From dance to IT - 400 free courses for seniors

From dance to IT - 400 free courses for seniors
Retiree Madam Ong Beng Kee, 69 (in yellow), and her granddaughter Kristin Lim, 9, trying out Chinese calligraphy at the 50plus Expo at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday, May 16, 2015.

Those aged 50 and above can join courses offered free till year end to celebrate SG50

Seniors itching to go back to school will get their chance this year, with more than 400 educational courses being offered for free as part of Singapore's jubilee celebrations. From now until the end of the year, those aged 50 and above will be able to sign up for subjects ranging from literature and dance to business and culinary skills under this Ministry of Health initiative.

These courses - co-ordinated by the Council for Third Age (C3A), an agency promoting active ageing here - were piloted early last year.

Some classes will be run by various educational institutions and voluntary welfare organisations, where students young and old will learn together.

Others will be conducted by seniors for seniors.

Announcing the free courses yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said they were partly inspired by focus group discussions held by the Ministerial Committee for Ageing last year.

The free courses for seniors are part of the SG 50 Seniors package, a package presented by the Ministerial Committee for Ageing. These courses are offered by C3A's senior learning providers. 

Active seniors had proposed providing more opportunities for older Singaporeans to learn "not just for employment, but for learning's sake".

"As individuals, 50 years old can be the start of a period of second growth too, where we learn new things, pursue new careers and experience new things," said Dr Khor. She was speaking at the seventh annual 50plus Expo at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The three-day event, which ends today and is organised by C3A and Pico Art International, aims to spur active ageing through activities such as forum talks and workshops. Yesterday, more than 20,000 enthusiastic seniors showed up to learn how to make crepes and sushi, dabble in calligraphy and batik painting, and strum ukuleles for the first time. Among them was retiree Kasummah Salleh, 65, who even bought a ukulele at the event after a crash course on the stringed instrument.

"I've always wanted to learn how to play this. I'm interested in all kinds of music," said the former teacher, who also plays in a gamelan ensemble.

Retired teacher Pushpa Sundram, 66, and her 68-year-old husband Yoganathan Ratnasabapathy supported the offering of free courses.

"We are always looking for things to do," said Madam Pushpa. "I want to take IT and cooking classes."

Mr Yoganathan, a retired engineer, added: "It's good that it's free. More people will take part that way."

About 2,500 seniors have signed up for the free courses so far. More popular topics include IT, business, and arts and culture.

To sign up, visit the C3A website at learning, or call 1800-232-7450.

This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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