I didn't get the results of the biopsy till my third follow-up visit on 4 May as Dr Chan was on leave. Frankly, on all my visits I was more interested in knowing when I could stop wearing the compression tights than in the biopsy results. When I found out that male patients had worse issues with the tights as they had to adjust their 'jewels' all the time, I felt I should be grateful that my situation was not as bad as theirs - I had no jewels to protect!
I didn't even ask about the biopsy report. Still, it was a relief to know that the lump was benign. However, Dr Chan advised me to get an MRI done every year for the next five years to make sure everything was okay. Attached to the report were some images of the removed lump and the tissues surrounding it. As they are too graphic for public viewing, I shall not post them here.
The first few days when I was back at my daughter and son-in-law's apartment I had to get used to moving around gingerly with the aid of a walking frame. I have always been a fast walker ever since I gave up driving almost 20 years ago. Lots of practice! I had to remind myself to slow down. I also had to get used to taking prescription drugs. For someone who had stopped taking supplements years ago, I now had to take an array of antibiotics, gastric protectors and pain-killers.
What was more challenging was having to lug around the bottle of post-surgery drainage fluid 24/7. My granddaughter Hana figured out a way to hook it to the walking frame so I could have both hands free for the frame. At night I slept with the bottle beside me. When I woke up I had to make sure the clamps, green vacuum indicator and the green connector were still securely in place, and to note the level of the drainage. The bottle literally became an extension of my body. Imagine my immense relief when Dr Chan removed it on my second follow-up visit on 30 April.
Having to wear the panty-hose compression tights day and night remained the biggest hassle. My daughter Moon and Heden, our helper, had to assist in helping put them on for me. I had to wear them for at least a month. With the current hot weather, imagine how warm it was to sleep with the tights on. On top of that, the tights made my feet swell and my right knee too. The latter became bulbous and sensitive to the touch. I later learned that this could be due to seroma - fluid that sometimes builds up in the body after surgery. It had probably collected around my right knee. I had a choice of draining the fluid or letting the body absorb it over time. I decided to just let my body do some repair work on my knee.
For the first few days after I was discharged, I only sponged myself. Showering required a bit of acrobatics and flexibility so as not to wet the dressing too much even though it was supposed to be waterproof. Sorry, no photos to show how I managed to shower and wash my hair. It gave me some ideas on how to improve the design of bathrooms to make them more user-friendly for people with physical limitations. Having grab bars or hand rails may not be sufficient.
Unable to venture out for the first three weeks except to see the doctor, the balcony became my favorite place to hang out. I was there at all hours of the day. From the 12th floor, I watched the birds flying by above the tree-tops. I counted the number of cars speeding by below, and watched with envy people jogging by in the evenings, and wondered when I could start brisk walking again. The sunsets were beautiful, so was the sight of the new moon on the first night of Ramadan. The balcony was also where I did my daily push-ups, heel raise exercises and stretches.
I had brought along a resistance band from KL. Unfortunately it was a tad too short to do much with it. Resistance bands are color-coded according to the degree of tension. They are great for strengthening the bigger muscles in the legs, chest and back. I highly recommend these bands if you don't have weights at home. They are so affordable and easy to bring along when you travel. My mom had hip surgery after a fall in 2011. The physiotherapist at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) had demonstrated some resistance band exercises to me so I could help my mom do them at home. Mom recovered enough muscle strength in her legs to be able to walk with a walking frame after several weeks. She was 85 years old at the time.
My last visit to see Dr Chan was on 18 May. By then the stitches had healed well enough for him to declare 'no further follow-up needed'. Music to my ears! I celebrated immediately with a belated Mother's Day shopping spree at Robinson's, courtesy of Moon.
It has been exactly one month since I had a lump removed from my leg. Thank God, it's out and the incision wound has almost fully healed. And thank you, friends and SeniorsAloud members, for the concern and wishes for a speedy recovery.
How did all this begin? About three years ago I noticed a pea size lump just below the skin on my inner thigh. I saw the GP about it and was told it was nothing to worry about. I felt no pain or discomfort, and continued with my usual busy schedule. Sometime during my year-long studies in Singapore, I could feel that the lump had increased in size. Not wanting to disrupt my studies with possible bad news, I decided to let it be till I graduated in early August 2018.
