In February 2017 I gave a talk at the launch of The Senior magazine at Petrosains KLCC. I was then the editor of the magazine. It was my second time speaking at the venue. The first was on the topic 'Staying Relevant in the Digital Age', and the second was on 'Active Living for Seniors'. The Facebook memory I received this morning (March 1, 2018) reminded me of the talk. So I am sharing the slides here for those who missed the talk.
Here's the first slide (above), and a question for the readers - Do you agree retirement is the best time to enjoy life? I can almost hear the YES and NO.
The response would depend very much on whether we have laid the foundation for a successful retirement. If the roots of a sapling do not get enough of the right nutrients, the sapling will not grow into a strong and sturdy tree that will withstand the vagaries of the weather.
Likewise, for our retirement years to be truly golden, we must ensure these six pillars (roots) are firm enough to buttress us against the challenges of our later years. The six pillars: good health, financial security, strong relationships with our family and friends, community service, a belief system to keep us grounded, and lifelong learning to help us grow and improve.
If we do not have all six pillars in place, or if some of these pillars are weak, we need to shore them up. Insufficient savings? Work on a plan to generate some income or cut back on spending. Too old to do the things we have always wanted to do? Says who? Age is just a number that Father Time has given us. It does not define who we are, or what we want to be. We are the drivers controling the steering wheel of our lives.
Retire from work, but do not retire from life. Live life to the fullest or see it pass us by. The march of time seems merciless as we enter our later years. It is as if the countdown had begun as soon as we hit our 70s, never mind the research studies that show longevity is on the rise as evident in a new demographic category of super-centenarians worldwide - those aged 100 and above. Do we want to make each moment count, and fill it with happy experiences? Or do we want to withdraw from family, friends and the world outside, and fill our days with regret and remorse, and all the bitterness of a life that could have been otherwise. What a sheer waste of precious moments as the clock ticks away the minutes.
So get rid of the doldrums and go out. Feel the sunshine and the breeze on your skin. Take time to smell the roses, play with your grandchildren. Recharge. Be grateful that you can get up in the morning to greet another new day. Growing old is a privilege not everyone gets to experience.
Have fun, travel, explore, discover. This is the time to spend on yourself. Be selfish. The above photo is one of my all-time favorites taken at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore in May 2015. A total of 40 members from SeniorsAloud and U3A (KL and Sgor) went on this 3D2N trip. There was so much to see, do and learn. A truly diverse group of Malaysian seniors spending a fun weekend together.
No need for us to look across the oceans for an inspiring role model of graceful ageing. Right here on our shores we have our former PM's wife, YB Toh Puan Dr Siti Hasmah, 92 now, to show us how we should live life in our retirement years. We are never too old to pick up new skills. All it takes is a change of mindset and attitude. The world is our oyster if we let it be.
One of the biggest fears of growing old is loneliness and abandonment. This comes from the perception that older people are useless and unproductive. Harbouring such thoughts and feelings can lead to depression, and in some cases, to suicidal tendencies in the elderly. The best way to dispel such negative thoughts and pessimism is to be active. An idle mind is the devil's workshop, right? Join a seniors club or volunteer with an NGO that resonates with you. For a start, why not sign up for courses with University of the Third Age (U3A)? Not only will you widen your circle of friends, you will also enjoy the fun of learning new skills with your peers in a non-threatening environment, without the stress of exams and assignments!
The ladies above signed up for U3A acrylic painting course as beginners. They soon discovered they had a flair for painting. The result - an acrylic art exhibition of their masterpieces held in Putrajaya. Goes to show that we are never too old to learn new skills, never too late to unearth our potential. Think of the sense of pride and achievement these ladies must have felt. We can all be like them. Take the initiative to explore new horizons. Be fearless. Never let our age stop us from trying new things that interest us.
When we spend our retirement years living a sedentary lifestyle, our muscles will soon atrophy. We will start complaining of aches and pains all over. And before we even reach our 70s, we have become dependent on all kinds of aids, from walking aids to hearing aids and every other aid in between. It's time to get up from our armchair and exercise. Don't fancy exercising on your own? Round up some friends for a qigong session, or join a group like Mrs Jagjeet's Nordic Walkers.
