Taiji takes his mind off daily worries

SINGAPORE - Though 68-year-old Ng Eng Yam lives with his wife in their five-room flat in Boon Lay, he is alone most of the time.

During the week, his wife stays with their daughter so that she can take care of their grandchildren. She returns, with the children, only on the weekends.

Mr Ng used to spend most of his solitary time at home brooding about his health.

"I worry about who would take care of me when I am old as I don't want to be a burden to my children," said the retiree, who used to work as a supervisor in a waste disposal firm.

"My savings will be exhausted in no time after a few operations and my children have their own family to take care of."

These worries started to preoccupy him when he learnt of friends who had to live out their last days in pain because of cancer. It got to the point where he wished that euthanasia was legal.

But after volunteer nurses knocked on his door early this year, asking if he wanted to take part in a 10-week pilot programme to improve mental and social health, thoughts about his mortality made way for taiji.

The programme includes health sessions, where Mr Ng learns to manage conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Participants then take part in one of the four activities - music, art, mindfulness therapy, which involves meditation, and taiji.

Mr Ng, who chose taiji, finds that concentrating on the various moves takes his mind off his daily worries. "When you do the stretches, you forget everything and you feel so good. Your mind doesn't wander."

He also values the time he spends with other seniors. Grinning, he said: "I get the chance to be sociable again."

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