My calendar was so packed with festive celebrations, family events and social engagements that I finally had an MRI done on 21 March 2019 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore. The result was not clear-cut. So the advice was to remove the lump and send it for a biopsy. By then it had grown to 3cm in size. As I still had a couple of events to see to including a hike at Setia Alam Community Trail on 20 April, I opted to have the surgery on 25 April. The date was later brought forward by the doctor to 22 April.
Here is a pictorial account of my hospital stay and the weeks following the surgery. It is more for my personal record, but am sharing it here so that my family and friends have an idea what the entire experience was like.
On Monday 22 April, Moon helped me to check in at 3.30pm. Had to fast from 10am. Surgery was scheduled for 5.30pm same day. Here I am relaxing with a book and waiting for the nurses to prepare me for the surgery. The room is spacious and comfortable. I like the sofa which offers more seating for visitors and also doubles up as a bed for overnight company.
As I had showered earlier, I used only the toilet. The nurses sponged me in bed the next day after the surgery. The published rates for a single room is $688. It is probably the most expensive room I have ever stayed in, including hotel rooms.
Thumbs up and ready to be wheeled to the operating theater. This would be my third operation so I knew what to expect. I had my gall bladder removed in 1989 and part of my liver taken out in 2006. Orthopedic surgeon Dr Henry Chan had popped in earlier to brief me and to assure me all would be fine, and there was nothing to worry about.
It was winter temperature in the operating theater. Freezing cold. I was told I would be given general anesthesia, so I would not feel a thing at all. The last persons I saw before I blanked out was Dr Chan and his colleague Dr Leon Foo chatting away nearby. It was a calming sight. No urgency. No panic. This was going to be a standard procedure without any complications - hopefully.
When I was wheeled back to my room some hours later, I felt no pain, just some discomfort but was alarmed to see a bottle of what looked like blood hanging by my bedside with a tube that ran right up to my right thigh. It was to drain the after-op discharge/fluid. This was certainly not the usual catheter bag of urine. Belle said it looked more like a bottle of strawberry juice or watermelon juice. Cold comfort!
I was able to enjoy a late dinner after which I had to take the first of my many medications. The night passed uneventfully till the next morning when Dr Chan dropped by to see how I was doing. Great, I said. No pain at all, and I had an appetite. I was told that a physiotherapist would come by later.
(Left) My first meal after the surgery - late dinner. (Right): Lunch the next day.
(Above) The four meals I had during my 2D1N stay. Breakfast was served quite late at 8.30am compared to the hospitals in KL/PJ where the nurses will wake you up as early as 6am to get you washed and ready for breakfast and for the doctors when they make their rounds.
The physiotherapist came in at 9.40am to show me how to take my first steps with the walking frame. She was super patient and encouraging. Unless you are in a similar situation, you would probably wonder why something as simple and basic as walking requires instructions. I learned how to get up from bed with the help of the walker and how to transfer my weight more to my good left leg when I walked.
A hospital aide later came in to do a survey mainly asking me questions about my stay and the services. As you can see, it was done like flash cards
(Left) A close-up of the tubing and the bandaged wound. (Right) At a follow-up visit two weeks later when the dressing was removed.
My biggest challenge at the hospital was having to put on these medical compression tights. Aptly named, as it took Glen (the vendor) and one nurse, each working on one leg almost 45 minutes to complete the task. Glen called it a sweaty workout. Belle said my legs looked really shapely. Certainly not the case two days later. The above photo (left) was taken immediately after wearing the tights. Two days later, my feet began to swell (right) and remained so in the weeks after. (Part 2 to follow).
Ikigai - the Japanese word for 'sense of purpose in life' has been very much on my mind lately. At this stage in our lives when we don't need to get up every morning to go to work, what would make us look forward to welcoming each new day?
As I write this, I think of my senior friends who complain about retirement being a long stretch of boredom, with nothing much to do. Beyond looking after their grandchildren, going shopping, playing golf, travelling, meeting up with friends, what else is there? Is this all there is to living life to the fullest in our retirement years?
