SINGAPORE - Older people will be taught how to protect themselves and minimise injuries in the event of a fall, in a new programme called Rolling Good Times by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
Designed for people aged 50 and above, the programme comprises two parts - an obstacle course and group exercises to build muscle strength as well as balance and flexibility; and the teaching of basic rolling techniques to minimise the risk of injuries and fractures in case of a fall.
The programme, which will be piloted in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was announced on Sunday (Oct 14) by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who is an MP for the GRC. The Ministry of Health, Singapore Physiotherapy Association and People's Association are also involved in the programme.
Falls tend to lead to fractures and immobility for the elderly. This can result in severe deterioration of health and poor quality of life.
Dr Ng also noted that by 2030, nearly one million Singaporeans will be above 65 years of age. This is one in every four Singaporeans.
He said it is not easy to learn how to fall. "You have to work against your instincts and understand why you're doing it. Once you're convinced that you can protect yourself, I think more people will want to learn. Other countries have shown that indeed this reduces the rate of injuries if you learn how to fall properly."
In a demonstration at Toa Payoh Central, volunteers from the Singapore Physiotherapy Association showed residents how to fall on the fleshier parts of their bodies - such as the buttocks - and to tuck in their chins to prevent their heads from hitting the ground. Residents were also told to get into a ball-like position and to avoid falling on the "bonier parts" of the body such as the hips.
On Sunday, Dr Ng also launched the Programme for Active Living (Pal), which aims to encourage 120,000 residents in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC to develop a lifestyle of regular exercise.
Under Pal, points can be collected by taking part in grassroots-organised activities such as health screenings and healthy cooking demonstrations, and interest groups such as stretch band exercise, zumba or line dancing.
The Pal challenge is paired with the HPB's Healthy 365 App which tracks their steps and activities. Participants can redeem grocery vouchers after each three-month challenge period.
Fitness trackers will be provided free to participants who are Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 17 and above, at a three-day HPB roadshow from Sunday to Tuesday from 11am to 7.30pm at the Toa Payoh Central Amphitheatre.
Dr Ng noted that residents in his GRC are older than the national average. Some 40 per cent, or about 80,000 residents there, are above the age of 50.
In phase one of the push to get residents to be more active, the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council started building elderly fitness stations, comprising apparatus that work different muscle groups, in 2013. To date, there are 114 such stations across the GRC, each within 400m of every HDB block.
Toa Payoh resident Lin Siew Hong, 78, a retired salesperson who signed up for the Pal programme, said she exercises thrice a week. She said: "Everyone should exercise. It keeps sicknesses at bay. I'm healthier because of it."