Learning > Inspiration

Causes: Seniors, climb a mountain

Theresa Tan on 19 Sep 2018

The Straits Times


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In fast-paced Singapore, there are those in need - and those who go out of their way to meet these needs. This is part of a series on noteworthy causes The Straits Times is spotlighting.


Mrs Lee Yen, a 67-year-old retired teacher, is gunning to climb a 3.2km route up Mount Faber.


No big feat, except that the grandmother of four used to suffer from pain in her soles and kneecaps after brisk walking.


But that pain eased after she took part in an exercise programme that helps seniors to build stronger muscles, in the last three years.


So she is hoping to make the trek up Mount Faber with her daughter Charis Lee, 37, 10-year-old grandson and a friend, who is also a senior citizen, as part of the Go For Your Mountain challenge on Sept 29.


Mrs Lee said: "I want to let our juniors know that seniors can also be strong and we too can climb a mountain."


The inaugural Go For Your Mountain challenge, where seniors pair up with their younger family members to climb Mount Faber, is organised by Empower Ageing, a charity, and health and wellness social enterprise ProAge.


Mr Isaiah Chng, who founded both Empower Ageing and ProAge, initiated the challenge after befriending an elderly man who said he would rather die as no one visits him at the nursing home he lives in and he has no purpose in life.


Mr Chng, a 35-year-old clinical exercise physiologist by training, said healthcare professionals hear remarks like that all the time.


"Seniors often say things like they are too old to learn something new or to take part in activities," he said. "Many feel they have no purpose in life and, gradually, they become more frail and dependent."


So he wants to empower the elderly to dare to dream - and conquering a mountain seems like a good place to start.


They chose Mount Faber for its fabulous views and its rich source of history. So far, about 400 people, half of them senior citizens, have signed up for the climb.


Among them are four senior citizens, aged between 66 and 92, living at the Econ Medicare Centre and Nursing Home, who once had to use walking frames or wheelchairs to get about.


But after attending an exercise programme up to twice weekly to build their strength and mobility for three months, they are able to walk a shorter route of about 400m up Mount Faber.


Mr Chng said: "This is a great achievement for many of them as they were resigned to depending on a walking aid for the rest of their lives."


The other seniors and younger participants will take the 3.2km route up the mountain.


Mr Chng started Empower Ageing in 2016 as he felt there was a lack of programmes in the community to help seniors regain or boost their strength and mobility.


He said: "I'm concerned about the social isolation seniors face when they are not physically independent enough to mingle with their families and communities. This puts them at higher risk of mental health problems like depression."


Besides going to senior activity centres and nursing homes to run exercise classes, the charity also offers "Stepping Out" tours for dementia patients.


Often, these patients are left at home alone with just the maid for company. They are lonely and disengaged, said Mr Chng.


So to engage them, the charity would talk to them to find out more about their lives and interests, and take them on outings tailored to cater to their interests.


For example, they have taken a group of patients to the Chinatown Heritage Centre and they got one dementia patient to share her experiences of living in Chinatown.


Mr Chng said: " We wanted to provide what we've observed many seniors didn't have and what we felt was truly missing - the right support to age well."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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