Health Seminar for elders of the community applauded

Praneeta Mahajan

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, 8 November 2022

A calm mind, a fit body and a house full of love. These are the real treasures everyone must aim to acquire in one’s lifetime. And that was the message that was given by all the speakers at a Free Health seminar, organised by the Country Section New Zealand Indian Association Inc. and WPCC Inc. in Hamilton last week.

CSNZIA is the oldest Indian association in New Zealand.  Since 1926, the organisation has worked with ethnic communities and worked to create a platform that represents the Indian communities and their challenges and views to the forefront.

The evening was attended by many senior members of the community, and it was apparent from the minute one entered the premises, that it was a space where people could come together, connect and interact with each other. With laughs and smiles all evening long, it was a place where the elderly felt at ease.

It was hence, especially commendable that a talk session was planned around their well-being and health.

A Calm Mind

The first speaker of the day was Dr Dilawar Singh from Hamilton Lake Clinic.  Being a GP and an active member of the community, Dr Singh spoke about an often neglected issue in the migrant community- Depression. He spoke about how the issue of depression often goes unaddressed in the migrant communities, more specifically, in the elderly and retired people.

He said “There is stigma around depression in our community. We avoid discussions on mental health as we do not want to be categorised as someone mentally unstable. What adds to the problem most of the time is our language barrier. Often, our elderly are not equipped to utilise counselling services since they do not have the vocabulary to communicate with counsellors. And once we do find a counsellor who can speak our native language, we fail to open up as we fear the news would spread and lead to a social antipathy.”

Dr Singh talks about mental health

While focusing his talk around the elderly and the importance of mental health, he highlighted how the negligence of one’s mental health can have actual damage on their respective physical health as depression and other mental health issues can lead to Heart diseases, palpitations and even stroke.

He also mentioned the need for social contact and assimilation within families and the community at large for wellness as isolation is a major contributor to their health conditions and highlighted the urgent need to acknowledge the value of mental well-being at par with physical well-being.

A fit body

The next speaker for the evening was  Sachi Sellasamy, a personal trainer from Fit Forward NZ.

He started his address by mentioning how it is very rare for him to see Indian audiences in his workshops as we tend to leave our fitness for a later day.

Mr Sellasamy recalled his struggle after a harsh wakeup call when he had a delicate spine surgery because his walking and other movements were being affected. The surgeon gave him a letter saying I was partly disabled. But he was determined to change his circumstances he knew he had to improve my fitness level so I could lead the life he wanted. It was a life without being a “walking pharmacy”, able to travel and enjoy time with friends, family and community in many parts of the world and enjoy all the benefits of a healthy adult.

Mr Sellasamy explained how we can turn routine things like watching TV into a health session by simply correcting our posture, keeping the core engaged and following a disciplined exercise routine. He told the audience that they could play with their grandkids and enjoy life a lot more if they can only dedicate twenty minutes of the day to their health.

Mr Sellasamy talks about physical fitness

He explained that “The migrant communities don’t take exercises seriously till they have serious health troubles. Longer hours of sitting make our core muscles relaxed and weak and that leads to back problems. We avoid regular workouts unless it is essential for rehabilitation. That needs to change. We can enjoy our age and all its blessings a lot better if we feel good about ourselves, our body is fit and we have a healthier lifestyle.”

Mr Sellasamy also spoke about how physical exercise and functional fitness contribute to mental well-being and help avoid cardiovascular diseases, depression, anxiety, muscle aches, joint pains and other health concerns.

A House full of Love

The third speaker of the evening was David Slack, a respected Public speaker who works in several organisations around mental health, and addiction and offers counselling to prison inmates. Mr Slack shared his account and recalled his struggles with addiction, and depression and how it cost him many precious years with his family and loved ones.

David Slack shares his expertise

He said that “In my 33 years of addiction support, I have concluded that there are no bad people in the World. Some people make bad choices. I have seen how mental health is the basis of all addictions. Since mental health issues go unnoticed, one tries to make desperate attempts to solve all problems or create enough distractions to avoid confronting those problems. Before you know it, addiction takes hold of your life. What throws someone over the edge is condemnation and criticism.”

Mr Slack said he had many interactions where all one needed was some support and understanding. He emphasised the need for face-to-face interactions, community engagements, support among peers, the need to stay active, the power of prayer and meditation, a healthy diet, adopting a hobby to keep one busy and following a healthy diet and regular sleep patterns.

He said that a house full of love and understanding can be the biggest weapon to combat depression, anxiety and loneliness. “It is the human relations and laughter with a family that you need most in life. Learn to laugh more, live a life with a purpose and tell your loved ones you love them every day” he said.

The evening also saw Naginbhai Patel who spoke about yoga, its importance and how modern living required the disciplines of yoga more than ever. Mr Patel talked about the different ways of practising yoga, how to incorporate the habit for better mental and physical health along with the mudras and their significance.

Hosted on the same day as Gumboot Friday, the significance of the evening was immense due to its audience which consisted of elderly and pensioners who need such interactions and need to talk about mental and physical health more than all others.

The CSNZIA team were gracious hosts, with Madanjeet Singh Bange (Chair of Health and Welfare) and Roop Randhawa (Secretary) greeting the guests and arranging a healthy feast while Rupinder Virk (President, CSNZIA) moderated the evening and ensured a few smiles from the audience every now and then.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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