Retirees with too much time on their hands are the envy of those with 1001 things to do, and never having time enough to do them. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Then there is another group - the lucky ones who are blessed with good health, money to spare, and nothing much to worry about. But money does not guarantee happiness or peace of mind. The rich too feel a void in their lives, an emptiness that needs to be filled with something they have yet to discover. This is one reason why many billionaires turn philanthropists. It makes them feel good to use their wealth for altruistic purposes.
In finding our ikigai, perhaps we could borrow KonMarie'stagline 'spark joy', not so much to declutter our homes but to apply the same principle to an activity or interest. If it sparks joy in us, then this could be our ikigai to fill the void, the emptiness in our lives. We will have a sense of purpose in doing good, in sharing and giving back to the community.
Volunteering at community farm Kebun-Kebun Bangsar. SeniorsAloud contributes towards two plots of vegetables there.
Some have found pleasure in activities such as gardening, painting, writing. But these are primarily solitary activities. They spark joy only in us. Why not take it one level higher, one step further to also spark joy in others by sharing our passions?
SeniorsAloud members helping out at Pitstop, a community cafe that serves meals to the poor and homeless.
I am, of course, referring to giving back to society where it matters. You will be surprised how good it makes you feel to be able to help others, and know that you have made a difference in someone else's life.
SeniorsAloud members who love animals are encouraged to volunteer at SPCA and other animal shelters.
Volunteerism can be in a myriad of ways - from donating money, time or energy, or sharing our skills and experience to just lending our shoulder to lean on for someone going through a difficult period.
A studyon volunteerism among older people revealed these benefits:
~ Volunteering leads to better health, and longer life because doing good generates positive effects on our physical and mental health..
~ We make new friends, develop social confidence, and boost our social skills.
~ Our time is gainfully occupied, and we experience a sense of greater self-worth and trust.
However, to receive the positive health benefits, volunteers need to commit to an activity on a regular basis, at least one to two hours a week.
To quote a former chairman of Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM), "It is never more rewarding than seeing that a lifetime’s accumulated wisdom and experience are put to good use at one’s golden age."
And to quote former US President Franklin Roosevelt, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
SeniorsAloud members presenting a cheque to widow and housewife, Helen Chan. She has three grown sons, two of whom are autistic.
And here's how we seniors can do our part, either as an individual or as a group.
~ For those of us with money to spare, we can donate to a deserving charity or a noble cause. Even RM10 can go a long way if many contribute. Some charities such as MAKNA (National Cancer Council) or Hospis Malaysia would welcome our help.
~ For those of us with time to spare, we can volunteer to help out at welfare organizations or community support groups when they are hosting an event.
~ For those of us with energy to spare, we can start our own project to raise funds for charity, or create awareness for the less fortunate in society. SeniorsAloud has a Grant a Wish for the Elderly initiative that you can support whenever we organise a fund-raiser. The funds collected go towards helping the elderly or communities in need
(Top) Donating supplies to Tong Sim Old Folks Home. (Above) A bag of rice goes a long way for the poorest of the poor in Sentul. Our gifts spark joy in us and in the recipients too.
There are so many ways we can give back to society, including donating preloved items e.g. books, clothes, toys, to charities, NGOs and community centres. Personal items that no longer spark joy in us, may spark joy in others.
Don't know who or where to donate your preloved items? Just contact SeniorsAloud and we will put you in touch with Kedai Jalanan and other community groups.
If you have materials but don't know what to do with them, donate them to Mums Sew With Love. They will put the material to good use. SeniorsAloud members pictured here with some of the single mums.
SeniorsAloud has a volunteer group that helps out at Pitstop and Kebun-Kebun Bangsar. The members are available to volunteer whenever the call comes from NGOs or community service groups. We are also looking at helping out at libraries and visiting welfare homes and activity centres for seniors (e.g. Pusat Activiti Warga Emas or PAWE). If you are interested to join our volunteer group, contact Choke Ling 012-2001929 or Kamil 019-6641951.
Be a volunteer and enjoy better health, make new friends and discover the joy of making a difference in someone else's life. This is what gives meaning and purpose in our retirement. Give it a try and experience the satisfaction and health benefits it brings.
SeniorsAloud regularly receives email enquiring about nursing homes for a loved one. First, let me say that we do not operate a nursing home. Second, we are not working with any aged care facility or retirement home operator.
