Created for Singaporeans by Singaporeans. By Dawn Chen
Photo: Hua Hee
It’s no surprise that our country is facing a rapidly ageing population: In 2012, there were an estimated 28,000 people in Singapore aged 60 and older who had dementia. This number is expected to hit 80,000 by 2030.
Dementia is a debilitating condition that steals not just someone’s memories, but also their identity and independence. Having my own grandmother look at me and ask “Who is this?” was particularly painful the first time it happened. What’s worse was knowing that there’s no cure for dementia. At most, one can slow down the progress of the disease through exercise, healthy lifestyle habits and mentally stimulating activities. And now, there’s a super cute way to do the latter with Hua Hee, a locally-designed card game for seniors in Singapore.
Hua Hee features hand-drawn designs of Singapore heritage items. Photo: Hua Hee
Hua Hee means happy in Hokkien and is the brainchild of 26-year-old Christel Goh, who created the game as a way to keep her grandmother engaged as she got older. Her own grandfather was also a victim of dementia, and her family didn’t want to see the same thing happen to her grandmother. “Watching a loved one age is difficult. You see them lose the ability to do things they once could and this sense of loss deepens when the elderly is diagnosed with dementia,” says Christel. “At home, before you lose someone to dementia completely, there are things we can do to slow down the progression of the mental illness.”
Founder Christel Goh teaching a group of elderly how to play Hua Hee. Photo: Hua Hee
In Hua Hee, there are over 20 hand-drawn designs of popular Singapore heritage items such as ang ku kueh, ketupat, five stones and Axe brand oil. The cheery designs definitely bring back fond memories of all things unique to Singapore and will be appreciated across generations (they’re also a good way to introduce kids to local culture!). You can either play Hua Hee like a traditional matching card game, or like Snap. So far, Christel has tested the game with over 50 different senior citizens at various elderly homes, and the response has been very positive so far.