There are also groups that organize hiking-camping-cycling trips. Take your pick. Go google, or search Facebook to find out where these groups meet and how you can join them. Making resolutions to lose weight, eat well and exercise regularly produces no results, if they remain as resolutions. Translate your resolutions and good intentions into action to see results.
Nothing like spending time outdoors in the early mornings or late evenings doing exercises to keep fit. Above are some members of Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) brisk walking in Taman Jaya park a few Sundays ago. In another section of the park was a group of old friends enjoying a quiet board game. Good friends provide a strong support system in our old age. Cherish their friendship.
Don't fancy the physical demands of hiking or cycling? Take up gardening like SeniorsAloud member Keats (above). Mowing the grass, raking dry leaves, carrying flower pots and weeding all help to strengthen our muscles and improve our flexibility. There's also the added joy of eating the fruits of your hard work if you have a garden of fruits, herbs or vegetables. Urban farming is gaining popularity among city residents. U3A offers short courses on hydroponics, kitchen garden and mushroom cultivation in some semesters.
Not only should we take care of our physical health, but also our mental health. Use it or lose it applies to our brain as well. Board games are great as mental exercises, so are doing crossword puzzles, sudoku and playing mahjong. All these help us to maintain our mental acuity and hopefully keep Alzheimer's at bay. Above are members of SeniorsAloud enjoying a mentally stimulating game of Math Magic. The board game was invented by Malaysian Jimmy Yeoh.
The ladies of senior citizens clubs love to dance. We just wish the guys shared the same interest. No matter, as long as the ladies are having fun, the guys are content to sit and watch. Dancing is an enjoyable way to exercise the body. It is liberating as well. The above photo was taken at SeniorsAloud's 'Golden Memories' dinner and dance in 2015. Our 10th anniversary dinner is coming up in October. Do join us to celebrate this milestone.
Passion and Compassion - these two values have been at the core of SeniorsAloud's existence from its very beginning in May 2008. Working hard to extend SeniorsAloud's reach and promote an active lifestyle for seniors has been my passion since I retired in 2004. I am blessed to have a dedicated team of volunteers to support me for our events and projects. Our passion spills over into compassion for others that need a helping hand. We believe firmly that volunteerism adds meaning and purpose to life. There are so many ways we can contribute to community service. Just find the one you are comfortable with, and that works best for you.
For SeniorsAloud we have chosen to help by setting up a small initiative to look into appeals for assistance from the elderly or from NGOs that serve the elderly. Above are some of our past community service efforts made possible with funds raised at our annual dinners. Consider joining our SeniorsAloud Volunteer Group (SVG). Alone we can do only so much, but together we can do more.
Given the platform to speak on active ageing to an audience of senior citizens, I could not pass up the opportunity to promote SeniorsAloud and U3A at the launch. These are probably the most active senior citizens groups on social media in Malaysia. So it should be easy for anyone interested to get in touch with SeniorsAloud or U3A to join their activities. Just google. By the way, U3A semester 2018 starts soon. Registration Day is Sat 3 March 2018. Course enrolment is on a first come basis.
The above are the slides from my 30-min talk, with notes added. If you would like to know more about any of the groups or activities mentioned here, contact SeniorsAloud at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are committed to promoting active living for senior citizens, and will put you in touch with the relevant people in charge of these groups.
(This article has been updated from the original posted on Feb 28, 2017.)
Old people love to complain. They are never satisfied with anything. True or false? The answer is probably True. But they do have valid reasons for their grouses.
Let's put ourselves in the shoes of an 80+ old man. He has limited funds so he complains about soaring prices and GST. He recalls the old days when a cup of kopitiam coffee cost only 40 cents. Now it's RM1.80 at the mamak stall. The reason why you don't see many old people at Starbucks - it pains them to spend RM10 on a cup of coffee!
There was a time when he could travel and enjoy an active social life. These days he is mostly at home, unable to venture out alone because he no longer drives and there's no one free to take him out. His perennially-busy adult children have little time for him.
Once upon a time he lived to eat. Now he eats to live. His diet is restricted to low fat, less sugar and salt-free foods. How bland! No more spicy, oily deep-fried hawker food for him, no more culinary indulgences, all because he has a host of health problems.
His old hobbies no longer interest him. He doesn't read much because of poor vision. He has little interest in watching tv as the programs don't appeal to him. He misses the songs and movies of the 50s and 60s. He can't enjoy the videos on YouTube or listen to TEDtalks as he is computer-illiterate, and refuses to learn.