Most of the enquiries lack details, so we can't advise even if we would like to help. Here's a typical one:
"Hi, I am looking for a suitable nursing home for my elderly aunty. Can you please recommend a good one? Thank you."
Not much detailed info there for us to work on, right?
We always recommend doing an online search first, and narrowing down the list to a handful of addresses based on location, fees and facilities. These must be followed up with a visit to each of the homes. Never rely on website info alone to make a choice. Glossy images may belie actual reality. They are part of clever marketing to attract and appeal to potential clients.
Here's a checklist of what to look out for on your first visit to the home. Be sure to ask the right questions.
1. Is the home licensed? This serves as a good guide as certain conditions need to be fulfilled before a license can be granted. Is there a proper admission procedure? Is there a board of trustees or at the very least a management committee to oversee the running of the home? Homes that are run by one or two individuals who control everything are likely to be unlicensed. There must be checks and balances to ensure proper and efficient supervision and management of the home.
A simple, uncluttered room that is clean, airy and well-lit. Would be better to have bed rails to prevent rolling off the bed. The bedside rug should be non-slip and the edges weighted down to prevent tripping.
2. What is the staff/resident ratio? A good guide would be:
For independent residents who require less attention. Ratio of staff to residents is 1:30.
For semi-mobile residents who require some assistance with daily activities. Ratio is 1:8.
For wheelchair bound or bedridden residents who may have mental sickness. Ratio is 1:4.
For fully dependent residents who have mental or behavourial problems and are unable to cope with daily living on their own. Ratio is 1:2.
A morning exercise session for the elderly residents.
3. Are the nurses and other staff trained? Remember, you will be leaving your loved one in their care 24/7. Do they treat the residents with respect and kindness? Does the staff include medical/health professionals e.g. doctor, physiotherapist? Does the staff look overworked or unfriendly? Are they mostly foreigners or locals? Are they able to communicate with the elderly to understand their needs? What are the provisions for emergencies? Does the staff keep you informed about your loved one when you are away?
A nursing home with a garden scores a plus point. Residents can enjoy the outdoor sunlight and fresh air, or engage in some exercise, or in gardening.
4. What is your first impression of the facility? Clean? Odourless? Well-ventilated and well-lit? Elder-friendly furniture and fixtures? Quiet surroundings? Safe and comfortable environment? Any greenery? If it's a double-storey building, look for a fire escape outside. If the home looks uninviting from the outside, there really is no point in ringing the doorbell. It will be a total waste of your time.
Daily activities and planned meals at a home for the elderly.
5. Are there planned meals and activities? Is the menu changed daily? Are the residents left to themselves to watch TV most of the time? Does the home arrange for outings or for volunteer groups to visit regularly and entertain the residents? Do the elderly residents look neglected?
Karaoke session; Bingo. Some homes conduct handicraft and art therapy.
To meet the needs of a growing elderly population, operating a nursing home has become a thriving business. These homes are a common sight in residential neighbourhoods. Most are housed in converted bungalows rather than in purpose-built facilities. Nearly all have attractive websites promising appealing surroundings and tender loving care. Don't be taken in by the hype.
Ask around for recommendations from friends. Let your fingers do some research online. Then contact the home to arrange for a visit. If they say you are welcome to drop by anytime, it is a good sign that they are prepared to be 'inspected' at your convenience, not theirs. Remember to ask the right questions during the visit, and make a mental note of everything you see, good and not so good. Be prepared to pay more in fees if you expect a certain level of care and facilities. The range can be as low as RM1000 a month to as high as RM5000 or more.
This is one of the best aged care facilities I have visited. Pity it had to close due to the location - too far for families to visit daily.
I hope this article gives you a good idea of what to look for in a good home for an elderly. You will be surprised how many homes you will strike out from your list before you finally find one that is the answer to your prayers.
(Note: Images in this post belong to SeniorsAloud. Permission is required to copy and use the images.)
It's Valentine's Day - again. While couples young and old celebrate the day exchanging gifts and Valentine cards, my thoughts, as always, are with those who will not be sitting down to a romantic candlelight dinner. Reason: they are single. To them, I say, "Happy Single Awareness Day!" I am one of you too. No need to dread this day. Indeed, our numbers are increasing. Today being single for an older woman is no longer a social stigma. If truth be told, women in unhappy marriages envy their single sisters but they do not have the courage to break free. To the happily married ones, a toast to you on this Valentine's Day.
