65-year-old says dancing keeps her active

SINGAPORE - She may be 65 years old, but she is showing no signs of slowing down.

Twice a week for three hours each time, she volunteers as a line dance instructor, teaching groups of 20 seniors the steps to various songs.

She also helps various organisations plan activities for seniors, takes care of two grandchildren, swims three times a week and helps out at her husband's business.

Mrs Eileen Koh-Ling can imagine life no other way. "Keeping busy has made my life meaningful," she said.

She first attended line dancing classes in 1997, spurred on by her sister-in-law.

While she already had an exercise regimen consisting of runs, swims and badminton sessions, she felt that line dancing would be a good way to exercise and that memorising dance steps could help improve her memory.

She was so enthusiastic about her new hobby that she went all over the island and joined every session she could find.

While Mrs Koh-Ling did not intend to become an instructor, she decided to do so after she was asked to teach a senior group in her church in 2004.

She said: "When you have a skill, I feel it would be selfish not to share it with others." She later taught line dancing at Tung Ling Elder Care Centre at Dakota Crescent and Kampong Ubi Community Centre.

Highlights

One of her highlights was teaching a 93-year-old man how to dance.

"While he could only do about three simple dances, he was so delighted that he could learn a new skill at his age," Mrs Koh- Ling recounted.

The proud Singaporean was born to a carpenter and a washerwoman in a Guillemard Road kampung and studied at the then-Nan Chiau Girls' High School.

On the last day of her O-level examinations, Mrs Koh-Ling went with two classmates for a job interview for salesgirls at Oriental Emporium at Empress Place.

She started working two days later, to help support her family. She left the job in 1971, took on various jobs in the subsequent years and retired in 2004.

The emporium was where she met her husband. He was working for the Port Authority of Singapore as a tally clerk when he visited the department store.

They got married six years later, in 1973, after they had saved enough. The couple have two children, a son, 39, and a daughter, who is 37.

Through her volunteering stints, Mrs Koh-Ling hopes to spread the message of the benefits of an active lifestyle.

She said:"I hope that others would think, 'If she can do it, so can I', no matter what age they are."

What qualities do you have that make you Singaporean?

I think that I'm helpful to others in need.

How would you describe Singapore to a stranger?

It's a food and shopping paradise!

What are the little quirks you see in Singapore every day?

I think that Singaporeans can be more gracious towards the elderly by giving way to them.

What food do you miss most when you're overseas?

I try to eat healthy food, so I miss green bean soup and soya bean which I frequently have here.

What are your favourite Singlish phrases or words?

"No lah."

ajtheng@sph.com.sg


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