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Friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen 
1.     In August last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a new national programme called Age Well SG, that encourages our seniors to live healthily and actively in our communities. It complements a programme which we launched earlier, called Healthier SG. In November, we launched Age Well SG officially. 
2.     There are three pillars to Age Well SG. First, improvement to our homes and living environment, such as Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) 2.0. Second, improvement to transport facilities so that they become barrier-free and more convenient for seniors. Third, and this is where the Ministry of Health (MOH) is involved, expanding the number and variety of programmes and activities for seniors at our Active Ageing Centres (AACs). We are setting aside a total of $3.5 billion over the next 10 years for Age Well SG. All these were announced before.
3.     Today we are launching a fourth pillar of Age Well SG, which is a national volunteer programme for our seniors. 
4.     Both the beneficiaries of volunteer work and the volunteers will benefit from the programme. The recipient benefits, and the giver potentially can benefit even more. If implemented well, the programme will strongly support seniors in ageing well, and will truly embody the spirit of community health. 
Ageing Well and Senior Volunteerism
5.      Our ability to contribute to society and people around us gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth, and is closely tied to a person’s well-being and health. Even though many of us complain about our work, colleagues or bosses, subconsciously I think we derive a lot of benefits and happiness from our work, no matter how frustrating it can sometimes be. That is also why for many of us, we feel a sense of loss after retirement. 
6.      Volunteerism is not a full substitution for work but can help fill some of the void when a person retires. Through volunteerism, seniors can continue to make a meaningful impact on the lives of people around them, and remain active, healthy and socially connected. 
7.      This is a key reason for the Government to set up the Pioneer Generation Office in 2014. Today, it is called the Silver Generation Office and it comes under the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), which is under MOH. The Office has recruited thousands of volunteers, whom we address as Silver Generation Ambassadors (SGAs). 
8.      The SGAs do very good work. They engage seniors in their homes and community places, check on them, and connect them to relevant government schemes. It is meaningful work. On top of that, going out and about provides a very good workout for the SGAs. The programme is what I would call a large receptacle which enables many seniors to continue to make a contribution. 
9.      I hope that the national volunteer programme we are launching today will be another large receptacle for senior volunteers. This time, the volunteer work will be at our AACs. The volunteers will assist with the implementation of AAC activities, such as befriending seniors, organising and facilitating activities, forming a band or choir. They will complement the work of the SGAs. 
10.      We call these volunteers Silver Guardians. 
Silver Guardian Programme
11.      Last April, AIC implemented a pilot programme for Silver Guardians, where they recruited, trained and matched volunteers to 12 AACs, to support seniors there. 
12.      These volunteers co-facilitated active ageing programmes like Chair Zumba, which you just participated in, and music workshops. Some of them also befriended at-risk seniors and provided support and encouragement to them. 
13.      The pilot project confirmed something which researchers, clinicians, doctors and MOH have always suspected, which is that the volunteers can benefit greatly, maybe even more so, than the beneficiaries of the volunteer work. The giver can benefit more than the recipient of volunteer work.
14.      For example, by facilitating exercise programmes, the facilitator himself/herself becomes fitter and healthier. The facilitators helping out in Art and Craft programme themselves get a very good therapeutic outlet. Very importantly, volunteerism has widened their social circles, bringing conversations, laughter and even the occasional tussle with fellow volunteers into their lives. Life becomes much more colourful. 
15.      We also witnessed how seniors go from being students to teachers. At NTUC Health AAC at Kampung Admiralty, a group of seniors attended robotics and coding classes. After picking up these skills, the seniors went on to volunteer at other AACs under NTUC Health, to help teach other interested seniors to build robots and programme them to dance and play tunes. 
16.      We have recruited the first batch of over 400 volunteers as Silver Guardians. AIC will scale up its efforts to recruit, train and match about 2,400 Silver Guardians by 2028. It seems very long so if you can do it earlier, you should. There will be volunteering opportunities island-wide, with plans for further expansion as we continue to grow the number of AACs around Singapore. 
17.      For those who are hesitant to participate, please give us and yourself a chance. AIC will be here to support you in the following ways.
18.      First, AIC will try to match each Silver Guardian to an AAC that is located near to your home or workplace, to make volunteering easier, more convenient and more accessible. 
19.      Second, we will also try to match you to your indicated areas of interest. One example is the experience of Ms Lily Tjiunardi, who is a great cook. She has been matched to Esther AAC, where she conducts cooking demonstrations and guides fellow seniors in making delicacies like kuih kuih. Ms Lily herself too, finds great joy in sharing her skills with others. 
20.      Even if you do not have a special skill, there are other activities at the AACs that you can help in. For example, you can read letters to seniors who have problems with their eyesight or cannot read English; you can help them use smart phones to videocall their grandchildren or watch YouTube; you can escort seniors to their homes, remind them to take their medication; or distribute meals to those who are not mobile or home bound. 
21.      Third, for Silver Guardians who want to pick up additional volunteering skills, AIC can refer you to a relevant learning institute. For example, volunteers who wish to serve as befrienders can attend training on interaction and engagement skills. 
22.      Finally, in our own small but significant ways, we will appreciate your work. We are mindful not to turn volunteerism into paid work, because that would undermine the spirit of community help. But we must recognise the volunteers and their contributions. 
23.      Many AACs conduct volunteer appreciation events where certificates and awards are presented to volunteers as appreciation for their contributions. We should continue to do that. AIC is exploring a national-level Silver Guardian Awards to recognise exemplary and active volunteers. We will feature Silver Guardians on various media platforms and hope that with their stories, we will inspire others to also step forward to contribute.
24.      In closing, let me express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have made this initiative possible — the volunteers who have stepped up, the partners who have supported us, and the AACs that continue to show unwavering dedication to our seniors.
25.      As we embark on this journey together, let us remember that the Silver Guardians are not just individuals; they are a national force for positive change in the lives of our seniors. It is my wish that all our audience here, every one of you, will consider signing up as a Silver Guardian, myself included. We will take this important step forward to create a Singapore where people can age healthily, happily and actively. Thank you very much.

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