Mr. Teoh was happy by himself. Even though he shared a home with his son and grandchildren, he kept to himself. His bedroom suite with its adjoining bathroom had room for his rice cooker and refrigerator, his massage chair and television set – he certainly thought he needed nothing else. He especially thought he didn’t need any teenagers hanging about, “These young people are out of control” he said.
Although he was an elderly gentleman at the age of 83, Mr. Teoh kept himself busy; he exercised daily, was a cast member on a drama called Tanglin, and was the proud owner/operator of a comic book store. He was perfectly satisfied in his busy yet solitary life.
But Mr. Teoh had a surprise in store – in the form of a 14-year-old boy named Kieyron. A social experiment in intergenerational relationships, the Back to School documentary, chose the 83-year-old man and the 14-year-old boy to be unlikely partners in an experimental friendship. Mr. Teoh could only laugh and assume that this would not go well.
Kieyron was as different from Mr. Teoh as night is to day. Where Mr. Teoh was grumpy and solitary, Kieyron was friendly and gregarious.
Where Mr. Teoh was active in business and acting, and a fitness fanatic who once represented Singapore in bowling, Kieyron would rather sit and play his PlayStation 4 games for 4 hours a day, and had not passed his national fitness test.
When the two first met Kieyron was overwhelmed by the old man’s life experiences and barely said a word. Mr. Teoh, on the other hand, did not stop talking about himself.
He told the boy how as a former policeman he’d helped form Singapore into the city the boy now enjoyed today. He talked about his former fitness prowess as a badminton junior champion and bowler in Japan.
He talked about his comic book store and his acting job at Tanglin – he talked and talked. Kieyron was afraid that if he spoke up Mr. Teoh would not like him at all.
But Kieyron had listened, and although it seemed at first glance that the two truly had nothing in common, he had hope – they both liked comics.
The boy dropped by Mr. Teoh’s comic book store one day and the two began talking about their favorite heroes: Spiderman for Kieyron and Batman for Mr. Teoh.
They talked about Spawn and Deadpool and Kieyron bought some comics. The boy saw a warmer side to the old man and enjoyed his company, but although Mr. Teoh grudgingly admitted the kid wasn’t so bad and was surprised that he knew so much about comics, he wasn’t willing to be friendlier…yet.
By now Kieyron was calling Mr. Teoh ‘Uncle Bill’; thinking of stories the old man had told him he realized that once upon a time Uncle Bill actually visited other people, so the boy invited him to lunch. He wanted him to meet his family and eat his grandma’s awesome chicken curry. Mr. Teoh was taken aback!
Nobody invited people for lunches or dinners anymore! His heart started to melt and he was deeply touched. After a lunch of laughter, great food and company, Uncle Bill capitulated completely – he liked Kieyron!
Mr. Teoh had learned during the lunch that the boy spent way too much time on his PlayStation 4 and decided to take a more pro-active role in Kieyron’s life – he decided “to take the boy under his wing”.
He took Kieyron to the set of Tanglin where the 14-year-old got to meet the rest of the cast and crew. He took Kieyron to yoga with him to help the boy become more fit, and he visited Kieyron at school to help him with his broad jump training, so he might finally get through his National Fitness tests.
This attention was good for Kieyron, and he was grateful and touched that the old man would take time to help him.
Surprisingly, this entire situation had helped both of them! Kieyron and other teenage participants had to undergo psychometric tests and Mr. Teoh had to undergo memory tests before the experiment could begin.
When they were re-tested ten weeks later Kieyron tested higher for self-esteem, and Mr. Teoh’s memory, fitness and processing speed had nearly doubled! These amazing and awesome results clearly showed that intergenerational friendships are good for both people.
Now that the experiment is over the two intend to remain friends and continue their relationship. Mr. Teoh sees Kieyron as a grandson, and the boy sees Uncle Bill as a grandfather. True friendship had blossomed.
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