More seniors tapped helplines last year over issues like pandemic fatigue, uncertainty

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SINGAPORE - More seniors sought help through helplines operated by social service agencies in the second year of the pandemic as compared to the first.

The agencies told The Straits Times that these seniors were largely concerned about the uncertainty over the evolving Covid-19 curbs, worried about how long the situation would last, and feeling fatigued in coping with the outbreak.

Sage Counselling Centre, which provides counselling services to the elderly and has been operating a helpline for seniors since 2005, noticed a spike of 15 per cent in call volume between April 2021 and March 2022, with 11,912 calls compared to 10,365 in the same period a year earlier.

Silver Ribbon saw a jump of at least 10 per cent in calls by seniors while Touch Community Services received 9 per cent more calls, from an average of 147 per month in 2020 to 164 per month in 2021.

Touch Community Services serves seniors and other groups while Silver Ribbon provides free counselling for those struggling with mental health woes.

In 2020, Singapore imposed a circuit breaker from April 7 to June 1 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Ms Grace Lee, executive director of Sage Counselling Centre, said while the virus hit Singapore's shores in 2020, most seniors continued to stay home in 2021 - as some were advised by their families - for fear of getting sick and worrying their children.

"There were many lonely seniors who are living alone and fatigue has set in; they felt more anxious, fearful and uncertain how long the pandemic would last," she added.

"We observed that some call us more frequently than before, expressing their boredom, (and) don't know how to spend time as they are more home-bound."

Many of these seniors are not tech savvy and have trouble with apps like TraceTogether, much less finding entertainment through digital means, Ms Lee added.

"With the increase in digitalisation of services from banks to tele-consultation, many elderly are still unable to cross the digital divide in Singapore."

But the agencies are cautiously hopeful that the seniors' woes would ease, along with the volume of calls to their helplines, with the country's gradual reopening.

From April 26, Singaporeans could gather in groups with no restrictions in size, and mask wearing became optional when outdoors.

Silver Ribbon founder and executive director Porsche Poh said: "Many seniors shar...

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