Caption: TOUCH’s fitness coach Mr Daryl Badera leading Ang Mo Kio residents in strength training sessions at a void deck.
A chorus of voices singing “Ole ole ole ole…” could be heard at a void deck in an Ang Mo Kio precinct on a Tuesday morning. They were not sung by a group of football fans but by some 90 homemakers and retirees who have been attending the strength training sessions organised by TOUCH Caregivers Support (TCG) as part of its community enablement efforts. Stretching their arms and giving their bodies a good work out, the residents have been coming twice a week for their morning exercise fix.
Caption: Residents, both young and old, having a fun time exercising together.
Everyone can exercise
Among them was 85-year-old Mr Lum Cheok Fong, who walks with a walking frame. “My neighbour asked me to join this exercise class so I came. At first I had my doubts. I thought such activities are for younger people. But when I saw other seniors on wheelchairs exercising, I did not feel awkward. I have help from fellow residents so that is good,” said Mr Lum, a regular exercise participant.
Caption: Mr Lum feels stronger now and is able to stay at home independently while his wife goes out to work.
Led by TOUCH’s therapy team, the number of participants have tripled – from 30 two years ago to 90 – and is set to grow.
“Many have the misconception that older people should abstain from exercising if they have stiff or painful joints. They become afraid to move around and caregivers tend to err on the side of caution and advise against anything that might aggravate the discomfort. What they might not realise is that inactivity cause muscles to get weaker and increase the risk of falling, which in turn will cause them to be further disengaged from daily activities. This can become a vicious cycle as they might then become homebound, leading to loneliness and depression” said Ms Vivian Lim, Physiotherapist from TOUCH Home Care.
“We must never underestimate the benefits of exercising. When other older residents see that is possible for a wheelchair user to exercise, they think to themselves ‘If others can do it, why can’t I?” added Ms Lim.
The strength training sessions are part of TOUCH’s efforts to enable residents to stay connected with one another, remain active and feel good.
“For seniors to enjoy a good quality of life, they must be able to do what interest them or gives them joy. We have elderly residents who have regained strength and balance, and walking further and faster – without the use of a walking aid. They can make their way to the coffeeshops, market or go about their daily activities. Emotionally, they feel stronger too and many move on to help others.” said Mr Kelvin Lee, Manager, TCG.
Caption: Mdm Han (fourth from left) having breakfast with other residents after a good workout.
Being happy, healthy and helpful is the key to an enabled life. Take Mdm Han Kim Eng, 78, for example. She used to move around in a wheelchair. Now, she can manage long distances without the help of a walking aid. Mdm Han also takes the initiative to keep a look out for frail seniors or needy residents, flagging them to TOUCH staff. Sometimes, she would run errands for other frail seniors, with her domestic helper's assistance.
Leading a purposeful life, ready to help others
“We are seeing changes to the residents in this small Ang Mo Kio community; formal and informal networks of care are sprouting up where previously, people did not even acknowledge one another! As residents become socially engaged and healthy, they feel good and want to do more for others. As eldercare specialists, we want to leverage on what we do best - empowering residents with practical knowledge and skills - so that they can be a resource in the community to confidently and competently help seniors to age in place,” Mr Lee added.
Caption: Residents helping to set up chairs before the exercise sessions.
As part of this engagement and development journey, TOUCH will maximise the residents’ functional strength and mobility by adding specialty exercise classes over a three-month period. These classes will see residents engaged in customised exercises with varying difficulties of strength and balance, endurance, as well as flexibility training to address muscle weakness, poor stability and pain.