Framing a New Life: Uncle Ho’s Journey at Red Crowns

Uncle Ho and care coordinator Jasmine pose for a photo at Gardens by the Bay during a Red Crowns outing. Photo courtesy Jasmine Poh
Uncle Ho and care coordinator Jasmine pose for a photo at Gardens by the Bay during a Red Crowns outing. Photo courtesy Jasmine Poh.

“He’s my shifu,” said Jasmine of Uncle Ho. The shifu in question chuckled wryly.

Uncle Ho had just finished recounting a life spent behind the lens: commercial photography had taken him from Singapore to China, and across many other borders.  At 73, he still gasps with wonder when recalling seeing the magic of a print materialising in the developing tray as a teenager for the first time, which started his lifetime with the craft. 

These days, he doesn’t pick up a camera in earnest, although he spoke wistfully about documentary projects he’d undertaken as a younger man and how he’d still love to take up street photography. Diagnosed with Parkinsons in 2018, loss of fine muscular control makes it difficult for Uncle Ho to use a camera. But he does coach the people around him, like Red Crowns’ care coordinator Jasmine, who goes to him for feedback on her holiday shots. Under Uncle Ho’s tutelage, she says, she’s gotten better at taking pictures. But he’s a tough customer too. “Sometimes he looks at my pictures and tells me,” she says with a quick wave of her hand. “This one cannot la!”

Wry and affable, Uncle Ho is reportedly an excellent mediator in household disagreements that come up from time to time. Everyone likes him.

Jasmine jokes that his social calendar is fuller than hers.

“He’s never around on weekends!” she says.

“Because weekends I’m usually with my kids!” comes the rejoinder. 

Uncle Ho tells us that having Parkinson's means he’s physically uncomfortable most of the time, because his body is unable to activate — consciously or otherwise — the muscles to shift itself. But he does enjoy going out to meet his buddies for kopi and a meal, and practices a form of qigong from Sri Lanka twice daily — when he wakes in the morning, and before bed. The qigong complements medication that manages the progression of Parkinsons. 

He’d lived with his sister until mid-2022, when he had a bad fall that landed him in hospital for close to two months. Living with his sister was no longer viable, so he started to look into nursing homes and assisted living options. That was when he encountered Red Crowns. 

“Red Crowns was the best,” Uncle Ho says, of all the assisted living options he’d investigated. He lives in a HDB flat with three other housemates and live-in caregivers. What he loves about it is how much it is like living at home. “The only difference,” he chuckles, “is the discipline. We have to exercise 45 minutes a day.” Red Crowns emphasises physical activity as part of their wellness programme. But aside from that and a few other sensible house rules (no smoking), Uncle Ho and his housemates are free to live their best lives and enjoy the things that give them pleasure and meaning.

Living in a Red Crowns home means that his independence is supported and encouraged, and he gets the help he needs to conduct his life as he wants. “I haven’t given up hope,” he says of the future.Here’s more about Uncle Ho’s journey at Red Crowns, featured on Lianhe Zaobao.

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Date Published
May 13, 2024
Charlene Winfred