Unless you are married to someone wonderful, it's better to remain single. I am not putting down the institution of marriage. But I seem to be hearing more couples getting divorced than getting married, especially among older couples. Once the children are grown and flown, a couple's marriage is put to the test. Retired couples, in particular, find that being in each other's company 24/7 can either rekindle the old flame of romance and passion, or it can extinguish forever the last sparks of a dying marriage.
Which one are you? There's a third one - being single and NOT available.
It takes a lot of effort, compromise even sacrifice to keep a relationship going. Many young couples don't have the patience to work at it. Gone are the days when wedding vows were taken seriously and couples remained married 'till death do us part'. Even after death, the bereaved spouse stayed faithful to the memory of the dearly beloved. Second marriages were almost unheard of, as were divorces. Indeed, to ask for a divorce would be akin to asking to be ostracized.
Today on Valentine's Day, I dedicate the day to my parents. I remember them as a very loving couple. As a child, I used to listen with fascination to the love stories my mother told me about how my father wooed her. Their courtship days were like chapters taken from a Barbara Cartland novel. My father simply adored my mother, and spending time with her was something he treasured as we saw him only during the weekends. His work as a medical sales representative often took him outstation and away from the family.
My father treated my mother like she was a fragile porcelain doll. He was always eager to please her and make her happy. My mother bore him six children during their 10 years together. I was the eldest. My youngest sister never got to see my dad for he passed away in 1957 after a short period of illness. My mom was heavily pregnant with her sixth child when my dad left her - forever.
My parents - Annie Goh Kwee Foung and Jackie Fu Fook Im (1947)
My mother will be 94 this October. She has never remarried, and has remained a widow all these past 62 years. I am sure she still misses my father, that is, on days when she can remember, when her mind is clear, and her memory is sharp. For my mom has Alzheimer's. The other day when I showed her this picture of my dad and her, I asked if she knew who the couple was. Without any hesitation, she said 'That's me and that's your father. But he's gone now. He was very good to me.'
Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, today is the day we celebrate LOVE. We should be celebrating love every day, in the little things we do, for the people we love. Love doesn't have to cost a cent. Love can be a genuine smile, a warm hug or an affectionate kiss. Or a good deed for someone we don't know but who needs our help.
Spread a little love today, and every day.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, EVERYONE!
Love Is All Around - Wet Wet Wet - Lyrics - YouTube
(This post is updated from an earlier one posted on Valentine's Day 2014.)
Woke up on New Year's Day morning to find this whatsapp message on my phone: Congratulations, you are in The Star today. A quick flipping of pages led me to the article, reprinted below for easy reading. A great start for 2019, if I may say so.
Pioneer batch of MSc Applied Gerontology graduates August 2018. Original photo: Wee Teck Hian
Never let age stop you from pursuing your dreams. This was the advice Lily Fu, 70, gave her course mates in her valedictorian speech when she graduated with a Masters of Science in Applied Gerontology from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in 2018.
Fu truly embodies that philosophy. She was the oldest in her class, but the self-professed “lifelong learner” didn’t let that or “the limitations of the ageing body and brain” get in the way of pursuing her ambition.
“I often say, you must have passion to achieve your dreams. Passion is a magnet. It will attract the right people and opportunities to allow you to achieve your dreams,” says Fu, who received her scroll in August 2018.
It was her zeal that led her to enrol in the Masters programme, even though the retired teacher couldn’t afford the costs. She says, “Going back to school was something I’d wanted to do for a while.”
“I’d enrolled in all sorts of courses related to ageing at the University of the Third Age (under Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Institute of Gerontology). Then in 2010, Prof (Dr Tengku) Aizan (Hamid), the director of the Institute of Gerontology, encouraged me to pursue my Masters, but the timing never seemed right.
“I heard about a Masters of Science in Applied Gerontology programme at the Singapore Institute of Management (now Singapore University of Social Sciences), but the logistics and fees posed a huge obstacle. Every scholarship I looked up had an upper age limit and mine was above that ceiling.
