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    Dec 30, 2013

    More grads finding joy in eldercare

    WHEN Mr Peter Ng visited his aged aunt in a nursing home a few years ago, he noticed a glaring problem - caregivers were constantly tied up and did not have the time to look into the needs of all patients.

    The 57-year-old was determined to make a difference, so the lecturer became a student again. He left his job as a head of department in a private school, to study community and senior social services at the Tsao Foundation's Hua Mei Training Academy. The foundation provides a host of services for the elderly.

    Last month, he graduated from the five-month diploma course and joined the increasing number of degree holders who have made a career switch and joined the eldercare sector.

    This year, about a quarter of those who received diplomas from the academy are university graduates. This is a much higher proportion compared to five years ago, when the course was launched. Then, under 10 per cent had a degree.

    The number of people taking the course has increased as well, from 37 in the first batch to 83 this year.

    Ms Sally Chua, the academy's assistant director, said one reason could be that there are more employment opportunities in the sector.

    More mature students, such as those in the 40-60 age group, may also better identify with the needs and aspirations of older people. So, they could be more open to serving in the eldercare sector, she added.

    Still, the rising numbers can hardly meet the huge demand for caregivers.

    While there are about 4,000 eldercare workers, another 11,000 will be needed by 2020, according to the Agency for Integrated Care, an organisation set up by the Government to coordinate eldercare services.

    Mr Ng, who is now head of community engagement at nursing home Apex Harmony Lodge, said that it takes passion to be in the sector.

    He said: "You can't join this job because of the money. But money cannot buy the sense of satisfaction I get when I care for the elderly."

    One of his diploma course mates - who is also his colleague at the Apex Harmony Lodge - is Mr Tan Guan San.

    Mr Tan, 57, who is an organisational-development executive, holds a degree in business administration. He was previously a customer-service manager and freelance project-management executive.

    He took a pay cut of 50 per cent when he joined the eldercare sector.

    "But as humans, we are adaptable and a lot of things we have and want are luxury items. When you put things in perspective, you don't (really) need them," he said.