You have been caught red-handed without a mask by the police on patrol duty!

You have to pay a $300 fine.


You have contracted COVID-19.

Health points decrease to 5 or lower.


You have lost your job.

Your wealth depletes and you can only
survive on financial assistance now.


The country your family member is in has locked
down and is unable to return home.

Social points no longer increase beyond 70.


You have gone bankrupt. Although you may be able to take out a loan, this causes you significant mental health issues when thinking about how to repay it.


Your mental health worsens as a result of chronically low social interaction.

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Welcome to in their shoes :

Seniors in Singapore

Before we start - could you tell us a little more about yourself?

Please select your gender:

Prefer to self-describe

Please select your age:

This is an exercise intended to develop your empathy skills.

Empathy allows us to understand different individuals’ or groups’ perspectives without having directly experienced them ourselves.

In this exercise, you will choose a character and respond to various scenarios in their shoes.

One character faces the consequences of Covid-19. Another character relies on financial support to make ends meet. The third character is homeless.

Each character has different starting levels of money, health and social points, which will be affected by the choices you make in each scenario.

Your main objective is to survive by keeping at least 5 health points, but do not neglect your money and social points as going bankrupt or suffering from loneliness will also affect your health.

Let us live through what different seniors experienced.

Pick Your Character

Lim Tea Guan
Noora Yoonus
Terry Boon

Lim Tea Guan, 60


  • You have a secondary school education qualification.
  • You work as a hawker centre toilet cleaner, with daily wages averaging from $5-$10.


  • You are divorced.

Social Circle

  • You are homeless and sleep in public spaces.

Lim Tea Guan, 60


  • You have chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and Type 2 diabetes.

Monthly Finances

  • Daily wages averaging from $5-$10.

Noora binti Yoonus, 60


  • You are in a low-/middle-income household.
  • You live with your husband, children, and elderly mother-in-law.
  • Your husband works as a Grab food delivery driver. Your eldest child just graduated from polytechnic and is struggling to find a job; your middle child is in their second year of polytechnic; your youngest child is in secondary 4.


  • You are a cleaner at a primary school.

Social Circle

  • After you moved house years ago, you lost touch with old friends.
  • Your social circle consists of colleagues at the primary school such as other cleaners, security guards and canteen vendors.

Noora binti Yoonus, 60


  • Over the last few years, you have been developing osteoarthritis/stiffness in your knees.
  • These medical conditions increase your risk of developing complications associated with Covid-19.

Monthly Finances

  • $3500 income (household)
  • $2700 expenses (including food, utilities, medication, school fees)

Terry Boon, 75


  • You were educated up to primary school.
  • You work as an ice cream cart seller, earning on average $600 a month after deducting business expenses. However, after subtracting MediSave contributions and living costs, you have $50 saved up.
  • You receive monetary support from the Silver Support scheme and workfare payments from the government to supplement your income.


  • You are widowed.
  • You have two children, but they stopped talking to you many years ago.
  • You live in a one-room rental flat.

Social Circle

  • You used to live with a housemate who used to help you pay the bills, but he has since disappeared.
  • You enjoy working because it gives you a sense of purpose and the chance to interact with people.

Terry Boon, 75


  • You have a chronic condition (bursitis) that causes your knees to be swollen and painful due to the physical stress of your job.

Monthly Finances

  • $600 income

You have completed the Circuit Breaker.

Seniors faced significant health risks during the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of this, they encountered a range of other problems:

  • Socially, seniors experienced isolation and loneliness due to needing to shield away from friends and family;
  • Economically, seniors faced difficulties because of businesses downsizing and children tightening their finances;
  • Although only briefly addressed in this exercise, seniors also struggled technologically with working from home, ordering supplies online and keeping in touch with others.

Read more in our report on Discovering the Needs of Seniors here.

Many of our seniors did not have it easy during circuit breaker. Here are some of the struggles they encountered over a span of 2.5 months. Are you able to identify any of these with the scenarios you just went through?

  • Difficulty adhering to circuit breaker regulations.
  • Rising unemployment coupled with job instability.
  • Loneliness and a strain on mental and/or physical health.
  • Increased vulnerability to virus.
  • Increasing lack of cash. The tightened purse strings of their children could result in a trickle down effect to their parents.
  • Difficulty staying digitally connected due to digital illiteracy.

Social inequality exists.
In reality, not everybody will start off at the same health, social & wealth levels. Everyone is going through a different life story.
How does that look like?



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Share your thoughts with us

You didn't make it.

The Covid-19 pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for seniors. Their health was severely compromised, and the ability to cope depended heavily on existing social and economic circumstances. To find out more, read our report or play again.

Read more in our report on Discovering the Needs of Seniors here.

You have completed the exercise

  • The aforementioned scenarios hope to provide some insights into the challenges that homeless people face.
  • Each difficult choice a homeless person makes worsens their already precarious situation. For instance, in choosing to skip one’s medication due to financial insecurity, one risks developing further health complications.
  • Homeless people do not fit typical stereotypes. For instance, a significant majority of homeless individuals are indeed employed.
  • While not covered in the game profile, the causes of homelessness are highly complex and require a coordinated approach to help these individuals get back on their feet.

If you are interested to find out more about homelessness in Singapore, please feel free to read the following resources:

You have completed the exercise

By stepping into Terry’s shoes, you may have realised that:

  • Recipients of financial support do not fit typical stereotypes. Many individuals enjoy work and are employed, which can also be a criteria for receiving some assistance in the first place.
  • Everyone wants to feel useful. Instead of giving, you can also try to patronise businesses run by disadvantaged individuals. For example, you can be inclusive by buying cart sellers’ ice-cream or even supporting them to promote their products to younger consumers.
  • Receiving financial support can be a source of shame. It may be necessary to survive but can be associated with feelings of insecurity and reduced independence.
  • Financial support schemes may not be a solution for everybody. Although there are several schemes available, individuals may be disqualified due to missing one or two of the eligibility criteria.
  • Language abilities should be an important consideration for volunteers. Our research shows that although volunteering can improve seniors’ lives, it has a smaller positive impact on seniors who cannot understand the sessions.
  • Donations should take recipients’ needs into consideration. Send food items that your recipients are used to; do not just send what you want to get rid of.

To find out more, visit:

Cunico, Lim and Han (2017). Ploughing on: The faces and insecurities of Singapore’s elderly working poor



      Social Circle


          Monthly Finances

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