As a young man, he was blessed with good health and vitality. Now the passage of time has reduced him to a frail shadow of his former self, with all the accompanying aches and pain of old age. He wakes up in the morning, and wonders how to pass the long hours ahead.
Few friends drop by to see him, as they are in the same boat as he is, or have passed away. So he sits in his arm-chair or lies in bed the whole day long with only his memories to keep him company.
It is no wonder old people are bitter and grouchy. They have all the time in the world to gripe about everything under the sun, from high prices to corrupt politicians, and 1001 things in between. Such unpleasant company to be in.
What a horrible way to grow old!
It is the same with old women too. They still complain but much less than their husband. The big difference is they have more to keep them busy like helping with the grandchildren, doing community work or taking up some short courses. Maybe that's why they live longer. (Men, take note. Find something to keep you happily occupied.)
We can't stop growing old, but we can certainly choose how we want to grow old. It's all about attitude.
We can choose to grow old complaining about things from A to Z. Or we can choose to focus our attention on the things that make us happy, like our grandchildren, like being able to look back at happy times with fondness, and not compare them with the present just to complain. 'The past is a place of reference, The past is not a place of residence.' Move on. The present is where we are - make the most of it.
There is little point in harping on things that can't be changed. We should learn to accept whatever unfortunate circumstances we are dealt with and make the best of the situation. We can make our lives worth living.
The above is an updated version of an earlier article I wrote in 2012. I am reposting it in response to Betty White's quote in the Straits Times today (11 Jan 2018). She turns 95 this year. It is a timely reminder to look at life on the bright side. Negative feelings and thoughts can fester and lower our immune system against diseases. It drains us of our energy to keep dwelling on our pains and aches, fears and regrets. Besides, no one wants to be in the company of grouchy old people, not even their grandchildren, right?
Would older adults accept being addressed as 'perennials'?
When I started this blog in May 2008, I had several names in mind for the blog. Unfortunately all of them were already taken. I must have tried at least 20 names in total, with the same result each time - 'not available'. In frustration I gave it one final go with 'SeniorsAloud'. The name had popped into my mind at that last minute. To my surprise, it was accepted.
Both my daughters didn't like the name at all. They probably felt that with a name like SeniorsAloud, the blog would interest only old people. Of course, I went on the defensive. What did they mean by 'old'? I was about to turn 60 at the time, and didn't feel at all a day over 40. Neither was I frail, and definitely nowhere close to being senile.
Let me ask my readers, does the word 'senior' have a negative connotation? What sort of image springs to mind at the mention of 'senior citizen'? I have good friends who would cringe with horror at being referred to as one, even though they are 60+ and retired. To them, that's as good as sounding the death knell!
The problem with labels is they are generic. 'Old' people are painted with the same brush, and in the same grey colour. But there are so many different shades and hues of grey. If the 50+ and 60+ are not quite ready to be called old, how then would you address them? The 'young old'? That doesn't work either. And are the 70+ the 'old old'? These are terms used by researchers in social sciences and gerontology. What other terms of reference do we have? The pre-war and post war generations? Baby Boomers? Equally cumbersome and inadequate. (Photo: My cousins - no way would anyone in their right mind call them 'elderly'! Henry is about the coolest dad I know, and Siew Kin is one fabulously gorgeous mom, inside out. Both are in their early 60s at the time of writing.)
Quite often the media is guilty of mislabeling. "Elderly man victim of snatch thief", says one headline. You read the news report and find that the victim was aged 63. I am turning 70 soon. I can deal with being called a senior citizen as that is what I am. But 'elderly'? Not by a mile. But young reporters are incapable of making that age distinction. To someone in their 20s, 63 is practically ancient.
So until we come up with age appropriate labels, I suppose baby boomers like us will have to forgive the young for addressing us as 'old' and 'elderly'.
I'm glad I stuck with the name "Seniorsaloud" for this blog. It has garnered a readership that is steadily growing. It has caught the attention of certain policy-makers on ageing issues in Singapore and Malaysia. It has been mentioned in the local media on several occasions. Some of the articles have been published in reputable magazines. Some years back, I received an email from a program producer at CNN asking for my views on a seniors-related topic. That was a real morale booster!
My SeniorsAloud card which I refer to as my 'passion card', rather than my business or name card.
