Singapore

Hip cafe helps seniors build self-worth

This article is more than 12 months old

Run by a charity, it also helps develop relationships across generations

In a brightly lit space next to Khatib MRT station, baristas in striped aprons pull espresso shots and steam milk to create latte art.

Customers take sips as a large poster near the entrance greets patrons with puns: "How do I feel when there is no coffee? Depresso, Kopiless, Lattegic."

The trendy Give n Take cafe is in a 356 sq m space at the void deck of a multi-storey carpark at Block 813 Khatib Court.

The cafe is part of a seniors' activity centre that the Sasco Senior Citizens' Home opened in October last year.

The voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) aims to help senior citizens remain relevant in the community by helping them learn new skills. Having a cafe means new relationships and community networks can be developed across generations as well, said Ms Germaine Ong, head of Sasco's social enterprise department.

She said the cafe was designed by employees of the VWO.

Sasco, or the Singapore Amalgamated Services Cooperative Organisation, was established in 1933 as a coordinating body for 12 thrift and loan cooperatives.

The VWO runs a shelter for the elderly destitute, four daycare centres for the aged and two senior activity centres.

Of the cafe, Ms Ong, 39, said: "We wanted to make this a hip space where seniors can be seen differently, and help seniors elevate their sense of self-worth by staying on top of trends, such as the popularity of gourmet coffee these days."

A total of 15 retirees aged between 54 and 77 serve as senior volunteers at the cafe.

They are paid a token sum for performing tasks such as brewing coffee, serving buns from a popular Japanese bakery and manning the cash register.

HOURS

Daily operations at the cafe, which is open from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Saturday, are customised to meet the seniors' needs, said Ms Ong.

For instance, a bun and a coffee set costs $3.50, so the seniors do not have to figure out the different prices.

The staff go through basic training in food hygiene and customer service before they embark on their shifts, which are structured around their schedule and needs. Most live near the senior activity centre, which offers free or subsidised classes for senior citizens, such as in English and baking.

Former bookshop assistant Phang Jee Eng, 58, feels her spirits have been lifted since she began volunteering at the cafe in March. She mainly handles the cash register.

"The main difference is that we are not here just to work, but also to serve the community since this space is run by a charity. I used to count the hours till I could knock off, (but) now I don't want to go home even when my shift is over.

"The work is not so stressful and people here are friendly," said Madam Phang, who has three children aged between 23 and 31, and works four-hour shifts about three days a week.

Ang Mo Kio resident Jason Fan, 37, who visits the cafe about once a week to meet a friend, said: "They make decent coffee and the staff here are friendly... You don't really think of it as a space for senior citizens alone."

COMMUNITY ISSUES