SINGAPORE - Four of her five children have families of their own. And the remaining child who is still living with her is busy carving out his career.
So when she's not working as a part-time sales promoter, retiree Susan Tan, 70, fills her days going for music therapy at the Training and Research Academy at Jurong Point (Tara@JP).
Madam Tan is one of 108 elderly people living in Jurong who were asked to take part in a 10-year study to gauge if loneliness or living alone increases the risks of dementia and depression among the old.
Madam Tan, who enjoys listening to songs by the late Teresa Teng, said: "It is only once a week, but I feel happy attending the sessions. I've even made new friends.
"With nothing to do at home, I'd either eat tidbits or watch TV."
The participants were selected because they either showed signs of mild depression or are at risk of depression.
The study, called the Jurong Ageing Study, hopes to find out if it is possible to reduce the risk and protect the brain from diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia and depression.
The study started in March with a 10-week intervention programme, which recruited the 108 to join activities such as health education talks, taiji exercise, mindfulness psychological therapy, art therapy or music-reminiscence.
Through this intervention, the study will then look at reducing risks through such activities.
Psychiatrist Kua Ee Heok, who is leading the study, said it is the first of its kind in Asia.
"It is also the most ambitious interventional project undertaken by us in the Department of Psychological Medicine at NUHS (National University Health System)," Prof Kua said.
As Singapore's population ages rapidly, the number of people suffering from dementia is expected to rise.
There are about 28,000 people aged 60 and above with dementia and this number is expected to more than double to 80,000 by 2030.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines, Prof Kua said that while the rate of suicide among the general population here is 12 per 100,000, the rate of suicide among the elderly is 24 per 100,000.
He said the next step would be to continue the intervention programme with the current 108 participants on a fortnightly basis for the next three months before doing it on a monthly period thereafter for the next 10 years.
Prof Kua said the study aims to target another 100 new participants in October.
In total, it wants to reach 600 participants by next year and the team, with the help of volunteers, will go "knocking on every door in Jurong to get the elderly to take part".
The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple has donated $1.8 million to the study.
The cheque was presented to Deputy Prime Minister and MP for Jurong GRC Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Thursday.
As for Madam Tan, she is hoping to persuade her husband, who is a homebody, to join the activities as they take off.
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