All those hours of writing and researching are finally paying off in terms of recognition. Now we are hoping some big corporations would step in and sponsor a Seniorsaloud event. That would be taking Seniorsaloud to the next level where it can harness the expertise and experience of retirees for projects that would benefit the community of senior citizens. Seniorsaloud has no shortage of ideas to achieve this objective, and we welcome collaborations with organisations and companies to promote active, healthy living for seniors.
Here's what Prof Laura Carstensen of Stanford University's Centre on Longevity says about the term 'perennials' for older people.
Click HERE to read the full article (Straits Times 2 Jan, 2018)
"Perennials make clear that we are still here, blossoming again and again. It also suggests a new model of life in which people engage and take breaks, making new starts repeatedly. Perennials aren't guaranteed to blossom year after year, but given proper conditions, good soil and nutrients, they can go on for decades." I personally like 'perennials'. It has a youthful, forever-spring feel to it. But I am not too sure if the word will gain wide acceptance. What do readers think? (Postscript: The above is an updated version of an article first posted in April 2011. An edited version was subsequently published in the Star.)
SeniorsAloud started the e-newsletter primarily to reach out to members who do not have an FB account and do not want to have an account. Since our first issue in June 2014, we have emailed the newsletter without fail every month to those who have registered with SeniorsAloud.
However, we have members telling us they have not received any newsletters. We can offer three possible explanations:
there was a typing error in their email address
their email address is no longer valid - e.g. @pd.jaring.com, @streamyx.com, @tm.net.my and @unifi.my
the newsletter went to another email box - e.g. the Promotions box for those using gmail.
We suggest that they re-register. Once they have submitted the online form, they will receive an email to confirm their registration. Our registration form asks only for basic info e.g. name, year of birth, email address and contact number. We do not require your IC number or address. The rest are optional. We take confidentiality of info seriously.
Here is a look back at our 2017 newsletter announcements, from December to January. They served to alert members to check their email, and also to promote membership drive. We hope the effort is not wasted.
The January 2018 newsletter will be out soon. Do check your mail box. Happy New Year!
2017 has been a most eventful year for SeniorsAloud. Not only did we see a rise in our community membership, but also more traffic to our FB page. It warms our hearts when strangers recognise us in public places and come up to say "You are from SeniorsAloud? Keep up the good work!" We most certainly will!
Thanks to the media, more people now know about SeniorsAloud and what we do. We have been interviewed by BFM89.9, and by monthly health magazine Urban Health.
But most of all, we thank our members, friends and followers of our blog and FB page for staying with us (and spreading the word) and supporting our events. We hope for your continued support in 2018 and beyond.
Here is a look back at SeniorsAloud events in 2017, from January to December:
As we have mentioned before, 2018 marks our 10th anniversary. Members can expect even more exciting events and activities from SeniorsAloud to celebrate our first decade as arguably the one and only online community in Malaysia/Singapore run by seniors for seniors to promote lifelong learning and active living. Cheers!
Let's face it - all of us are ageing from the day we are born. Each birthday is a reminder of our mortality. But ageing is not all gloom and doom. Ageing is about living each day in ways that will add to our wellbeing. It is about learning and preparing for the future so that we can avoid the comorbidities and disabilities that often accompany old age. Ageing is very much an individual journey and a personal experience. It begins with embracing ageing, knowing how to cope with the challenges of ageing, and what to do to prepare for the future.
32 seniors aged 65 to 85 were selected and trained as exhibition guides. They will explain the activities and share personal stories and memories.
What better way to learn about ageing than at the Dialogue With Time exhibition currently being held at Science Centre Singapore. I spent two hours there recently in an immersive experiential tour of the exhibition, and came away feeling much more optimistic about the future. Dialogue with Time is an excellent platform to promote awareness of what ageing involves, and what we should do to remain healthy and active in our retirement years. Longevity becomes a bane if the extra years are filled with pain, loneliness and suffering.
In one of the activities in the Blue Room, visitors were asked to choose from a stack of photos one that resonated with them most, and explain their choice. My choice - a happy 3-generation family.
The exhibition is for the entire family. The best time to prepare for the future is now. It starts with the importance of laying an early foundation for successful ageing. That way the retirement years will find us enjoying good health, financial security and happy relationships with family and friends.
Here's a quick tour of the exhibition in pictures.
