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Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility

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Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness
Credit: Movement Singapore
“Parkour is for young people, jumping from rooftop to rooftop,” recalls retiree Betty Boon, describing her first impression of the sport before she tried it.
Then, the 68-year-old believed that parkour was dangerous and reckless – hardly a worthy pursuit for youngsters, not to mention for seniors. Parkour is a sport about rapidly overcoming obstacles through running, climbing and vaulting, usually in an urban environment. Hence, as it is often characterised by swift and acrobatic moves including climbing and flips from high places, Betty’s past perception of the sport is a common one.
However, one year after accepting her friends’ invitation to try it, Betty found that her perception of parkour has shifted considerably. “It’s still risky, but I now know more about myself. If I know that I can take it, then I’ll do it,” she says.
Betty is not alone. She is part of a group of around 25 seniors participating in parkour classes designed specifically for them by Movement Singapore.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, they roll, crawl, and lunge across a neighbourhood park in Ang Mo Kio for one and a half hours, heedless of inquisitive looks from passers-by.
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Senior parkour classes
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Class Warm-up
The class usually starts with a 45-minute warm-up that helps condition the body and prepare it for the second part of class. Seniors begin with crawling exercises, followed by gentle rolls and controlled walking lunges to different directions at a slow and steady pace.
Next, for the remaining 45 minutes, they line up and take turns to practise the athletic leaps and dives that characterise parkour – completing the flow would earn them applause from their classmates. The complexity of the moves in the flow are scaled to their level of ability by their instructor.
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Class Warm-up - Stretching
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Practising
Some typical parkour moves are also tweaked for added safety. For example, when doing safety vaults, instead of using one leg for support, some seniors use both if the support from a single leg is insufficient.
When the obstacle gets tricky – say, hopping over a park bench rather than a wide table (see pictures) – the silvers sometimes hold out a helping hand to assist others with their balance.
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Practising on the Park Bench
Why senior parkour?
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Practising on the Park Bench Jump
Practising parkour regularly can help seniors enhance muscle flexibility, bone strength, balance and coordination.
These improvements, along with the controlled falls in parkour moves, reduce seniors’ fear of falling, lessen their chance to fall, and mitigate the risks when they do.
Betty has been doing parkour for more than a year, while some of her classmates have had more than six years of experience.
The 68-year-old, who also practises tai chi and visits the gym at least twice a week, has seen noticeable benefits from attending parkour classes.
She also feels the improvement of her stamina – “It was very obvious during a recent trip with my cousins, when we visited Jiuzhaigou in China. They were so out of breath, and I was like ‘tiring meh?'”
Betty is not the only senior who feels her health improving because of parkour.
73-year-old Tan Ah Bah feels her whole body getting stronger and can now walk faster than before she started parkour. Ah Bah was attracted to try parkour when she walked past a group of seniors taking a parkour class a year ago on her way to the market.
“It looked very dangerous,” she describes, “but I also felt really intrigued because I wanted to move as freely as they did.” The 73-year-old soon joined the class and was hooked. She now religiously comes down to Ang Mo Kio twice a week for her parkour classes, despite living in Sembawang.
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Irene Chang
Irene Chang
Another member of the class, 63-year-old Irene Chang comments that parkour, as a full-body exercise, improves seniors’ hand-eye coordination. “I feel it is better than gym,” she says, “because you get to lift your own weight instead of external weight.”
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Lim Sing Yuen
Lim Sing Yuen
Health benefits are not the only reason why seniors take up parkour. The self-appointed class photographer, 61-year-old dance teacher Lim Sing Yuen, finds parkour appealing because of the community it fosters.
She enjoys the sense of connection in the cosy senior parkour community.
How senior parkour began in Singapore
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - How senior parkour began in Singapore
The senior parkour movement in Singapore owes much to Tan Shie Boon, 32, founder of Movement Singapore. He began practising parkour in 2015 and became a coach in 2016. Starting off teaching young adults and kids, Shie Boon focuses on moves that help condition the body.
Shie Boon only started training senior parkour when a 64-year-old lady approached him at a food court.

"But I told her I was neither. I said I was doing parkour and showed her videos on my phone."

The lady was excited to learn about parkour, as she felt it could help her with her balance, which she had been struggling with for her daily walking and required additional support.
That marks the start of Shie Boon training his first senior student twice a week for an hour at a time. Within two months, the lady significantly improved her balance and succeeded in walking unaided, to both their delight.
Shie Boon later posted this inspiring story on social media, which caught the mainstream media’s attention and gradually attracted more seniors to his parkour classes.
Although Shie Boon was a trained parkour coach, his original classes were not specific to coaching seniors. Therefore, he had to redesign part of his programme to make it more senior friendly, simplifying some movements for safety and modifying others so that they can be done by those who are less physically fit.
For instance, his senior students would adjust the depth of lunges according to their physical conditions. He also included easier exercises with the lower risk of injury but higher overall benefits, which would allow seniors to slowly build their confidence and ability.
His own mother joined his parkour classes after three years of persuasion by her son. Initially sceptical, she gradually found joy and became more confident in her body strength and agility.
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Class ended each other hugs as well as many a heartfelt “good job” and “see you soon”.
Credit: Movement Singapore
As the session was closing, the seniors naturally came together, offering each other hugs as well as many a heartfelt “good job” and “see you soon”.
On their way to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast, they chatted about their bruises and complimented one another on their jumps, their voices radiating excitement. In just two days, they’ll be back to do it all over again.
Senior Parkour: Crawling, Dashing And Leaping To New Heights Of Agility Fitness - Group

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