From A Mutual Support Community To More Mutual Support Communities

The Senior Connect Group is formed to promote health through social participation in a residential area. The researchers provide empathetic listening skill training for the seed group in the community. Three aspects were identified to increase awareness and mutual support: (1) prevention through education (2) medic alert (3) rehabilitative support.

Sustainability of SCG programme.

Ageing population has become a highlighted concern due to the high medical costs, social care and long term care, and the older population is even stigmatized as being dependent. However, the study by researchers from University of Malaya (UM) showed that many older people take pride and have a strong desire to remain independent. Healthy seniors can make valuable contributions to society, and studies also showed that active volunteerism among seniors bring positive health benefits. This article showcased how a platform is created to promote social participation among ageing population in an urban residential area in Damansara Utama, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Before the UM research group approached the selected community, different activities were already established for seniors such as Xiang Gong, Taichi and line dancing groups. The main concern that the elderly has is handling health crisis, as many of them either live alone or only with their spouses. A special interest group, the Senior Connect Group (SCG) is hence formed to promote health through social participation among residents. Interactions among the residents through activities foster friendship and promote neighborliness, thus reduce the awkwardness to reach out for mutual support in case of special needs or emergency. SCG also helps to link the residents to the existing facilities and resources for help and social participation.

The researchers further enhanced SCG’s capacity by providing volunteer training called “empathetic listening skill” for active members and leaders (the seed group) in the community. They envisioned that this seed group would connect with their socially non-active neighbors. During the training, the elders had the opportunity to practice empathetic listening skill by sharing and listening to one another’s life experience. They came up with the SCG ground rules – non-judgmental, respect diversities, acceptance, confidentiality and trust - which enhanced connections among people. To uphold the sustainability of the project, four volunteers offered same training to the second batch of SCG seed group with the supervision of trainers from academic institution. A total of 21 seed members went through the training, and majority of them felt they knew their neighbors better after the course.

Upon completion of training, the seed groups brainstormed and identified three aspects to increase awareness and mutual support on health issues in the community: (1) prevention through education (2) medic alert and (3) rehabilitative support. Figure 1 showed how the seed groups sustained SCG.

In addition, other highlights from the seed groups are:
a) Engagement with another 14 seniors through Senior Induction Program
b) Health related information was shared through WhatsApp chat group
c) More social gatherings - gardening, healthy cooking gathering, taking ride in new
MRT, open house festive season celebration
d) Involvement in other activities and seminars by UM Sport Science Center and
Ageing Research Group
e) Facilitate volunteer training and activities in other communities
f) Welcoming members from other communities to join SCG activities

This project showed that healthy and resourceful retirees have excessive capacity to contribute to the society, especially their willingness to share resources magnanimously. Their contributions have become aspiration to other communities too. Instead of providing or working for the community, the paradigm to work with the community is significant to facilitate community’s development. Besides, co-learning and shared power partnership between community members and academicians throughout the collaboration sharpen each other’s capacity through knowing the strengths, resources and gaps.

Nevertheless, despite the progressive development of SCG, there are unavoidable challenges which require respect and humility. The challenges, however, help the researchers to touch base with reality, widen their perspectives, and deepen their wisdom for the next endeavor in community partnerships.

This subdivision project is under the UM Grand Challenge project, PISA (Promoting Independent among Senior with Osteoarthritis).

1. Dr. Teoh Gaik Kin
Dept. of Nursing Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
[email protected]

2. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tan Maw Pin
Dept. of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
[email protected]

3. Dr. Chong Mei Chan
Dept. of Nursing Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
[email protected]

4. Dr. Tan Joo Siang
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
[email protected]

Photo 1

Forming their Stroke Support Group through Learning from NASAM.

Photo 2

CPR training organized by SCG for increasing awareness in crisis intervention.

Published: 13 Dec 2017


Contact details:

Centre for Research Services (PPP)

Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) 8th Floor, Chancellery University of Malaya 50603 Kuala Lumpur MALAYSIA

+603-7967 3202
News topics: 
Academic discipline: 
Content type: 

1. Blumenthal, D. S. (2011). Is community-based participatory research possible? American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40(3), 386–389. 2. Duran, B., Wallerstein, N., Avila, M. M., Belone, L., Minkler, M., & Foley, K. (2013). Developing and maintaining partnerships with communities. In B. A. Israel, E. Eng, A. J. Schulz, & E. A. Parker (Eds.), Methods for community-based participatory research for health (2nd ed., pp. 43–68). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 3. Israel, B. A., Schulz, A. J., Parker, E. A., & Becker, A. B. (1998). Review of community-based research: Assessing partnership approaches to improve public health. Annual Review of Public Health, 19, 173–202. 4. Morrow-Howell, N., Hinterlong, J., Rozario, P. a, & Tang, F. (2003). Effects of volunteering on the well-being of older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58(3), S137–S145. 5. Okun, M. A., Yeung, E. W., & Brown, S. (2013). Volunteering by older adults and risk of mortality: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 28(2), 564–577.