SINGAPORE: To help seniors age well, five ActiveSG gyms designed with the elderly and disabled in mind will open by the end of this year.
Last September, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that such gyms will open in mature housing estates. On Saturday (Jul 13), he opened the first at Ang Mo Kio Community Centre, which is also the first ActiveSG gym in a community centre.
The gym is open to the public and costs S$2.50 per entry. To encourage more seniors to make use of the facilities, Singapore residents over 55 years old get free entry on Wednesdays.
The other four gyms will be located in Fernvale, Senja-Cashew, Pek Kio and Toa Payoh West, said Sport Singapore deputy CEO Chiang Hock Woon.
The Ang Mo Kio facility features exercise equipment suitable for the elderly. While the machines are commonly found in gyms - such as for lat pulls, chest presses and leg curls – they are pneumatic, or adjusted using air pressure, and low-impact on the joints.
Referring to the exercise machine, Mr Chiang said: "The Hur machine is a smart machine that's able to sense where your body is and calibrate accordingly at very micro levels, increasing at 100 grams at a time so that it's safe and yet to the user, to the seniors, it's not so daunting that they can't move.
“And the machine remembers the last time you come and use it so the next time when you come back to the machine it auto-calibrates. So these are important features, smart features to help seniors maintain their health.”
Mr Chiang added that Sport Singapore took care to ensure that corridors are spacious enough to allow wheelchairs to navigate. The facility also has ramp access.
Additionally, the gym has health screening equipment for users to keep track of their fitness level. For instance, there is a gait motion sensor that measures a user's walking speed and posture to analyse risk of falls.
The gym also has an ActiveFIT machine, which checks a person's fitness with seven tests such as reaction time, handgrip strength, balance and push-ups. It also measures blood pressure, body fat and muscle mass. Users can sync the data to the Active Health app. After a 12-week programme, the app will advise users on how to adjust their diet and lifestyle to live healthier.
In his speech, Mr Lee said he hoped residents will make full use of the gym and activities.
"I hope every day it will be full of people and you will come regularly, every two or three times a week, make use of the equipment, make friends, stay fit, stay well," said Mr Lee.
"In Ang Mo Kio we have many old people, but in other parts of Singapore as well, people are ageing. More of us are getting on in years, and if we stay active I think we can live healthy productive lives and keep on contributing, looking after the younger ones in our family but also contributing to the broader society and Singapore."
RESEARCHING SOCIAL HABITS
The gym is a collaboration between Ang Mo Kio Community Centre, Sport Singapore, and the gerontology department at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
Researchers are using it as a platform to study the elderly's preferences when it comes to exercise, Dr Carol Ma, head of gerontology programmes at SUSS' S R Nathan School of Human Development, told CNA.
The project will also look into ways to encourage the young and old to exercise together and strengthen the bonds across generations.
It will study the concerns and possible solutions to enhance communication between the different age groups.
“In 2030, one in four will be age 65 and above. We need more young people to understand about the elderly, and we also need the elderly to get to know young people. So this is a platform for them to get to know each other,” said Dr Ma.
“At the end, we want to see the partnership, how we generate social capital, such as friendship, trust, and also social networks.
“When you come to the gym, it's not just (about) the gym. Somehow, you interact with different people and you build your own social networks."