The first stop to watch a video of little Danielle ageing in all of five minutes! You can view the full video here.
In the Blue Room, senior guides Serene, 66, and Ray, 72, share their favourite memories.
Activity: pick any 5 cards and complete the sentence. We all know many older people who still enjoy learning and still retain a spirit of adventure and a sense of fun.
The Yellow Room where some of the challenges of ageing are highlighted e.g. difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, hearing loss and failing vision.
Want to know what it feels like to move around like an old person? Try walking with 4kg weights strapped to your feet!
More challenging activities: listening to and following instructions, inserting a key into a keyhole and testing your hand-eye coordination.
An opportunity to test my eyes. All good. Hope it stays that way.
The Pink Room where visitors can watch videos of five seniors sharing their experiences on work, love and life in general. Inspiring.
Some of the topics include 'Finding Love Online' and 'Re-employment of Seniors'.
The White Room where visitors can view an interactive video and quiz on 'Future of Ageing' in Singapore, e.g. life expectancy of Singaporeans, number of centenarians in Singapore.
Which one would you choose? Are all of the above important to you?
Singapore's action plan for successful ageing
Happy Years Kopitiam - for a good strong cup of coffee and a chat about the good old days.
Just a small sampling of the exhibits in the science and technology zones that span robotics, assistive devices, telemedicine and much more.
Tried this out and was relieved to hear the strong and regular beat of my heart.
A must-try. Quite fascinating (and scary!) to see how we look as we 'age'. Smoking and UV rays make us age faster, so be warned.
Take note of the nine ingredients for healthy ageing
Remember to pick up a complimentary copy of 'I Feel Young' at the Happy Years Kopitiam
Some of the senior guides with June Chen, (far right), Assistant Manager, Exhibition Group, Science Centre. Thanks for the guided tour of the exhibition.
Sunday mornings used to find me teaching Bible classes in church. That seemed like a lifetime ago. I left when I found my personal belief system and values at odds with the lessons I was conducting in Sunday school. Almost all the major religions claim theirs is the true religion that guarantees salvation for their disciples and followers, but eternal hell and condemnation for all others. They claim too that their religion is the one and only path to God. There are just too many false prophets around trying to convert the naive. I often wonder if all the religious strife in the world today is the result of man's (mis)interpretation of the holy books. I may change my belief systems in future. I don't know. But for now, I believe in universal truths and in the basic goodness that we all have within us.
What triggered my thoughts on this subject was an article published in the Straits Times yesterday (7/Nov/2017) by NUS Prof Tommy Koh who is also Ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore. He touched on the importance of cultural intelligence as one of at least three kinds of intelligence we need to succeed in life. The others are cognitive intelligence and emotional intelligence. By cultural intelligence, he means being ready to accept the cultural differences of others in order to make friends and build relationships.
I agree absolutely with him. Diversity is very important to me. I make it a point to seek it in my friends, in my activities and also in my studies. Diversity enriches our experiences, and enhances creativity and innovation. It is sad that in Malaysia today we are seeing a rise in exclusivity, elitism and segregation in our schools and universities, in our workplace and in our social circles. This does not bode well for our future as a nation.
I am also reminded of a National Day speech given by Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2009 where he spoke about the risks of religious fervour in a multi-racial society. What he says is applicable to the Malaysian context too. After all, both countries had a shared history for many years. I reproduce excerpts below taken from the Straits Times. You can also follow the speech on Youtube.
"SO WHAT are these risks? Let me just highlight three of them.
Aggressive preaching - proselytisation. You push your own religion on others, you cause nuisance and offence. You have read in the papers recently about a couple who surreptitiously distributed Christian tracts which were offensive of other faiths, not just of non-Christians but even of Catholics. They were charged and sentenced to jail.
But there are less extreme cases too which can cause problems. We hear, from time to time, complaints about groups trying to convert very ill patients in our hospitals, who don't want to be converted, and who don't want to have the private difficult moments in their lives intruded upon.
Intolerance is another problem - not respecting the beliefs of others or not accommodating others who belong to different religions. You think of this one group versus another group, but sometimes it happens within the same family.
Sometimes we have parents from traditional religions whose children have converted. The parents have asked to be buried according to traditional rites and their children stay away from the funeral or the wake. It's very sad. From a traditional point of view, it's the ultimate unfilial act but it does happen occasionally.
