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A DIFFERENT FOCUS: Above: The Gym Tonic project by Lien Foundation involves over 2,000 seniors in 13 centres - helping to design appropriate exercise protocols and benchmarks for them. The project targets those who are frail and idle, and those with high risk of falls.

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A DIFFERENT FOCUS: Above: Pacific Healthcare, which runs Pacific Activity Centres for seniors, aims to encourage them to stay functional and independent, and engaged with the community

Helping the elderly stay active

Jul 17, 2015 5:50 AM

AS the population ages, some private gyms are gearing up to serve a growing clientele who can no longer bench press or go for high-intensity spinning classes.

Innervate is run by the same people behind CrossFit Singapore, one of the pioneering CrossFit centres in Singapore. But co-owner Moses James says he and his partners set up Innervate to target the over-55 demographic as the strength and conditioning programmes are tailored for participants' capabilities.

"We had to set up Innervate because the training focus is different, even though the coaching and exercises are the same. Over here, the emphasis is on rehabilitation and strength building, and injury prevention," says Mr James.

Besides general CrossFit, there is CrossFit Defence, CrossFit kids/teens and CrossFit Silvers.

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Elsewhere, there are community-based programmes such as the Gym Tonic project by Lien Foundation. It involves over 2,000 seniors in 13 centres - helping to design appropriate exercise protocols and benchmarks for them.

The project targets those who are frail and idle, and those with high risk of falls, says Ken Tan, one of Gym Tonic's project leaders. "We put these three groups of elderly to exercise, and track their progress with technology - looking at muscle strength and balance. The reason we focus on strength training is that it gives the fastest outcome and result," he explains, adding that motor skills and nutrition will subsequently be looked at.

Another project by Pacific Healthcare aims to encourage ageing in place, by helping them stay functional and independent, and engaged with the community.

There are five Pacific Activity Centres for seniors, with another seven under renovation, at the new HDB flats from Woodlands to Choa Chu Kang. Each centre has its own community-based programmes, and most will also include the HUR machine from Finland. The HUR machine is a revolutionising machine-based exercise because it uses compressed air instead of deadweights, and can therefore be tailored to the individual's capabilities.

The project is to support ageing-in-place as it serves those who have downsized to studio apartments," explains Kelvin Ng, vice president of Pacific Healthcare's Eldercare Services.

Pacific Activity Centres were set up with consultation from the community, he stresses, so that each centre will provide programmes that the residents want. They pay only S$10 a year, and the centre earns income through the rent of 45 per cent of its space to health-related commercial services like chiropractic or TCM clinics.

Mr Tan points out that this is a concept that has been around for a decade, but previously, only at rented HDB flats and run by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). Now, it is serving the studio apartments which house seniors who have downsized but are still financially independent. Each centre would serve about 50 studio apartments, he adds.

"While the government hasn't given us subsidies, our rent is lower and 55 per cent of it must be for non-commercial activities," says Mr Tan.

Understanding that the elderly need a different fitness approach is an important first step - all in the realisation that active ageing is the only way for the future.

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