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A Different Kind of Happy Hour

A group of older men playing foosball during the weekly Men-Only Happy Hour at MWS Active Ageing Centre – GreenTops@Sims Place

On a balmy Wednesday afternoon, the void deck at Block 63 in Sims Place bustles with activities as a group of male seniors gather for games and coffee. Laughter and chatter fill the air as they bond over Boccia, foosball, carrom and chess. 

Welcome to the Men-Only Happy Hour, an initiative rolled out in August 2023 by the MWS Active Ageing Centre – GreenTops@Sims Place (GTAAC) to engage more male seniors in its activities, and enable them to form social connections with the larger community. 

“Many male seniors are reluctant to step into our Centre because they perceive it as tailored more towards female activities. Instead, they linger at nearby hawker centres and coffee shops, indulging in smoking and drinking. We aim to offer a welcoming space for them to socialise and partake in healthier pursuits,” shared Melissa Teo, Volunteer Management Executive at MWS GTAAC. 

With that in mind, Melissa assembled a team of senior male volunteers to brainstorm ideas for attracting elderly men to their activities. Men-Only Happy Hour was thus born. 

The programme incorporates cognitive stimulation with board games, physical activity through table tennis and adaptive sports, and social interaction over snacks and coffee. 

Led by a group of five dedicated senior male volunteers, the event takes place every Wednesday for two hours. 

“We typically have about two male participants in our regular activities at the Centre. But this programme attracts an average of 18 male seniors, with attendance occasionally reaching as high as 25,” explained Melissa. “Choosing an open and easily accessible venue has lowered barriers for engaging this harder-to-reach group. At the same time, senior male volunteers are empowered to lead the programme.”

Volunteer Ang Hock Soon (left) playing table tennis with a male senior. “I am an introvert. But volunteering helped me break out of my shell. Now I enjoy socialising and making friends," said Mr Ang

One such volunteer is 91-year-old Soong Ser Eng. “Engaging with various male seniors makes me happy. Playing chess with different individuals challenges me with various strategies, keeping my mind active. I don’t think I will ever get dementia!” said the retired sole proprietor. 

Jason Neo, a 69-year-old volunteer, shared, “Seeing seniors of the same gender and age group come together to share experiences makes me feel comfortable. It reminds me that I’m not alone in coping with the changes ageing brings. How the seniors encourage and support each other has positively shifted my perspective on ageing.”

Male seniors gather weekly for activities and conversation at the void deck of Block 63 Sims Place

Among the participants is 80-year-old Peter Heng, a retired law firm secretary, who said, “I like playing the table football and carrom games here – it brings back fond memories of my childhood days.” 

Another participant, Lachman, shared, “I live alone and have no one to talk to. This programme provides a safe space for like-minded men to connect with peers. It is a way to break boredom, make new friends and share life experiences.”

Studies have found that playing games such as chess can help stave off cognitive decline

Addressing the rising issue of social isolation among elderly men in Singapore requires tailored programmes and activities to engage them, promoting better physical and mental well-being and enhancing their overall quality of life. 

As such, other MWS AACs are also ramping up efforts to boost male participation. Since October 2023, MWS AAC – Fernvale Rivergrove has been hosting a Men’s Kopi Session every fortnight, featuring table games, coffee and light refreshments. Meanwhile, at MWS Charis ACE AAC – Geylang East, a pool table has become a beloved gathering spot for male seniors in the neighbourhood.

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