Exclusiveness is a third problem - segregating into separate exclusive circles, not integrating with other faiths. That means you mix with your own people. You'll end up as separate communities.
FOUR BASIC RULES
WE can never take our racial and religious harmony for granted. We must observe some basic principles to keep it the way it is.
First, all groups have to exercise tolerance and restraint. Christians cannot expect this to be a Christian society, Muslims cannot expect this to be a Muslim society. Ditto the Buddhists, the Hindus and the other groups. Many faiths share this island. Each has different teachings, different practices. Rules which only apply to one group cannot become laws which are enforced on everyone. So Muslims don't drink alcohol but alcohol is not banned. Ditto gambling, which many religions disapprove of, but gambling is not banned. All have to adopt 'live and let live' as our principle.
Secondly, we have to keep religion separate from politics. The People's Action Party reminds our candidates, don't bring all the friends from your own religious group. Don't mobilise your church or your temple or your mosque to campaign for you. Bring a multi-racial, multi-religious group of supporters. When you are elected, represent the interest of all your constituents, not just your religious group in Parliament. Speak for all your constituents.
Thirdly, the Government has to remain secular. The Government's authority comes from the people. The laws are passed by Parliament which is elected by the people. They don't come from a sacred book. The Government has to be neutral, fair. We are not against religion. We uphold sound moral values. We hold the ring so that all groups can practise their faiths freely without colliding. That's the way Singapore has to be.
You may ask: Does this mean that religious groups have no views, cannot have views on national issues? Or that religious individuals cannot participate in politics? Obviously not.
Religious groups are free to propagate their teachings on social and moral issues. And obviously many Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists participate in politics. In Parliament, we have people of all faiths. In the Cabinet too. People who have a religion will often have views which are informed by their religious beliefs. It's natural because it's part of you, it's part of your personality.
But you must accept that other groups may have different views informed by different beliefs and you have to accept that and respect that. The public debate cannot be on whose religion is right and whose religion is wrong. It has to be on secular, rational considerations of public interest - what makes sense for Singapore.
The final requirement for us to live peacefully together is to maintain our common space that all Singaporeans share. It has to be neutral and secular because that's the only way all of us can feel at home in Singapore and at ease. COMMON SPACES
Sharing meals. We have different food requirements. Muslims need halal food. Hindus don't eat beef. Buddhists sometimes are vegetarian. So if we must serve everybody food which is halal, no beef and vegetarian, I think we will have a problem. We will never eat meals together. So there will be halal food on one side, vegetarian food for those who need it, no beef for those who don't eat beef. Let's share a meal together, acknowledging that we are not the same. Don't discourage people from interacting. Don't make it difficult for us to be one people.
Our schools are another example of common space where all races and religions interact. Even in mission schools run by religious groups, the Ministry of Education has set clear rules, so students of all faiths will feel comfortable. You might ask: Why not allow mission schools to introduce prayers or Bible studies as compulsory parts of the school activity or as part of school assembly? Why not? Then why not let those who are not Christian, or don't want a Christian environment, go to a government school or go to a Buddhist school? Well, if they do that, we'll have Christians in Christian schools, Buddhists in Buddhist schools, Muslims in schools with only Muslim children and so on. I think that is not good for Singapore. Therefore, we have rules to keep all our schools secular and the religious groups understand and accept this.
Another example of common space - work. The office environment should be one which all groups feel comfortable with. Staff have to be confident that they will get equal treatment even if they belong to a different faith from their managers - especially in government departments, but in the private sector too. I think it can be done because even religious community service organisations often have people who don't belong to that religion working comfortably and happily together. This is one very important aspect of our meritocratic society.
THIS is an unusually serious and heavy subject for a National Day Rally. Normally, you talk about babies, hongbaos, bonuses. No bonuses tonight but a bonus lecture on a serious subject. We discussed this in Cabinet at length and decided that I should talk about this. I crafted the points carefully, circulated them many times. Different presentations in Mandarin, Malay and English, because different groups have different concerns, but a consistent message so that there's no misunderstanding.
I also invited the religious leaders to come and spend the evening with us tonight. They can help us to help their flocks understand our limitations, to guide them to practise their faiths, taking into account the context of our society. Please teach them accommodation, which is what all faiths teach. I look forward to all the religious groups continuing to do a lot of good work for Singapore for many years to come.
