Paid companionship for the lonely elderly: Taboo or growing need?

1 week ago 34

SINGAPORE – Walks in the park, grocery shopping, simple exercises and massages, and playing mind-stimulating games like jigsaw puzzles – Ms Esther Joy Mark has done all of these and more with her elderly clients, to keep them active and engaged.

The 28-year-old, from care services provider Homage, has more than three years’ experience in providing companionship to the elderly. She is also a full-time supply operations associate with the company.

Ms Mark, a former legal secretary, said she has always connected well with the elderly. She has also forged friendships with some regular clients, including an elderly cancer patient who died a few months after they ‘”clicked”.

“I was on my way to keep her company when the husband called to say she had just passed away, but I went to her home to pay my last respects to her anyway,” she recalled.

She gets eight to 10 assignments monthly. Some also require her to help with the activities of daily living like going to the toilet and feeding, on top of the usual companionship. Others get her to perform housekeeping chores like moping and vacuuming while she chit-chats with them.

“Demand is on the rise, and many next-of-kin may not have the time, strength or energy to assist with tasks like proper lifting and safe transferring from the bed to wheelchair,” she said, adding that she has received basic caregiver training.

She earns from $17 per hour. Clients are charged from $21 per hour.

Ms Gillian Tee, chief executive officer and co-founder of Homage, said with Singapore’s ageing population, Homage has seen a growing loneliness epidemic as a result of older adults living alone or being restricted to the same environment due to age-related illnesses or lower mobility.

“Across the markets we operate in – Singapore, Malaysia and Austr...

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