Groovin' to good health


[Seniors at Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Young At Heart pose with volunteers from Get Movin’ For Charity. We spoke with volunteers Michelle Tan (first row, fourth from the left), Gael Lee (first row, fifth from the left in the blue tights) and Evonne Tay (first row, third from the right).]

On a balmy Saturday morning, a group of 20 seniors, most of them in matching red T-shirts, gathers at the void deck of Block 650 in Ang Mo Kio. Minutes later, a punchy tune fills the air and everyone starts grooving to the music and sweating it out for the next one hour.

Welcome to the monthly fun fitness class conducted by volunteers of Get Movin’ For Charity at Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Young At Heart @ AMK 650. The group holds the classes to help seniors get active again and gives them a chance to socialise with each other. The Successful Ageing team chatted with founder Jacqueline Tan, 37 and volunteers Michelle Tan, 43; Gael Lee, 46; and Evonne Tay, 36 to learn more about this meaningful initiative.

How was Get Movin’ For Charity started?

Jacqueline: Get Movin’ For Charity (GMFC) is an initiative that I started in 2012 to promote active ageing. I knew an elderly person who became withdrawn and isolated after being wheelchair-bound following a fall. I wanted him to know he could still have fun and be fit! At GMFC, we encourage seniors and those with special needs and disabilities, to exercise and experience the fun and joy of being active. We have seen how being active improves one’s mobility, mental health and social abilities.

Michelle:We conduct a programme called Fun Fitness Without Boundaries – that is dance fitness, such as Zumba. We believe that when senior participants join us, they not only exercise but get to socialise too! The moves we teach are tailored to seniors and the songs are specially selected based on their preferences. The tempo is also easier to follow but if the seniors can’t keep up, we encourage them to just move along to the music.

Gael: We work as a team with at least three to four leads who are certified in working with seniors and understanding their mobility issues. We also have volunteers who are not certified but have dance background. We need both types of volunteers who can help the seniors.

When and where are the dance fitness sessions held every month?

Jacqueline: We are currently working with three Senior Activity Centres (SACs) – THK Bukit Merah View (THK BMV), THK Ang Mo Kio (THK AMK) and Pacific Activity Centre Sengkang. We also work with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) and Metta Day Activity Centre for the Intellectually Disabled. Most of the sessions are conducted once or twice a month at these centres. We would love to go to more centres if we are able to get more committed instructors and volunteers to join us.

Michelle: We are not funded, though some organisations are kind enough to give us sponsorships. For instance, we are grateful to have received Tiger Balm product sponsorships and a fully-paid outing for the elderly to the Underwater World from Haw Par Corporation. The elderly enjoyed the visit to the aquarium and they even got to dance there! We invite everyone to join us as volunteers, even if it is just to interact with the seniors, because we believe in socialising. Sometimes, seniors just need a “How are you?” to make them feel appreciated.

Watch the seniors and volunteers in action at their recent Zumba session cum Chinese New Year celebration.

What keeps you going as a volunteer?

Michelle: I find it most meaningful when I see the seniors become more fit and active. Knowing I’m able to pay it forward… that feeling is priceless. Over time, we see the seniors as our family. They remember our names and are just like our grandparents, offering us tissue when we perspire, dispensing travel advice and telling us to take care when we go away on trips.

Evonne: I’ve been with GMFC for five years. I started out as a volunteer before becoming an instructor in 2014. Each time I meet the seniors, I feel happy knowing I’ve made a difference to their lives. I’ve known some of them from the beginning and have seen their fitness improve. We volunteer out of passion… I have a full-time job and my weekends revolve around GMFC. I intend to keep volunteering for as long as I can.

 

The volunteers aren’t the only ones who will keep going; the seniors love their weekly dose of exercise too!

Madam Lim Siew Kheng, 60, said: “Zumba makes me feel young! As we grow older, our bodies get weaker and it’s even more important that we exercise.”

Her fellow participant, 70-year-old Mr William Ho, couldn’t agree more.

“I find Zumba interesting and lively… I look young doing it too! Exercise is very important to me because I want to live longer for my children and two grandchildren. Going out and meeting people make me happy. I want to be active and independent… in that way I can help others too,” Mr Ho said with a big smile.

 

To learn more or join Get Movin’ For Charity as a volunteer, visit www.facebook.com/getmovinforcharity. For more information on Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, visit www.facebook.com/welovethk or www.thkmc.org.sg.

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