourself with the joy you brew up along the way.

Want to give volunteering a go? The Silver Guardians programme might just be the perfect fit for you. Silver Guardians are senior volunteers trained by the Agency for Integrated Care to support Active Ageing Centres (AACs). Being part of this programme allows you to stay active, meet new people and make a real difference in the community. Check out this link to sign up:

Tap on the stars to rate.