Wednesday July 25, 2012
Keeping active helps senior citizens to be healthy
By EVE YAP
Being busy and active help keep senior citizens, many of them grandparents, in good health.
JOSEPHINE Roman, a grandmother of two, cannot wait for her bi-monthly rowing sessions. The 71-year-old rises bright and early every other Saturday to take part in this physically taxing sport.
She is at Singapore’s Thomson Community Club, a stone’s throw from her home, by 9am and from there, she and a dozen dragonboaters are taken by bus to Bedok, Seletar or Lower Pierce reservoir for two hours of fun in the sun.
“The minute I push the paddle against the water and feel the fresh air out there, I feel liberated,” says Roman, who learnt to swim in her 60s and has been rowing for two years.
Her days are packed. If it is not badminton, it is fuzion ball or tai chi rhythmic ball and Sudoku on Thursday nights. Saturday evenings are for karaoke.
“I like to keep busy,” says Roman, who married at 17 and was “free by the time I was 40” as her three children were all grown up.
Andrew Yeong and his wife, Kuan Kim Kian, have four grandchildren and have been helping at the island republic’s South-West Community Development Council (CDS) for the last 10 years, packing goodie bags, handing out water bottles and acting as route marshalls for mass events, from the National Day Parade to the Sundown Marathon.
These grandparents are shining examples of active seniors and the Singapore Government is encouraging such activities through a stream of schemes.
For example, its five CDCs launched a Caring For The Silver Community initiative last month.
It aims to reach out to 114,000 senior citizens over the year and get them to take part in activities or volunteer to organise them for friends.
The People’s Association’s four-year-old Wellness Programme, which includes getting seniors aged 50 and above to go for health checks and widen their social circle, is currently available in 42 constituencies. It will be rolled out to the remaining 45 constituencies by the end of March next year.
Singapore now has 1.1 million people aged 50 and above. By 2030, the pool of seniors aged 65 and older will triple to 900,000.
Apart from eating well and exercising regularly, seniors must guard against isolation, says Dr Joanne Kua, 33, associate consultant at the department of geriatric medicine at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Mingling with peers and family members enables seniors to “guard against depression and reduce loneliness”, leading to improved health, she adds. Past media reports show that since 2007, at least 52 elderly people have died alone in their homes.
“Perception bias” must change, says Gerard Ee, 62, chairman of Council For Third Age, which promotes active ageing to a silver population. “We often think of seniors as kind, dependable or frail and conversely, and many seniors may perceive younger people as impatient, arrogant or tech-savvy. Whether positive or negative, the stereotypes impact how we treat each other.”
Communities can plan events that bring youth and seniors together. And families should involve three generations in their activities, Ee says.
That is what housewife Ng Kim Kee, 71, did for the Pink Ribbon Walk for breast cancer last year. Her eight-strong team included her children and their spouses, and two granddaughters.
She and her retiree husband, who does not wish to be named, live with two of their children in an executive apartment in Bukit Batok.
Ng, who brisk-walks for about half an hour most mornings, will take part in the 5km Great Eastern Women’s Run in November with her daughters.
The activities have helped her mend her couch-potato ways. “I now watch one hour of Korean drama serials a day, compared to four or five hours before,” she says.
Retired police inspector and former star hurdler Osman Merican, 72, says he cannot bear to see seniors “sitting around at void decks to pass their time”.
The grandfather of three, who was previously married to fellow star hurdler Heather Merican, will organise his first potluck lunch next month or so. He targets about 30 fellow seniors and their family members in his block in Sengkang, where he lives with his current wife, real estate agent Cilia Koh, 46.
Osman goes fishing, takes weekly walks by the beach and meets friends once or twice a week at the Ceylon Sports Club in Balestier to “sing, dance and talk about current affairs”. He also paints abstracts and this hobby of two decades brings in some spare cash.
For qigong instructor Sim Yang Oh, 72, the sport renewed his strength after his wife died in 2000. He teaches at the North West Health Qigong Clubs, Mondays to Saturdays, to a weekly total of about 300 seniors at Woodlands Stadium.
The retired clothing shop assistant lives with the youngest of his three children in a four-room flat just across the road from the stadium. The grandfather of four says: “Volunteering and exercising is much better than staying at home and facing the four walls.” – The Straits Times Singapore/Asia News Network