Caption: Mdm Ah Tee’s flexibility and agility show that age is just a number
“Nothing beats seeing seniors encouraging one another, exercising together and exploring new things in a familiar environment. My greatest satisfaction is to see seniors who cannot walk, finally mastering the dance movements on their own.”
Meet 82-year-old Mdm Ah Tee, a sprightly health enthusiast who does splits effortlessly. Her daily exercise routine involves two hours of bending, stretching, dancing and Tai Chi or Zumba sessions.
The grandmother of four lives with her 83-year-old husband in Wellington. Her love for dancing started two decades ago. At that time, she was an active participant in community events and Resident-Committee activities.
Caption: Feeling energised at 82!
Then in 2018, she joined TOUCH’s newly opened Active Ageing Centre (AAC) located opposite her block. By then, Mdm Ah Tee was already known in her neighbourhood as “Kai Xin Guo” or “happy fruit” for her cheerfulness and infectious smile. She was able to attract a small group of residents who would do Tai Chi with her every day at the pavilion. Mdm Ah Tee started to have many friends as she joined more activities at the centre.
Learning to bend and flex better
In 2020, TOUCH was approached by Yishun Health to be involved in Dance UP, a community dance and movement programme funded by the Alexandra Health Fund. Mdm Ah Tee was then recruited to join the pioneer batch of trainees. However, the three-month “train-the-trainer” programme was interrupted by the pandemic, and the training ending up spanning nine months. Despite the movement restriction measures and time taken to travel to her training venue at Newton, Mdm Ah Tee persevered. She was taught how to get seniors to move safely from the chair to the floor and up again, to improve their confidence, strength, endurance and flexibility.
Through Dance UP, TOUCH hopes to enable seniors to create bonds and look out for one another. With improved posture, confidence and balance, seniors will be more motivated to take charge of their own health. Such efforts will also help to delay or prevent the onset of frailty and dementia.
Caption: Mdm Ah Tee (middle) leading a Dance UP session
Caption: Mdm Ah Tee (middle) attending a Dance UP training session (Photo Credit: Yishun Health)
Caption: Mdm Ah Tee (second row second from right) posing with seniors and staff from TOUCH’s AAC in Wellington
“I was excited when I was asked to be trained as a dance coach. It was not easy at first. Other than having to memorise the steps and movements, we had to deal with the pandemic. It was an uncertain period and I had to travel further away to the dance studio. But I stayed focused. I told myself I have to master the dance techniques. I want to teach seniors. This is good for them!” said Mdm Ah Tee.
Finally, in Sep 2021, Mdm Ah Tee was certified as a Dance UP coach, and started to lead Dance UP sessions from Feb 2022. To build confidence, she started just being around seniors and providing assistance, whenever they needed help. Gradually, she progressed to standing in front of the class and leading the sessions.
“Nothing beats seeing seniors encouraging one another, exercising together and exploring new things in a familiar environment. I always tell them to take it slowly. My greatest satisfaction is to see seniors who cannot walk, finally mastering the dance movements on their own,” added Mdm Ah Tee.
Seniors like Mdm Yeoh Ah Soon, 76, who refused repeatedly to join Dance UP, finally agreed to do so after Mdm Ah Tee’s persistent persuasion. Now, Mdm Yeoh is a regular participant and has even invited other seniors to join the dance sessions.
“If you keep yourself active, you will be happy. I am glad I can show others that seniors like me can still contribute. We may be old, but we should not let that limit what we are capable of achieving in life,” said Mdm Ah Tee.
Story published in 2023