SINGAPORE – As a striker for his football team, 17-year-old Imran Naseer is used to outrunning defenders and getting his name on the scoresheet.
On Sunday (July 14), however, he had to endure moving around at a slower pace.
He and 120 other teenagers from the Woodlands Youth League were tasked with going grocery shopping on wheelchairs or crutches.
Besides using mobility aids, they were also made to wear blurred vision goggles, gloves that lessen touch sensitivity and marbles in their shoes to mimic the pains of arthritis.
It was part of an “empathy workshop” to get them to understand what it feels like to be old and disabled.
“I realised the neighbourhood is not as disabled-friendly as I thought it is,” said Mr Imran. “It was a very bumpy ride on my wheelchair and I found it difficult to manoeuvre along the narrow aisles of the supermarket.”
Woodlands Youth League is an eight-month long futsal programme which aims to empower 12 to 18-year-olds through sports and other community projects. It is run by Woodlands Community Sports Club.
As part of the programme, the teenagers participated in a sharing session held by the Agency for Integrated Care and Asian Women’s Welfare Association to learn about ageing and disability issues.
Held at Woodlands Community Club on Sunday, it covered topics such as how to use mobility aids or assist elderly people.
Some common misconceptions about the elderly were also debunked – such as assuming the need to speak loudly and believing that dementia is a natural part of ageing.
Participants were also challenged with a practical session in which they had to make their way to ago grocery shopping while using mobility aids and facing impediments.
Goh Yan Ting, 15, who visits his grandparents every day, said: “They often complain that they wake up feeling aches. As I walk with marbles in my shoes, I get a better understanding of what they may be going through.
“The theory session also gave me more detailed insights, in learning that the pain is usually at the heels or joints, and accompanied by headaches so now I am more motivated to give way or help older people if I see them around me.”