So let us rejoice in our harmony but let us never forget what being a Singaporean means. It's not just tolerating other groups but opening our hearts to all our fellow citizens. OUR FUTURE IF WE stay cohesive, then we can overcome our economic challenges and continue to grow. This is how we've transformed Singapore over the last half century - solving problems together, growing together, improving our lives. From the Singapore River to Marina Bay, we've totally transformed Singapore over the last half century. 1959 was a moment of great change but nobody at the Padang in June 1959 imagined the change in today's Singapore. We will continue to improve our lives, provided we work together and remain a harmonious and a cohesive society so that in another 50 years, we would have built another Singapore, which is equally unimaginable today.
The key is to stay united through rain or shine. To live peacefully together, we need good sense and tolerance on all sides, and a willingness to give and take. Otherwise, whatever the rules there will be no end of possible causes of friction."
With the elections looming, it is open season for political campaigners to start their rabble rousing. There will be the loose cannons ever ready to shoot incendiary rhetoric from their mouths without a thought about the damage they are inflicting on our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. There is never a more urgent time to embrace unity in diversity than now.
As expected, the recent Budget 2018 delivered by the PM last Friday was a huge disappointment for senior citizens and the elderly. Once again, they are given crumbs. So, that begs the question, what can our government offer us older Malaysians to make us happy and looking forward to our retirement years? We have given 30-40 of our prime years in the service of the country. Surely that must merit some recognition and appreciation?
We want an outdoor gym for seniors in every housing estate and public park where we can exercise
Let's start with what we don't want first. We don't want awards and titles, for they benefit only a few selected individuals, not the community. We don't want one-off or annual cash handouts which offer only short-term benefits to the needy. We want genuine senior discounts on groceries, health supplements, fuel and meals, and other essentials.
Above all, we want to be accorded respect and dignity, not ignored or seen as unproductive and a burden to society
We certainly don't want empty pre-election promises of what the government can do or will do for us. We don't want vague references to what it plans to do for seniors. We want details, specifics and deadlines. And if the government doesn't deliver, we have the right to protest, to hold it accountable if it reneges on its word, and to withhold our vote if any of our under-performing ministers should stand for re-election. That's not a threat or a warning, but a straightforward case of cause and effect, action (or non-action) and reaction.
So, what do we want?
Here's a short checklist to begin with for the relevant ministeries to take note of. In no particular order.
more elder-friendly facilities in public places e.g. government buildings, parks and hospitals. More benches to rest weary feet, decent public toilets, priority queues for the elderly, etc.
a public transport system (and transport hubs) that takes into account the physical limitations of the elderly and OKUs. There has been vast improvement in the MRT-LRT lines, but bus transport and the peripherals suck, and need urgent upgrading.
a senior privilege card with genuine discounts that covers items seniors regularly spend on. By 'genuine' we mean 'without a long list of terms and conditions' or means-tested. The govenment should give seniors a discount card similar to the one for university students.
well-maintainedand fully-equippedsenior community centres in every housing area or constituency, not the rundown balai raya that we see at present.
If you click on any of the links above, you will find that SeniorsAloud has been making these proposals as far back as 2009. We will continue to voice our concerns till we are heard.
To give credit where credit is due, we appreciate the government's efforts in making public healthcare accessible and affordable to seniors. We welcome the discounts for seniors travelling on trains and buses. We also acknowledge the financial assistance given for funeral expenses (!) under the Mesra Usia Emas Schemeand other schemes.
With seniors making up 8.8% of the population and growing steadily, Malaysia is on its way to becoming an ageing nation in the next 10-15 years. UN defines a country as ageing when 7% of its population is aged 65 and above.
But these provisions are either limited, too slow in implementation, or if already available are not efficiently maintained or managed. Moreover, most of these are concentrated in the Klang Valley. What about in other states? What about in Sabah and Sarawak? What is the govt doing for the wellbeing of the seniors and the elderly in these areas? Is it sufficient?
Each year when the budget is announced, we scan the papers looking for some tiny morsels of good news for seniors, only to be disappointed yet again. To quote from the 11th Malaysia Plan for 2016-20, 'supporting active ageing for the elderly' and 'the government will address the needs of...the elderly'. (The Star 22/5/15). That was two years ago. Has there been signifcant follow-up action? What do you think?