“Then in 2016, my daughter who resides in Singapore told me about this new course at NTU. I attended a preview and liked what I saw, but the fees were too high – tuition alone would cost me S$34,000 (RM104,000).
“But seeing how passionate I was, my daughter and son-in-law offered to pay for me, so I grabbed the offer. I hope this becomes a trend, where retirees can pursue their passion, funded by their adult children,” says the mum of two and grandma of five.
Being a full-time student at 70 wasn’t easy, Fu admits. She had to get used to new modes of learning and keep up with course mates who were much younger. But her can-do spirit and determination to not let age stop her pushed her to graduate – and also be class valedictorian. “It wasn’t so bad because my class was diverse in every way,” she says.
“Also in Singapore, there’s a huge focus on respect for the elderly. On trains, people give up their seats. On the road, they give way to pedestrians. Bus drivers help the elderly and those on wheelchairs to get on and off. I learnt a lot about what we can do for our elderly in Malaysia and I have come back with lots to share.”
The Masters programme covered many aspects of ageing including policy, advocacy, physiology of the ageing person, mental health, gerontechnology (assistive devices and technology that can help the elderly) and thanatology, the scientific study of dying.
“I never thought I’d be in a Masters of Science programme, but it was an interdisciplinary programme that was rich with the top people from the hospitals lecturing us. With my Masters’ credentials, people actually listen when I give talks, even though a lot of what I say is the same as before,” she says laughing.
Me and my coursemates Meera and Minyi. Original photo: Foong Ming
Building A Community Advocating for the elderly is something the Batu Pahat, Johor, native has been busy with for the last decade. In 2008, Fu started SeniorsAloud, a blog to raise the issues facing the elderly in Malaysia.
It’s a platform for seniors to network and share their stories. Though it started as an online portal, the blog has grown into a community of seniors who meet regularly for activities and workshops. The idea, Fu says, is to enable and help them empower each other to lead active, healthy lives.
“When I started SeniorsAloud, there weren’t many (initiatives) for the elderly. I had become a senior myself, and because I use public transport, I noticed the many issues the elderly face in this country.
“I’ve been taking public transport for years and I realise how unfriendly it is for seniors. Our bus stops don’t have any information about the buses and their routes. If there is a notice, the words are so small – how are the elderly going to read them?
“Another issue is the lack of wheelchair access. Even in KLCC, a premier mall, there’s very little disability access. A lot of doors are closed for seniors, a lot of needs are not met, and I want to give us a voice,” says Fu.
To create awareness, she began writing articles (now over 1,000) which she hopes will get the attention of policymakers who could initiate positive changes. She says, “Going online was the best solution because it was free and I could reach more people.”
“I had to learn how to set up a blog, take photos, write stories and design flyers on my own. I also went for a course on citizen journalism to help me write news stories,” says Fu, a retired teacher who taught at Kuen Cheng Girls School for over 30 years.
Recruiting members for her online community was tough, she confesses. Though there were no membership fees, many retirees were put off by the name of her portal.
“People don’t want to be labelled ‘seniors’, though they enjoy senior discounts. We need to project a positive image of the elderly and this starts with seniors ourselves. If we keep saying we’re too old to do things, how do we expect people to see us? We must change,” she says with conviction.
Before long, SeniorsAloud drew the attention of organisations and companies who invited the elderly to participate in programmes. Fu was invited to speak on ageing matters, but she realised that for people to take her seriously, she needed the “right credentials” which is why she pursued her degree.
SeniorsAloud has about 500 registered members and another 500 who regularly visit Fu’s blog and social media page. Among the ongoing education and awareness programmes organised for the SeniorsAloud community are workshops to help seniors go online.
“There will come a time when we seniors will be mostly home-bound. But if we know how to use technology, we can remain connected to friends and the world. We can network with our friends and family even though we may not be able to go out,” says Fu. “Another is to be aware of online scams that target the elderly.”
With the knowledge and insights she’s gained from her time in Singapore and a change of government in Malaysia, Fu hopes to contribute to improving the lot of seniors in Malaysia.
“The new measures and incentives announced in the Budget 2019 are encouraging and we will have to see how these get implemented,” Fu says. “I’m ever willing to share my input and to be a part of bringing change for our seniors.”
