More gyms for the elderly and disabled in mature HDB estates: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (in pink) - who helms Ang Mo Kio GRC - said the estate has more senior citizens than most other towns in Singapore. The first gym catering to the elderly and disabled in mature Housing Board estates is expected to open in Ang Mo Kio Community Centre in mid-2019. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - More gyms catering to the elderly and disabled will be built in mature Housing Board estates, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Saturday (Sept 8).

The first such gym is expected to open in Ang Mo Kio Community Centre in mid-2019, said PM Lee at the centre's community dinner for active seniors.

Sport Singapore said that it expects the number of community centres with senior-friendly gyms to increase to five by the end of next year.

The gyms will be open to all and charge an entry fee of $2.50. Those above 55 will need to pay only $1.50. They will get free entry on Wednesdays.

Speaking at the dinner, PM Lee - who helms Ang Mo Kio GRC - said the estate has more senior citizens than most other towns in Singapore.

Therefore, the community centre promotes active ageing by encouraging senior citizens to take part in activities such as aerobics, taiji and dance, so as to maintain their physical and mental health after retiring.

Data will be collected from these gyms and studied by the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to better understand the needs of the elderly.

The SUSS study will also look into inter-generational bonding in the gyms, which will have a mix of modern equipment and specialised equipment for the elderly and disabled.

Professor Kalyani Mehta, head of SUSS' gerontology programme, said senior citizens will receive a membership card, which they can scan on the exercise equipment before using it.

This will allow the machines to capture the users' exercise data, which will be used for the long-term tracking of the gyms' impact on users.

Professor Mehta added that while the entire study will take around three to five years to complete, preliminary results should be obtained after a year. Gerontology students in SUSS will also be involved in the study.

Ang Mo Kio resident Alicia Tan, 44, said she will encourage her mother-in-law, 70, to visit the new senior-friendly gym when it opens next year.

"It will be good for her health. But whether she wants to, I'm not too sure. Hopefully, there will be fitness instructors to get the elderly folk started on the exercises," said the accounts assistant.

IT executive Paul Yang, 60, also an Ang Mo Kio resident, said: "I don't have the habit of visiting the gym, as I often play games such as badminton and basketball with my daughter. Still, I'll consider going if I have the time and can spend one to two hours working out."

More organisations are offering elder-friendly senior programmes.

The Lien Foundation's Gym Tonic initiative, for example, is a strength-training programme that uses pneumatic machines to strengthen seniors' core muscle groups and taps software to track their progress.

It is available to the public at locations such as the Active SG Gym @ Our Tampines Hub and the Methodist Welfare Services Senior Activity Centre in Fernvale.

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