Unlocking the key to staying healthy in your golden years
Changi General Hospital empowers seniors to take active steps towards better health through the world's Largest Senior Citizen's Health Awareness Lesson
Singapore, 6 January 2024 – By 2026, Singapore will become a super-aged society where one in five will be 65 years old and above. As we age, our body functions progressively deteriorate with time, with the increased risk of frailty and illness. While Singaporeans enjoy one of the longest life expectancies in the world, the last decade is often spent in disease or disability.
To educate and empower seniors on healthy ageing to actively build their reserves to prevent, delay or even reverse frailty, Changi General Hospital (CGH) outlined the cornerstones of healthy ageing at the CGH 88th Anniversary HEALTHFest held on 6 January. Setting a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSTM title for the Largest Senior Citizen's Health Awareness Lesson, CGH saw
469 seniors attend the lesson conducted by Dr Alexis Ang, Senior Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, CGH. The world record-breaking event was graced by Guest-of-Honour Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law and Mr Cheng Wai Keung, Chairman, SingHealth.
For many seniors, their common fears of ageing include losing independence, deteriorating health, and loneliness. Frailty involves a gradual decline and reduction of our body functions, which increases our vulnerability to stressors and in turn can lead to a poorer quality of life. It can result from the weakening of multiple body system functions, low physical activity, malnutrition, and social isolation. Seniors who are frail are more prone to increased risks of falls, dementia, and delirium. They also face a higher risk of functional decline after illness or injury and are more vulnerable to adverse health-related outcomes. Age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and the loss of muscle strength, also known as sarcopenia, is also a risk factor that can lead to frailty.
"In line with the Healthier SG strategy, preventive care is a primary focus to maintain a healthy senior population and reduce the number of years of life spent in disability or living with other chronic and debilitating ageing conditions such as frailty, malnutrition, and sarcopenia. As the Caring General Hospital, we strive to inspire our seniors to make mindful choices on their journey to ageing well, and education is key to this," said
Professor Ng Wai Hoe, Chief Executive Officer, CGH; and Group Chief Executive Officer (Designate), SingHealth.
Packed with health advice and practical tips for seniors above 65 on staying healthy, the Health Awareness Lesson by CGH delved into the importance of detection and early interventions for frailty and sarcopenia, and four key concepts such as making healthy lifestyle choices, nutrition, physical activity, and the importance of forming social connections.
"Through our interactions with seniors, we find that many have misconceptions on what ageing entails. While ageing is not a choice, healthy ageing
is a choice and is one that is in our hands. Through the Health Awareness Lesson, CGH hopes to help more seniors and their loved ones understand that they have the power to take charge of their own healthy ageing experience, while more efforts are underway to support seniors in line with Healthier SG and Age Well SG," said
Dr Alexis Ang, Senior Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, CGH.
The HEALTHFest, held on CGH campus, also offered health screenings for hearing loss and cancer, as well as health education in mental health, chronic pain management, and vaccinations. At a booth dedicated to fall risk assessments, for instance, HEALTHFest participants were screened by CGH's Rehabilitative Services and Community Nursing teams using an effective fall risk assessment tool. Participants also received education on improvements that can be made to their home furnishings and built environment to avoid falls, slips, or bumps.
A HEALTHFest participant, Ms Kammy Choo, 68, who works as a finance manager, said, "I am proud to be part of this record-breaking event for CGH, and Dr Ang's Health Awareness Lesson on healthy ageing resonates greatly with me. I have exercised regularly since young, and I keep myself motivated by doing things I enjoy so that physical and mental exercise is not a chore, but an enjoyable pastime. In fact, I rarely think about my age; to me, it's about how many more good years there are to come!"
ANNEX: Key concepts shared at the Health Awareness Lesson
Make healthy lifestyle choices
- Stop smoking. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of various cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Moderate your alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure and liver diseases.
- Practise safe daily behaviours. Wear protective helmets during higher-risk activities such as cycling, apply good sun protection when outdoors to reduce the risk of skin cancer, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from cataracts, and wear ear plugs to protect your ears from excessive noise that can induce hearing loss.
- Have seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can cause poor co-ordination and judgement, which can result in injuries and falls.
Ageing brings about a change in nutritional requirements – there is a decreased need for calories, but an increased need for some macro-nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. There is also an increased need for micro-nutrients, which refer to minerals such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. While age-related factors – such as poorer digestion, lower levels of sensory perception (taste, smell and sight), dental issues, and swallowing problems – can affect the amount and type of food a senior consumes, it is important to have a healthy diet.
A healthy diet:
- Provides you with the nutrients required for energy and mobility
- Reduces the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke
- Reduces the risk of malnutrition and sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength)
- Helps you achieve or maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)
- Helps with your mental health
Growing old is often accompanied with increased inactivity, but physical activities can help to improve endurance, strength and flexibility, maintaining our ability to walk and be independent. It can also improve our overall mood and even increase life expectancy. Exercise also helps to reduce the risk of developing anxiety, depression and dementia.
150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended per week. One simple way to tell if an activity is of moderate intensity is the "talk test" – when you can still speak but are unable to sing. If you are unable to talk during the activity, it is considered a high-intensity exercise.
While many seniors might be afraid to start exercising due to fears of falling, having a lack of self-belief, or due to social or environmental circumstances, you can start with simple activities such as brisk walking or cycling. Over time, build the activity into a daily routine.
Certain behaviours can be adopted based on your circle of friends and family, for example the tendency to exercise, smoke or consume alcohol. Studies also found that the larger your social circle, the more likely you are to lead a healthier lifestyle!
Having social ties such as a partner, family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, clubs or religious groups can help improve your mental health and psychological well-being. These relationships help foster a sense of self-worth and purpose, which can help decrease the risk of all-cause mortality.
Social relationships can also help improve your immune system. A lower number of social contacts results in higher levels of stress hormones. Loneliness can also increase stress levels and impact the immune system adversely.
Dr Alexis Ang, Senior Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, CGH, and Mr Marcus Lee, Physiotherapist, CGH demonstrate seated exercises suitable for seniors during the Health Awareness Lesson.
(From second from left) Prof Ng Wai Hoe, Chief Executive Officer, CGH and Group Chief Executive Officer (Designate), SingHealth; Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law; Mr Cheng Wai Keung, Chairman, SingHealth; and A/Prof Ng Kee Chong, Chief Executive Officer (Designate), CGH, participate in a shoulder flexion exercise together with the seniors.
Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law with senior participants and SingHealth and CGH leaders.
On stage, from L to R: Prof Ng Wai Hoe, Chief Executive Officer, CGH and Group Chief Executive Officer (Designate), SingHealth; Mr Cheng Wai Keung, Chairman, SingHealth; HEALTHFest participants; Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law; A/Prof Ng Kee Chong, Chief Executive Officer (Designate), CGH.
Mr Kazuyoshi Kirimura, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSTM Adjudicator, officially presents CGH with a certificate after announcing CGH as the new world record holder for the Largest Senior Citizen’s Health Awareness Lesson.
On stage, from L to R: Prof Ng Wai Hoe, Chief Executive Officer, CGH and Group Chief Executive Officer (Designate), SingHealth; Mr Kazuyoshi Kirimura, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSTM Adjudicator; Mr Cheng Wai Keung, Chairman, SingHealth; A/Prof Ng Kee Chong, Chief Executive Officer (Designate), CGH
A CGH 88th Anniversary HEALTHFest participant undergoes a hearing screening.