A Father’s Day contest to highlight need to better understand senior men

by | May 31, 2024

Contestants need to conduct a short video interview or post a photo with insights from their fathers/father figures, who may be relatives, friends, colleagues, mentors, teachers or grandfathers, and upload to Instagram.


The Lien Foundation is launching Mentalking, a Father’s Day social media contest that encourages Singaporeans to interview their fathers or father figures on camera and share it on social media, as part of a collective effort to discover the seldom-heard wisdom of senior men. This is a chance to not only honour their lives, but also stand a chance to win prizes worth S$3,000. The contest starts on June 1 to 30.

To join, contestants need to conduct a short video interview or post a photo with insights from their fathers/father figures, who may be relatives, friends, colleagues, mentors, teachers or grandfathers and tag @mentalkingsg.

For the photo contest, share a photo of you and your dad, and in the caption, include the answer to: “What is your best advice for your children?” Ten winners will be randomly selected and each will win S$150 worth of dining vouchers at Carousel Buffet (Royal Plaza on Scotts)

For the video contest, interview your dad about his life. Three lucky winners will win S$500 each of Great Rewards dining and shopping vouchers. These vouchers can be used at the following malls: Great World, Pasir Ris Mall, Tanglin Mall and Seletar Mall. Winners for both contests will be announced in July.

Lee Poh Wah, CEO, Lien Foundation, said: “Many senior men are of the strong and silent type, a result of both personal resilience and social conditioning. But silence does not mean the absence of needs or wisdom. As the once-strong men in our lives grow frail, we need to start hearing their voices better”.

A 2016 Duke-NUS study showed that 34 percent of Singaporean seniors are lonely, a proportion that rises with age. At the same time, seniors are the least willing to seek help for mental health conditions compared to younger cohorts based on the Ministry of Health National Population Health Survey 2022, due to unfamiliarity with mental health issues, a belief that mental illness is a normal part of ageing, and an aversion to burdening their family. At the 2023 National Day Rally, loneliness was highlighted by then-Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as one of the “biggest threats” to seniors’ well-being.

To combat this and help seniors stay engaged, the government has been setting up a national network of Active Ageing Centres (AACs), drop-in recreational centres for seniors living in the vicinity. However, men are vastly outnumbered by women at AACs, with male representation typically hovering only around 10 to 20 percent. Reasons cited include the higher proportion of female employees at AACs and the female-oriented activities that tend to be organised, men’s dislike of structured programmes in general, and their discomfort with mixed-gender social activities, a result of the era they grew up in.

Without the base and community that such AACs offer, social service professionals observe senior men tend to spend more time alone. Having placed work at the centre of their lives, many do not have strong social networks outside of work. In their retirement years, many while away the hours at kopitiams, malls or simply on long bus rides.

To understand their lives and perspectives better, Samuel He, award-winning photojournalist and adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, was commissioned to conduct 20 video interviews with senior men, in kopitiams and other community spaces. In true kopitiam-style, the men spoke candidly about a range of topics, revealing hints of wisdom earned from struggles and triumphs.

“Although our conversations were short, they were surprisingly intimate. The men were open to talking about past regrets, crippling sickness and even their love lives,” said He.

Sometimes profound, sometimes irreverent, but always endearing, the videos went on to inspire the idea of the Mentalking contest.

“This contest is an opportunity to have the kind of conversation with our fathers and father figures we always wanted, but maybe never had the chance to,” said Lien Foundation’s Lee. “They may like this gift better than a new pair of socks.”

** View some of the videos on the Instagram account – @mentalkingsg



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