SINGAPORE, July 9 — With air travel hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, budget airline Scoot has teamed up with social service agency Lions Befrienders to put its cabin crew’s time to good use through befriending needy and isolated seniors.
Under the collaboration — which is supported by the Agency for Integrated Care and the Public Service Division — cabin crew from Scoot, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, can “tele-befriend” seniors while working from home during self-isolation periods upon return from flights.
In a joint media release, Lions Befrienders and Scoot said that since April this year, 15 Scoot cabin crew members have befriended some 900 seniors during their non-flying days, with each Scoot befriender assigned to 60 seniors.
This collaboration will continue until September and is likely to be extended to December this year.
The seniors are among 7,600 under the care of Lions Befrienders and mainly live alone in rental flats and rely on financial assistance.
As part of the initiative, Scoot befrienders check in on the seniors weekly through phone calls and convey updates on the seniors’ well-being to Lions Befrienders staff members, who will then follow up in person.
Grateful for weekly check-ins
Doreen Ng, 63, is one senior who has benefitted from the weekly calls from her Scoot befriender.
“The befriender will ask me how I was that day, what I was thinking about, what I was eating, whether I was going out... It’s just like talking to a friend,” Ng said. She is retired and lives alone in a flat in Taman Jurong.
Ng said that she goes out of her home only once or twice a week to buy groceries and household items.
“I don’t have friends and no one invites me to go out. I feel very bored… and sometimes lonely and isolated.”
But she looks forward to the weekly calls from the Scoot befriender and said that she was thankful that someone was checking in on her well-being.
“When people (check in) with you, you will feel happy, right? I feel happy I have someone to talk to and a little less lonely knowing that someone cares for me.”
Similarly, Andrew Chin, 75, said that since the pandemic, he has mostly stayed at home, which can get “very lonely”. Calls from his Scoot befriender, however, perk him up.
“She is very friendly. We chit-chat about how we spend our days,” he said.
Jessica Chua, 50, one of Scoot’s cabin crew members taking part in the programme, said that the opportunity to befriend seniors has made her appreciate the “little things in life” and not take things for granted.
“I have come to better understand the loneliness that our seniors experience, especially in this time of social distancing, and I'm glad I'm able to provide some warmth through a call,” Ms Chua said.
Another cabin crew member Denise Chua, 27, said that the weekly calls helped her to empathise more with the seniors, many of whom have told her they feel lonely and neglected.
“We may not be related and we may not even meet since we only talk on the phone, but I treat the seniors like my own grandparents. They just need someone to talk to so I try to lend my ears to them.”
While Chua said that the befrienders are advised to take 10 to 15 minutes a call, she sometimes spends more than an hour talking to some seniors.
“I just don’t want them to bottle up their feelings... I just want them to let the feelings out and try to see how I can help them out,” she said.
Lions Befrienders' chairman Anthony Tay said that it has received positive feedback on the initiative from the seniors, adding that the collaboration with Scoot “fills a big gap”.
“The tele-befrienders have been very helpful in checking in with the seniors and highlighting to us promptly if they encountered any important information,” he said.
“Their calls complement our staff on the ground who will follow up where necessary.”
The pandemic, he noted, has been particularly hard for seniors living alone.
“Regular routines, opportunities to socialise and get out of the house halted by lockdowns left them high and dry, and because of the need to socially distance,” he said.
“Now, more than ever, especially with Phase Three (heightened alert) and increasing community cases and Covid-19 clusters, we need tele-befrienders to help keep our seniors’ spirits up and reduce the feeling of isolation.”
Andrew Goh, vice-president of cabin services at Scoot, said that building relationships with isolated seniors and checking on their emotional and psychological well-being were “natural extensions of our cabin crew’s professional responsibility to care for passengers”.
He added: “Our cabin crew have provided feedback that they get fulfilment and joy from contributing to the community and knowing that their efforts positively impact the seniors.
“It is yet another demonstration that giving really goes both ways, and Scoot is proud to partner Lions Befrienders in this extremely meaningful initiative.” ― TODAY