When housewife Chew Nyee King, 66, was first confronted with a nude model, she did not quite know where to look.
But she quickly overcame her shock, as her figure drawing teacher put her and her fellow elderly classmates through their paces. "We were under tremendous pressure to finish this and that outline," she said. "We had no time to think of anything."
Madam Chew has spent the past three months taking free classes in figure drawing and Chinese ink painting at Lasalle College of the Arts. She is among several thousand people who have benefited from a series of free courses organised by government bodies to mark SG50.
Madam Chew said: "The figure drawing was only eight lessons, but after that, every one of us could draw a person. The teacher was very pleased with all these grey-haired people really paying attention, managing to draw."
She also bonded with several classmates: "We came in as strangers and we left as good friends."
Her classes were among more than 400 free educational courses offered to those over the age of 50.
A Ministry of Health initiative coordinated by active ageing agency Council for Third Age (C3A), the courses will run until the end of the year and have been taken up by 9,300 seniors so far.
Meanwhile, almost 10,000 residents signed up for 2,000 free courses offered by the People's Association (PA) within the first week of their launch last month.
The courses, which will run until the end of next month, are held at all Community Clubs (CCs) and Water Venture Outlets, and range from the latest fitness trend of piloxing to belly dancing and ukelele playing.
PA Lifeskills & Lifestyle director Tan Swee Leng said: "Residents have welcomed the initiative (as an) opportunity for family and friends to spend quality time learning something together.
"It encouraged (some) to finally take the step towards achieving their lifelong learning aspirations, such as picking up a new language."
Financial consultant Jeannie Bay, 47, has already tried a free baking course at Kallang CC and started a free pilates course.
She has even roped her husband, jewellery craftsman Alvin Fok, into the pilates class. The 59-year-old wants to try incorporating pilates moves into his tai chi, which he has practised since 2001.
The couple are now on the lookout for free ballroom dancing courses at other CCs.
Ms Bay said: "If the classes were not free, I might not want to try them because I don't know if I am fit for them or if they are too intensive.
"I am very sad the courses won't be free after September. If I like pilates, though, I will continue after the free courses stop."
This article was first published on August 9, 2015.
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