Activities for seniors cancelled, but no need for them to stay cooped up at home: Healthcare professionals

A line dancing class held at the multi-purpose hall of Siglap South Community Centre on March 10, 2020. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - There is no need for seniors to stay cooped up indoors despite the two-week suspension of all senior-centric activities organised by government agencies, healthcare professionals said.

Instead, seniors are advised to lead life normally, continue to go out to open spaces to exercise and keep healthy, and meet in smaller groups.

"Though some might complain and feel upset about the cancellation of classes, many seniors are also relieved as they are be fearful and concerned about their health," Dr Geraldine Tan, principal psychologist of The Therapy Room, told The Straits Times on Wednesday (March 11).

Before the suspension of activities, some seniors may have felt torn about whether or not to attend them, Dr Tan said. "This suspension helps to simplify the decision-making process."

The suspension will affect courses and activities at community centres and residents' committees in areas like music, drama, dance, exercise, basic IT and career development.

The People's Association, which runs many of these programmes, said the suspension will affect 2,600 classes and 11,000 activities attended by about 290,000 participants.

"But they do not need to just stay at home. They should still go outdoors to exercise, such as at fitness corners, to keep themselves healthy. They can also continue to meet their friends in smaller groups - four to five people playing chess at the void decks are okay."

"The suspension of classes does not equate to a home quarantine," Dr Tan said.

Dr Leong Choon Kit, a family physician at Mission Medical Clinic in Serangoon, echoed similar sentiments. "There are many things that seniors can and should do. They should still go out to open spaces to exercise and meet their friends for meals, or even visit the malls in the mornings or mid-afternoons when there is no crowd," he said.

"There is a concern that seniors might be too afraid and get comfortable staying at home, and even after the outbreak is over, they may continue to remain indoors," Dr Leong added.

There might also be concern that the suspension of classes will result in a loss of purpose among seniors, geriatrician Sitoh Yih Yiow said.

"However, the restrictions are necessary until we get a better grasp of the (coronavirus) situation that is still evolving rapidly. Exercise is good, especially in small groups but social responsibility must be exercised," Dr Sitoh added.

"Even at home, seniors can still keep busy with their hobbies, such as painting, calligraphy, floral arrangement."

Ms Teo Puay Leng, clinical director at voluntary welfare organisation O' Joy Care Services, agreed. "Many senior citizens have hobbies they can do by themselves, for example, taking care of their plants, watching TV and using the iPad," said Ms Teo.

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