What a year it was! May 9, 2018 ushered in a new era for the country. For the first time since independence in 1957, the opposition won the general elections and formed the new government. In the weeks prior to GE14, many of us attended ceramahs, fund-raising dinners and took part in rallies. Some of our members also volunteered as Polling Agents. It was well worth the effort when Pakatan Harapan won. Only time will tell if the new government can deliver on its promises.
SeniorsAloud events 2018
For SeniorsAloud, 2018 marked our 10th anniversary. We celebrated with a fund-raising dinner on 12 October at Royal Lake Club and also published a 32-page booklet to commemorate a decade of community service and events. For me personally, as founder of SeniorsAloud community, August 2018 marked my graduation with a Master of Science in Applied Gerontology from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. I was so relieved and happy to say goodbye to research studies, assignments and deadlines!
Other event organisers that SeniorsAloud collaborated with or helped promote in 2018
We also promoted and participated in events organised by universities
The above three events (GE14, 10th anniversary dinner, my gerontology course in Sg) kept us very busy. We had to cut down on organising events. To make up for this, we collaborated with other event organisers including universities, and helped to promote their events. This ensured there were activities every month for our members.
SeniorsAloud in the news
It's always nice to see SeniorsAloud mentioned in talks or in the media, so Thank You, Petrosains, The Star and Hire.Seniors.
Haven't joined SeniorsAloud yet? Do so and be part of our growing community.
While active healthy ageing remains at the core of our community efforts, for next year we will be focusing more on productive ageing. We plan to organise skills & knowledge-based workshops that will help seniors get (re)employed or start their own business. To get our plans off the ground, we are looking for the following:
a centrally-located venue in KL/PJ for our events preferably within walking distance to an LRT/MRT station
a reliable travel agency that conducts local tours (we have a couple of trips and visits on the cards)
experienced and qualified instructors for IT and social media courses
Preference will be given to members of SeniorsAloud community who can provide any of the above or know someone who can. Please email us at email@example.com, or contact Lily at 012-3068291.
Seven years ago, I had one of the best Chinese vegetarian meals ever in terms of value: good taste, low prices and rich variety. I had blogged about it then as one of the staff volunteers there asked me to help publicize the food court. Today the blog article popped up among my Facebook Memories. A good reminder that I should post an update for those who have yet to drop by for a meal. This place has been around for decades. Yet many of my friends have not heard of it.
A vegetarian's food paradise! I gave up counting the number of dishes after 40. Strictly no meat, eggs, garlic or onion.
A feast for the eyes and stomach, but only if you are a vegetarian. The longest queue is for the mixed dishes with rice.
All this for only RM8 in 2011 when this photo was taken. Prices have gone up but still low compared to other food outlets in the area.
The daily menu at a glance. The temple marks festival days on the Chinese calendar with free meals but donations are welcome.
Best time to be there - before 11.30am. You avoid the lunch time crowd and the long queues at the cashiers.
The scene at 12pm. Difficult to find a seat unless you are alone. Besides locals, expats and backpackers eat here too. Diners have to clear their own plates after eating. The staff here are all volunteers.
All the vegetables and fruits are organically grown on the temple's farm.
Once you enter the temple premises, it's a short pleasant walk past a rock garden with a lotus pond and mini-waterfalls to the food centre at the end of the corridor.
From the outside: This ornate temple, opposite Corus Hotel and a stone's throw from KLCC, hides a bustling food court waiting to be discovered by those in search of a satisfying vegetarian meal.
Besides rice dishes, there are stalls selling noodles, salad, fruits, buns and drinks. When in season there are durians for sale. Everything comes from the temple's organic farm. I have lunch there whenever I am in the vicinity (which is often!) and tapau (take away) for dinner. The two meals usually cost less than Rm10. If I am early enough, I get free soup and fruit dessert. Parking is a problem. You can take the lrt to KLCC and walk there, or take any bus that goes to KLCC. Get off at Corus Hotel and walk across the overhead bridge.
So now you know where to go for your next organic vegetarian meal, do spread the word.
PM Tun Mahathir, 93, has jokingly said the new retirement age in Malaysia will be 95 in 2020 when he hands over his premiership to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He may have said it in jest but at the rate our demographics are changing, Malaysia will reach ageing nation status by 2030, and we will see more people working well into their 70s.
