Gym for the elderly opens in Bishan Community Club

Participants of the Gym Tonic programme at the Bishan Community Centre will now be able to enjoy a new operational centre at the community club.
Participants of the Gym Tonic programme at the Bishan Community Centre will now be able to enjoy a new operational centre at the community club.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - Part-time pharmacist Madam Tee Ah Lui may be 82 but she has an extra spring in her step these days and it's all thanks to a get-up-and-go initiative at Bishan Community Club.

Madam Tee has osteoporosis in the knee and hip but the Gym Tonic programme she has been attending twice a week for the past three months has enabled her to walk quickly and painlessly again.

She is one of 149 senior citizens who have graduated from the programme, which conducts strength training to improve functional ability.

The programme itself is enjoying a boost as well, with Gym Tonic moving on Wednesday (Oct 31) from a temporary room to newly operational centre at the community club.

It is the only Gym Tonic in a community club that is open to the public. The other 25 are mostly in elderly care facilities and are exclusive to their members.

The Bishan programme started in April. Each iteration lasts three months and costs $180.

Those who want more training can extend their term to six months. They get a report card and certificate at the end of the programme.

Madam Tee told The Straits Times: "I find it very suitable for older people like me because there is the support for us to lie down while we exercise and we will not fall.

"The machine also customises the weights so we do not need to be afraid that we will over-exert and tear our muscles."

The gym equipment uses air compression instead of weights, which is more elderly-friendly. The machines can monitor how the user is faring and adjust the weight accordingly. They also track the user's progress.

Two trainers teach participants how to use the machines and ensure they are exercising safely.

Madam Tee said: "I used to walk in a rather bow-legged way and I couldn't stand straight. After three months here, I can walk faster and I don't have so much muscle cramps anymore when I stretch. It has really helped and I'm so happy I started doing this."

The Gym Tonic programme is the latest in a range of initiatives by the Bishan East-Thomson Grassroots Organisations to help the elderly.

More than 40 per cent of residents in the area are over 50.

Mr Chong Kee Hiong, adviser to Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Grassroots Organisations, said: "The key concern is that as people age, their knees get weaker and falling is a problem. Gym Tonic offers them a structured programme, after which they should know how to use other exercise equipment under their blocks, for instance."

Other initiatives include free Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic services every Tuesday and Friday at the community centre and dementia-friendly campaigns.

Gym Tonic graduate Yvonne Chng, 70, said: "It's all about keeping yourself going. You're never too old to start exercising."