Seniors can limber up again as People's Association resumes activities

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SINGAPORE - Recovered Covid-19 patient Sity Ngainsiyah Salamon, 62, lost the motivation to exercise after her weekly stretching class was suspended in September because of a spike in new daily Covid-19 cases.

Although her trainers from En Community Services Society - one of the People's Association's (PA) partners - posted workout videos in a WhatsApp group she was part of, she did not feel like following the routines.

But when the PA resumed classes and activities from last Monday (Nov 1) for fully vaccinated seniors aged 60 and above and those who have recovered from Covid-19, Madam Sity got right back into the groove.

Beaming with joy, she was among 30 seniors dancing to a medley of pop music tracks at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club last Tuesday morning.

She told The Straits Times: "The instructors remember all of us and they know our medical conditions.

"For me, they know I get giddy sometimes when I stand up because I have low blood pressure so they tell me I don't need to do some movements."

The resumption of selected programmes comes as inoculation and booster rates among seniors have increased, following the deployment of mobile teams and publicity trucks in the heartland.

As at the end of last month, there were 68,000 unvaccinated seniors, down from 200,000 in July.

Some of the PA activities that will be resumed progressively include getai live performances within the community centres and SingapoRediscovers tours.

Other social service agencies that serve seniors are also making preparations to resume activities in small groups once they receive authorisation from the authorities.

Care Corner Singapore, which serves 13,300 seniors across nine centres, plans to resume clay art and canvas painting classes after Nov 21, which is when the current Covid-19 stabilisation phase is expected to end.

Ms Sharon Tang, manager of Care Corner's active ageing group, noted that while some programmes such as bingo can take place over Zoom, there is no substitute for physical presence in others.

She said: "Art and craft classes involving detailed instructions, such as origami, will be more suitable to be conducted in a physical class."

Seniors take part in an exercise session at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club on Nov 2, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Lions Befrienders chairman Anthony Tay said the group's 10 centres remain open for seniors to visit but they must sit within zones of two and are provided tablets so they can attend workouts virtually.

The organisation serves more than 8,000 seniors.

Mr Tay added: "Since September, our trainers are not allowed to visit the centres.

"Though we have been having online or hybrid sessions, some of our seniors miss physical classes as they tend to lose focus when there isn't someone around to call out their names and keep their attention."

To find ways to keep seniors engaged virtually, NTUC Health has converted one of its rooms at its Geylang East senior daycare centre into a virtual reality space.

Pre-recorded scenes of tourist attractions such as Haw Par Villa or cultural precincts like Chinatown are projected on the walls, so that seniors can take turns entering the room to "visit" these destinations.

The Ministry of Health last Tuesday said it recognises that reduced social interactions can negatively impact the socio-emotional and mental well-being of seniors.

It added: "Centre-based services, including exercise and cognitive activities, remain available, albeit with reduced capacities and safe management measures.

"We are working to augment these in the light of the extended stabilisation phase. As the Covid-19 situation stabilises, we aim to have more partners gradually resume their activities."

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