Learning to swim at 55

Mr Liew, 55, joined the North West SwimSafer Club for Seniors about a year ago. His wife, Madam Chee, 52, joined recently. Swimming is now part of their routine.
Mr Liew, 55, joined the North West SwimSafer Club for Seniors about a year ago. His wife, Madam Chee, 52, joined recently. Swimming is now part of their routine.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

A nagging pain, especially at the neck, was what prompted Mr Liew Woo Kong, 55, to join a swimming class for the first time.

The pain had been bothering him since a motorcycle accident about three years ago. Back then, he went for physiotherapy and took painkillers, but the problem persisted.

"I stopped the treatment after two years as there was not much progress," said Mr Liew, who does building maintenance work.

About a year ago, a friend recommended the North West SwimSafer Club for Seniors to him.

It appealed to him because it caters to older learners like him.

"My therapist had recommended swimming before. But I would feel uncomfortable joining a class that is meant for kids," said the father of three, with a laugh.

IMPROVEMENT

Last time, I tried to learn on my own, but it was more like ploughing forward in the water like a bull. Now, I can swim laps without supervision.

MR LIEW WOO KONG, 55, on his progress

Although he was generally fit, learning how to breathe properly while swimming proved to be challenging in the initial stages, he admitted.

"Last time, I tried to learn on my own, but it was more like ploughing forward in the water like a bull," he said in Mandarin. "Now, I can swim laps without supervision."

While the pain has not totally gone away, Mr Liew feels that it has eased.

What was more obvious was that he felt more alert and had better stamina, he said.

His positive learning experience even encouraged his wife, Madam Chee Bee Ling, 52, to join the swim club about four months ago.

It was a big leap for the clinic assistant, as she had a fear of water.

"I was a total newbie. Last time, I used to watch the kids learn how to swim, but never had the urge to do try it myself," she said. The couple have three sons, aged 16 to 28.

With the instructor's help, she was able to pick up the basics after a few lessons.

Her frozen shoulder, which she had been experiencing for a few months, got better after she attended the swimming classes, she said.

Swimming is now part of their routine - the couple spend at least one hour at the pool every Friday.

They appreciate the instructor's age-appropriate coaching method.

For instance, the session is generally less intense than classes for young children, who tend to have more energy and are free of health issues like muscular pain.

Said Mr Liew: "It is tougher for older people. With age, our body becomes more stiff."

Poon Chian Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'His positive experience spurs wife to join swim club'. Print Edition | Subscribe