What About Our Inherent Lenses?
If I had to summarise an outcome of our role in the recent Makan with Seniors prototype of what the future of intergenerational engagement could be, the question below would be how i would see what we were trying to probe into :-
What are you not seeing because you are seeing what you are seeing?
Today, a VWO’s relationship with a group of volunteers is formed when there is a match of a service offered and a need requested. And that works. But what then is our role when we enter this existing relationship if the status quo works? And so the challenge we posed for ourselves was- what social, cultural and systemic norms and structure could we challenge through this process because of who we are and what we are not?
Here’s a documentation of certain tweaks in our engagement design at the recent Makan with Seniors event, hopefully with the aim of furthering how we reframe what we previously know or are used to.
1. Gently Entering the Homes of Seniors
How often in the organisation of volunteering trips or through our projects of a similar nature do we usually organise it at a place away from the seniors’ homes? Even if it is held at their homes, how often are our intentions more of home-cleaning and fixing a problem? This symbolic act of entering the homes of our seniors, just like how we would be as guests entering the homes of our friends was our attempt at shifting towards a more relational vibe.
‘… we went to their homes and we couldn’t find them.’
The first thing that stood out was the unsaid expectation for seniors to be awaiting their arrival. I guess the follow up question would be why would you expect them to be waiting for you? What emotions came up when you found out they were not there? How was it like waiting for them instead? What had this experience shed light on with respect to how interactions with the seniors are today?
2. Value of Invitation and Choice
Respect and reciprocity- nothing beats an actual invitation. How often have activities and events been offered to seniors and told to them as something that’s good for them and therefore they should just attend? Here we emphasised the importance of an invitation as a choice.
‘We got our own lunch, you enjoy we won’t join..’
‘My children are coming over now, I can only go down for awhile…’
‘I feel uncomfortable, I don’t need the food, it’s okay I want to go back home…’
Again, what was it like having your invitation and earlier planned well-intended activities rejected?
3. Keeping Stories Alive
What difference would it make if we see its abundance instead of its scarcity? Here we are not asking them to turn a blind eye to the current problems that exist but rather choose curiosity and the stance of a critical thinker to perceive. Be active observers of the lives you’d be interfacing with. Be curious about what you don’t see and be critical thinkers of what you see.
‘I found out that auntie and me were from the same secondary schools, which so happened to be far away from Jurong. Our conversations just went on and on from there, i was curious about why she had shifted and the turning points that has led her here…’
Such is a starting point but very often this inquiry leads to deeper revelations. And because these revelations stem from the self, it often encourages one to go beyond the actual activity on the day into deeper work.
And so, often for us here at Bold, because we are are not entrenched in the context of needing to provide a particular service, we are able to facilitate and consolidate these findings and experiences to support a larger context- in this case what could the future of health in the community mean for all of us?
Write to us if you have a story of yours to tell or an idea to explore with us with regard to intergenerational engagement?