Singapore

Exercise programme for senior citizens to be expanded

A physical exercise programme that has helped frail senior citizens improve their mental well-being, memory, functional ability and strength is to be expanded across Singapore.

The Healthy Ageing Promotion Programme For You (Happy) will be extended from 37 sites - such as senior activity centres and void decks - to 130 over the next three years.

Researchers studied 115 people aged 60 and over who were frail or had underlying memory issues and found that after taking part in the programme, more than half had become less frail while 70 per cent had improved walking speed, balance and could stand up from a chair more easily.

Nearly three-quarters of them (74 per cent) also had better memory scores, and 40 per cent had become less depressed.

The number of falls was also reduced by 40 per cent.

These results were released yesterday by the National University Health System (NUHS).

The programme, run by the National University Hospital, has been adapted from a programme designed by the National Centre for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Nagoya, Japan.

Participants simultaneously perform cognitive and physical "dual-task" exercises. For example, one involves marching on the spot while counting backwards from 30 and clapping on every third number.

The programme also seeks to get seniors to take charge of their health, such as by teaching them to take their own blood pressure and pulse.

"Frailty and memory decline, in particular, are two aspects of ageing that are reversible.

"Our data from Happy show that older adults who participate in the multi-domain programme and are physically and mentally engaged have better outcomes in both of these areas," said Associate Professor Reshma Merchant, who leads the programme.

One in 16 Singaporeans aged over 60 are frail and one in 10 have dementia.

Among over-85s, one in four are frail and have dementia.

Since the programme started in 2017, it has had more than 700 participants.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong joined participants at Choa Chu Kang Community Club yesterday.

To expand the programme, NUHS is partnering the Agency for Integrated Care.

For more information about the programme, or to sign up as a volunteer, e-mail healthy_ageing@nuhs.edu.sg.

MEDICAL & HEALTH