When the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) was established in 1951, life expectancy then, believe it or not, was 55! With the retirement age set at 55, lump sum EPF withdrawals would be more than sufficient to sustain contributors through the short retirement period. We now know those figures were way off the mark. Advances in science, medicine and technology have drastically extended life span. Life expectancy in Malaysia currently stands at 76, and is set to rise further in the years ahead. 60 is the new 40, and living to a ripe old age of 80 and beyond is fast becoming the norm.
This begs the question - do we have enough in our EPF savings to see us through an additional 15 to 20 years? For the majority the answer is No. The M40 (middle income group) is arguably the worst off as they are not eligible for welfare aid unlike the B40 (lower income group). They also have more financial commitments such as these below:
loans to service (housing loan, car loan)
their children's higher education
their healthcare expenses
support for their elderly parents
Do check out what these senior citizens from M40 have to say about their financial status, and what we can learn from them at this link. Their profiles are typical of most retirees.
Upon reaching 55, most retirees would opt for lump sum withdrawals. They have worked hard and waited patiently for the day when they would have the means to turn their dreams and plans into reality, whether it is to pay off debts, renovate the house, take a well-deserved holiday abroad or start a business. Unfortunately, going by EPF data, most end up depleting their retirement savings within a few years mainly through mismanagement of their money.
How much should the average retiree have in order to avoid getting into debt? EPF puts it at RM228,000. More than half of their members have way less than this amount (see infographic below). EPF has come up with some good advice on how to live a simple and sensible life in retirement to stretch savings. If a retiree finds himself unable to cope financially, he should pay a visit to AKPK (Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit) for some free advice on how to manage his limited financial resources. Or refer to AKPK's special presentation for SeniorsAloud members at this link.
To reduce the risk of retired contributors using up all their EPF savings within a few years, EPF introduced several withdrawal packages (see below). There is also the option of leaving the entire sum with EPF until age 100. However dividends from their savings will stop once they reach age 75. At dividend rates of 6% and above since 2011, it makes sense for retirees to let their savings remain for as long as possible with EPF. The dividend for 2017 was 6.9%.
Many of my friends who were teaching in public schools back in the 1980s opted for early retirement when they reached their 40s. As long as they had served a minimum of 10 years, they were eligible for a gratuity and pension benefits as stipulated under Section 12A Act 227/239. Today early retirement at 40+ would be unthinkable for most people. Given the rising cost of living and a host of financial commitments, few can afford to enjoy full retirement. The mantra is work, work, work for as long as possible.
Acknowledging the plight of retirees and those nearing retirement age, the Pakatan Harapan government has sought to increase job opportunities by proposing tax incentives for employers hiring older Malaysians. It's a long shot from proposal to implementation. Whether this will make a significant difference remains to be seen.
One thing is for certain - we can expect the retirement age to continue going up. In developed countries such as Germany and Japan, the retirement age is moving towards 70. Former PM of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, famously said that 'retirement means death', and was in favour of doing away with the retirement age.
As the country's biggest employer, the government finds it a challenge to fund pension payouts to a growing pool of retired civil servants and beneficiaries that is expected to reach 836,000 in 2019 and would cost KWAP (Kumpulan Wang Persaraan) a whopping RM26.56 billion. This is one of the main reasons for raising the retirement age - to enable both retirees and pensioners to work longer and accumulate sufficient savings to be self-supporting in old age.
Older Malaysians too want to work for as long as they are able. The family structure has changed so drastically that parents can no longer expect their adult children to support them in their old age. Family size has shrunk, and with the grown children moving out to work or settle elsewhere, retired couples are often left to fend for themselves.
The falling fertility rate at 1.9 is the lowest on record and below the replacement rate of 2.1. This means a shrinking of the young work force. This shortage of young workers will have to be met by an increase in technology, in the recruitment of foreign workers and in opening jobs to people in the 60 to 65 age group.
So, whichever way we look at the situation, there is definitely a need for older workers to return to the work force, and for the retirement age to be raised. The likelihood of doing away with a retirement age will gain traction in the years ahead. Let's just hope it won't reach a situation where we have to work till we drop dead!