August 26, 2021

Embracing lifelong learning to keep active and socially connected

By brit

Like many of her peers caught up in work and life’s demands, senior regulatory affairs executive Mdm Quek Suan Choo had not put much thought into how she would spend her silver years.

It was only until her late 40s did she start contemplating what she would do after leaving the workforce. Upon observing how her neighbour had become more withdrawn and less agile after his retirement, Mdm Quek realised she needed to keep her mind and body active.

Now 51, Mdm Quek decided the best way to achieve this would be to explore different interests early, pick up a new hobby and learn something new.

Her husband, Mr Hew Yong Fatt, was the one who introduced her to National Silver Academy (NSA) courses and recommended her to search for courses on the NSA website.

The 53-year-old senior engineer had been looking up courses on the NSA website to upgrade his professional skills. The couple was encouraged to sign up when they saw that those aged 50 and above could enjoy subsidies of up to 80 per cent off course fees for courses under NSA.

In the past two years, the couple signed up for “Introductory Course in Traditional Chinese Medicine” and “Discovering TCM Acupuncture” conducted by the National Technological University – Confucius Institute. They chose the courses because they believe learning Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may help improve their overall well-being, and keep them healthy as they age.

Improving health and relieving stress

Mdm Quek says one of the benefits of taking up courses with her husband is that they can support each other and share discussions on the things they’ve learnt, which has helped strengthen their relationship.

As both of them are still working full-time, it was beneficial that the courses were held over the weekend. Each session lasted just three hours, leaving them plenty of time to enjoy the rest of their Saturday and Sunday.

“The best part was there were no exams and homework, so we could focus on enjoying the learning process,” says Mdm Quek.

Mdm Quek and Mr Hew say that taking up courses at the NSA together has not only enabled them to learn skills to improve their overall well-being, but it has also helped strengthen their relationship. PHOTO: TED CHEN

At the introductory course, they learnt how TCM could be used to diagnose illnesses, and how a “five-element TCM principle” applied in their daily diet could help improve their physical wellness.

Mdm Quek, who suffers from sinusitis, also learnt that she could relieve the symptoms by placing both her index fingers at the two sides of her nose and rubbing the area continuously 60 times to improve her qi or “vital energy”.

Through the course “Discovering TCM Acupuncture”, the couple picked up tips such as using acupuncture to relieve stress.      

“We discovered how gently tapping the top of the head several times may help to relieve tension. Placing both thumbs at the top of the neck – at the depressions beneath the base of the skull – and massaging the area in a circular motion may also help relieve a stiff neck,” says Mdm Quek. 

They also learnt baduanjin qigong and Mr Hew, who spent long hours working at the computer says the exercise helped to relieve his back and neck tension.

Strengthening social connections

Learning TCM, says Mdm Quek, has made her life more interesting, and kept her mind active. She believes that the act of learning helps prevent dementia.

For Mr Hew, the courses have enabled him to be more socially active. “Many men are introverts who don’t like to mingle with friends. It’s good to have a hobby when we retire, so we will not feel ‘lost’,” he says.

He also shares that continuous learning provides him and his wife with more topics to discuss when interacting with friends. “As guys, we tend not to express our feelings explicitly. So having more conversation topics to share with our friends allows us to express ourselves more openly. I feel that this could help to prevent depression,” he adds.

Inspired by how continuous learning has enriched their lives, the couple is considering signing up for more courses. Mdm Quek says she is keen to take up a barista course and a creative photography course, while Mr Hew wants to advance his skills in TCM.