All-men outing groups draw more retirees to take part and make friends, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

All-men outing groups draw more retirees to take part and make friends

To stay active, 74-year-old Jimmy Lim has been going for weekly Zumba and chair yoga – a modified form of yoga where poses can be done while seated – with his wife at Precious Active Ageing Centre (AAC) in Dawson.

But he always feels slightly out of place as the only man in the room – even though the women have “slowly accepted” him.

In June, he joined a group where he felt right at home – an all-male guitar interest group started by Esther AAC, another centre that is a three-minute walk from his Queenstown flat.

The group, which was set up in November 2022 to engage older men, now has eight of them, including one who plays the harmonica.

“These classes not only offer opportunities for men to learn music but also provide a chance to socialise, enjoy food and establish lasting friendships,” said Mr Alvin Ho, manager at Presbyterian Community Services, which oversees Esther AAC and five other such centres.

AACs are drop-in social recreational centres that offer a range of activities and support for seniors living nearby in the community.

Mr Ho said learning at their age can allow seniors to “rekindle things that we dropped along the way as we were growing up”.

He added: “And studies have shown that at a later age, especially for men, you need to talk more. We need to start to be chatters. So this coming together really generates more talking.”

Esther AAC is among several centres starting activities catering to men to encourage their participation, as men are typically vastly outnumbered by women at these centres.

Ms Amy Le, centre supervisor of Esther AAC, said that about 30 men go to the centre for various activities, compared with hundreds of women. Men make up about 15 per cent of its participants.

To boost male attendance, Ms Le also organised activities such as a durian day trip in July to Johor Bahru, where more than 10 women took their husbands along.

According to the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), 119 AACs have conducted regular outreach to about 50,000 seniors as at March, and an additional 35 centres have opened since April. About 40 per cent of the seniors engaged at AACs are men.

Other centres are also starting all-men activities. 

Mr Andy Seet, director of AIC’s sector and partnerships division, said: “The team is exploring the inclusion of themes as part of the next grant call to address harder-to-reach demographics of seniors – including those at risk of social isolation.

“This is to encourage seniors to learn new technology, and enable seniors to give back to the community in their own capacity to create meaningful experiences for them.” 

Such themes could include specific interests like technology or volunteerism.

The next grant call, where each project proposal can receive funding of up to $50,000, will be in 2024.

At Trans Focus AAC, 41 out of the 155 members are men, said centre manager Chua Siew Geok. But only 25 men take part in activities, while the rest go to the centre to chat or read the newspapers, she added.

Senior Activity CentreageingHealth and well-being