Super-fit ‘uncles’ on mission to inspire senior citizens in Singapore



Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at CherylTay.sg. and on Facebook, Twitter orInstagram (cheryltay11). She also happens to be a recent gym and fitness convert.

Ngai Hin Kwok runs a total of 65km every week. He can do 28 pull-ups, 33 chin-ups (palms inwards), 100 push-ups and 600 squats at a go.

At 64, he is also a semi-retired grandfather of one.

But ‘old’ is not how Ngai and his equally fit-as-a-fiddle friends Ng Bee Kia, 68, and Ng Siu Chi, 55, see themselves.

Bee Kia is a former national weightlifter and retired grandfather while Siu Chi still works full-time as a car mechanic.

The trio make it a point to exercise regularly, and meet up two to three times a month to try new routines.

They also call themselves Team Strong Silvers – a movement formed in October last year to encourage fellow senior citizens to get active.



Ngai said, “I will exercise until the day my body doesn’t allow me to. I’ve never gotten injured and I’m also not on any medication.”

“I want to let other seniors see that if I can do it, they can do it too,” he added. “The best is to start exercising earlier, but it is also not too late to start.”

The younger Ng would know something about starting late – he was inactive for 20 years and only started worrying for his health when his cholesterol levels shot up.

“My cholesterol levels improved after I started exercising again. Doctor’s fees and medical bills these days are very expensive. Hence, it is important to take care of your health,” he advised. “Regular exercise will help prevent illnesses.”



Barriers

Ngai and the two Ngs are perfect examples of how “age-related decrepitude is not a given", said Robert Ho, the facilitator of Team Strong Silvers.

He told Yahoo Singapore that their “aim is to go to senior activity groups in places like churches, to conduct workshops, share tips and dispel myths about exercise and senior".

The 43-year-old feels that grassroots initiatives often fall short of effectively encouraging senior citizens to exercise and keep fit.

Ho, who used to work with the People's Association, said some activities "typically focus on medical and social awareness, lacking an organised physical fitness regime for the seniors".

“The importance of physical fitness is a very real requirement towards active ageing. A physically weak senior citizen, even if free of health risks, would be quite incapable of participating in most, if not all, activities," he said.

He also observed that community activities for seniors often employ “young and chiselled instructors who are unable to relate to the senior citizens, and as a result intimidate the seniors with their ripped physiques”.

Senior citizens shy away from gyms for similar reasons, said Ho, again pointing to the “younger, larger, fitter” majority demographic of users there, even at heartland community clubs (CCs).



He added that more CCs were either giving up gym spaces altogether or renting them out to private operators, further discouraging exercise for seniors.

Role models

Due to these factors, Team Strong Silvers decided to ditch the gym altogether to focus on calisthenics – equipment-free body-weight workouts that can be done both indoors and outdoors.

The trio work out with the Singapore Calisthenics Movement regularly and have even put on the occasional public demonstration.



Hopefully, said Ho, Team Strong Silvers can become lifestyle role models promoting active living to senior citizens.

All seniors are welcome to join – and youngsters too, if along the way, they can encourage their parents or grandparents to start exercising.

“We hope to grow a collective and generate a sense of belonging,” Ho concluded. “The aim is to inspire all to keep fit to prevent mental degradation and reduce health risks.”



Team Strong Silvers can be contacted via their Facebook page.

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