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When Covid-19 hit the globe in 2020, then 60-year-old Lok Kam Chi decided to return to Singapore after working overseas for almost 18 years. But because of the economic situation caused by the pandemic, he found it very hard to find a full-time job. “When I came back during Covid, it was not easy to find a job,” Mr Lok recalls. “I was idle for about 7-8 months!”
Having stayed home for that length of time, he often felt bored and without purpose, which spurred him to keep looking for work. However, the jobs he got mainly short-term gigs, “like some packing of products, like contact lens solution.”
“But that one, not easy, because I think I had to work 12 hours,” he chimes in. “It was quite tedious for me, especially the night shift, given my age. So I worked for three months then I resign – before my confirmation!”
After a few odd jobs, Mr Lok decided to stop working completely for about four months. “During Chinese New Year, I stopped work because I didn’t want to work already,” he shares. “But I rested for four months and I felt very bored at home!”
“Although I didn’t have financial problems, but I think I must find something to fulfil my time,” he says.
So that fateful day came when he happened to walk past a career fair at the nearby community centres and he recognised one of the officers there. That same individual approached him and introduced the Centre For Seniors (CFS), recommending him to sign up for job assistance through the organisation.
“He told me, ‘CFS tries to match jobs for senior citizens, so maybe you can get something that suits you.’”
As such, Mr Lok decided to do that and he waited, hoping for a callback. However, the days turned into a month and he thought, “I no hope la, I don’t want to wait already.”
But days later, he was surprised to receive a call from CFS and a Zoom video call was arranged to introduce possible job openings that he could try out. He laughs, recalling, “I didn’t even wash myself up properly because they said it’s a video call!”
During the call, CFS representatives told him about jobs that he could potentially apply for that matched his experience. He was previously trained in logistics, admin and sales when he was working in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. However, he preferred not to go back to the similar jobs because of his age, citing he no longer had the patience to serve customers.
Then the CFS representative shared about a medical escort role at SASCO Day Care Centre, which is walkable distance from his home.
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At first, he was a little hesitant. Not only was it completely different from his past job roles, but Mr Lok was concerned with whether it would be too tiring for him. “I asked them, ‘Are you sure my physical can take it?’ Because I’m quite old already,” he says. “They said, ‘No la! Other people that are older than you are also working [in this role].”
At the time, Covid-19 was at its peak so the draw of the job was that the location was nearby. “So I can avoid the public transport and just walk to work,” he reveals. As such, he decided to pay a visit to the centre to take a look at the place, where he also met the manager to find out more about the role and responsibilities of a medical escort.
He then decided to give the opportunity a shot.
Five months into the job, CFS officers checked in on him to find out how he was progressing to find out if he would be keen to do it full-time. But at the time, Mr Lok was hesitant, citing that he liked the current arrangement where he could work for four hours and return home to rest for a couple of hours, before going back to work again.
After a few months, it was his manager who again put out an offer for a full-time role. “He kept saying, ‘I think you’ve got the passion with our clients,’” Mr Lok shares, adding that he decided to then take up the offer. Since then, there’s no turning back and he’s been working at SASCO Day Care Centre for more than 18 months.
Talking about his job, he mentions that many of the clients at the centre suffer from illnesses including dementia, or are stroke patients. “So you must have the patience with them,” he reveals.
He also upskilled himself by attending courses under CFS that allowed him to perform his role better. “My friend told me, ‘Why don’t you use your Skillsfuture fund? You still have a lot is it?’” he chuckles. “So I said, ‘OK I will try to register for some courses.’ From there, I learnt quite a lot!” These included learning how to handle stroke and dementia patients, how to be a medical escort, as well as how to handle a wheelchair.
When it comes to learning, Mr Lok believes that mindset is important. “First thing is your mind must be open and accept new things. Don’t say that because of your age, you cannot learn,” he advises, adding his own experience of having to relearn many things when he returned to Singapore after being away for 18 years. “When you’re physically OK, you should try to learn something.”
“When I came back [to Singapore], I learnt a lot of new things!”
In fact, Mr Lok’s enthusiasm to learn as evident as the smile on his face, as he shares future plans to take more healthcare-related courses, including one on CPR, to aid in his work.
“You won’t know, one day you might find something interesting and realise, it’s not that difficult to learn! So you must open your mind to accept the new things, new technologies.”