Hobby groups help seniors stay active, make friends

SINGAPORE - The ukulele, according to Madam Stella Tan, 62, is much more than just a musical instrument. The retired brand manager believes it will help other seniors like her stay mentally and socially active.

She advocates the ukulele because it is easy to learn, as well as being both portable and affordable.

The musical activity as well as others like qigong and balloon sculpting were the focus of some of the booths at the inaugural Bishan East Wellness Fiesta held on Sunday which attracted more than 500 residents.

Against the backdrop of an ageing population, it is hoped that these and other interest groups will serve as a platform for seniors with common interests. This in turn will enable them to make new friends in the neighbourhood.

Besides practising on her own, Madam Tan - the captain of the Bishan East ukulele group - meets up with about 100 other like-minded people every week for a two-hour "jamming session".

These gatherings are becoming increasingly popular, growing from only 30 members two years ago.

"The barrier of entry is low and we have a good time making music every week," Madam Tan said.

Guest of honour and Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Wong Kan Seng lauded their efforts and emphasised the importance of keeping active even as one gets older.

The fiesta was part of the People's Association's Wellness Programme, which aims to reach seniors who are 50 years old and above.

Bishan resident Teo Cheng Mun, 69, said the fiesta was an eye-opener. "Sometimes," said the retired taxi driver, "it's hard for us to keep track of everything that is going on in an estate, so this is a good place to find out more."

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