Reaching out to elderly folk

Guardian angel: A Temanion (in light blue T-shirt) accompanying a senior citizen on her daily activities.

PETALING JAYA: With their grown up children having settled in different states or busy with other commitments, many seniors have no one to turn to for companionship and daily support.

This is where help comes in the form of Teman Malaysia, a social enterprise that provides care companionship services and assistance to senior citizens.

From accompanying them to hospital appointments and dialysis sessions to taking them shopping for groceries and plants or engaging them in conversations at home, Teman Malaysia is helping the elderly both physically and emotionally.

Its co-founder and chief executive officer Ezzati Nasir said that with Malaysia rapidly becoming an ageing nation, there is a need to offer more varieties of services in the aged care sector beyond just nursing homes.

“We ventured into the aged care sector as we feel that a lot of people can relate to it.

“There are seniors who need 24-hour care at home.

“There are also those who are still able to do things on their own but just need a companion due to their adult children having work and other commitments,” she said in an interview.

The idea of setting up a care companionship start-up came about when the 31-year-old mother of two took part in the PETRONAS Social Enterprise Education Lab in January 2020.

During the sessions, her team was assigned to create an enterprise that revolved around the care sector.

“This was when one of our team members shared that he used to take leave from work every other month to travel from Kuala Lumpur back to his hometown in Kedah to bring his grandparents for their hospital appointments,” said Ezzati.

This became a launchpad as the team realised that there was a potential market, she said, adding that Teman Malaysia was started by five co-founders.

Through this entity, primary caregivers or even the seniors themselves can book services via the website or Teman app.

“We will then match customers with a freelance carer known as a ‘Temanion’,” she added.

Temanion is a play on words that combines the Malay word “teman”, which means companion, and “ion” from the English word “companion”.

In 2020, in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, Teman Malaysia started by offering companionship services to take senior citizens for their Covid-19 vaccinations.

After the movement restrictions were lifted, Teman Malaysia was able to offer more services to help seniors perform various activities such as doing daily chores, attending appointments or enjoying their free time through a library of curated activities.

Teman Malaysia has also started offering long-term services to customers at home, helping them with daily needs such as dispensing medications, feeding, preparing meals, conducting mind wellness activities and outdoor exercise, and providing bedside care.

“This gives the adult children peace of mind when they are at work, as they know that there is someone to accompany their elderly parents.

“Our Temanions are mostly aged between 20 and 45 and some are also from the B40 group.

“As we are striving to make a social impact and also offer a solution to youth unemployment, we call our Temanions our beneficiaries,” said Ezzati.

Currently, there are 220 Temanions nationwide with Teman Malaysia being available in six states. They are in the Klang Valley and main cities such as Ipoh, Penang, Seremban, Melaka and Johor Baru.

Teman Malaysia is also planning to expand to the east coast states by early next year.

“There are many elderly folks staying back in their hometown whose children have shifted to work in cities.

“With this expansion, we can help more people and also provide our Temanions with a strong income stream to support their lives,” she said.

Ezzati envisions Teman Malaysia expanding and eventually becoming “Teman Everywhere”, starting with other South-East Asian countries such as Singapore and Thailand, before eventually going global.

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