How long do senior citizens and the elderly in Malaysia have to wait before they hear these words from our ministers? Words are cheap, unless they are backed by prompt and effective action.
Our ministers are seniors themselves. Like us, they have elderly parents. The big difference is we are from the grassroots, they are from the ivory towers. One day they too will be elderly. Isn't it time they gave more attention to what senior citizens and the elderly want?
(The above is an updated version of a blog article written in May 2015.)
Congratulations to Mr Kor Hong Fatt, 85, for winning gold in the 10,000m (Men's 85 age group) at the just concluded 20th Asia Masters Athletics Championship (24-28 Sept 2017) in Rugao, China. He is an inspiring role model for the rest of us.
My son-in-law, Dr Ansgar Cheng, 51, was also in the same Masters Championship. He ran in heavy rain to bag a silver in the 5000m in the 50-54 category for men with a time of 17:52. On his first day back at work after returning from Rugao, his clinic staff welcomed him back with a framed photo of him wearing his silver medal. It must have been a lovely surprise for him. He received another round of congratulations later at the CCAB track from his coach Rameshon (below right) and fellow FlexiFitness running mates.
My elder daughter, Moon, 48, took up running initially to join husband Ansgar and their two daughters, Allie and Hana. But she soon developed her own passion for the sport as well. Now she trains three time a week with the family at the CCAB track. She recently ran her personal best (PB) of sub-1hr in the 10km in the POSB Run 2017. Moon was recently interviewed about her interest in running. Click here to read about how she went from couch potato to running mom. Her next run is the Great Eastern Run where she hopes to up her PB.
My younger daughter, Belle, 46, hates running, but is passionate about yoga, kick-boxing and zumba classes, preferring to sweat it out in air-conditioned comfort on a carpeted floor, rather than pounding the tracks (or road) under the hot sun. If results are measured by weight loss and muscle gain, both have certainly achieved their goal and more.
All my four older grandchildren had an early start in sports, especially in running. At the age of five, they had already entered competitions, starting with school sports, then graduating to bigger races and competitions. Max, 17, was a regional triathlete until recently when he decided to cut back on competitions. He has been interviewed on Nickelodeon. His sister, Reiya, 12, is following in his footsteps, and has turned out to be a budding triathlete with medals to show for it.
Allie, 14, and Hana, 13, have been improving steadily in their PB. They enjoy their training 3-4 times a week, and occasionally enter competitive races. Allie emerged second in the POSB Run 5km Open (for women), and Hana was fifth in the inter-school cross-country earlier this year. I have no doubt they will be adding to their haul of medals and trophies in races to come.
That leaves two more in the family to mention - the oldest (that's me) and the youngest (that's Ryder). I hung up my running shoes a long long time ago, preferring to do brisk walking and line dancing for fitness. I used to spend hours at the gym five times a week in the 1980s. I was a fitness fanatic then. I remember sometimes doing three hours on the treadmill on top of strength training and aerobics.
Now that I am staying with the Chengs while studying for a one-year full time course at NTU, who knows I may just get back into running, or at least slow jogging. Moon registered me for the Shape Run last month, and also for the upcoming Great Eastern Run next month. I am more likely to walk than run, as I have not been training at all. But it's a start at age 69.
Just after the Shape Run - my first road event in almost 30 years! I survived it.
Finally, there's my grandson, Ryder, 3+. This little superboy became a small YouTube sensation when his dad posted a video of him dribbling a football at 13 months. Watch how he fell, picked himself up, and continued. I am glad he still has this trait of trying and trying till he succeeds. He loves to show off his physical abilities, from planking to cycling, and now swimming. He has just started taking jiu jitsu classes. Ryder wants to emulate big bro Max and be a champ and a finisher in all he does. The sports world is his oyster.
Baby soccer skills, dribbling at 13 months old - YouTube
As the saying goes, the family that runs together, stays together. It's great for intergenerational bonding, not just within your own family, but also with other families that run. An excellent example is the team from FlexiFitness. The group has grown, and resembles an extended family where the parents train together with their children, and everyone is so supportive of one another.
If you are in KL/PJ, and would like to pick up running, or join a runners group, check out KLCC Runners Group. If you live in Singapore, I recommend FlexiFitness. You won't find a better coach than Coach Rameshon. He holds the national record of 2hr 24min 22sec for the men's marathon - unbroken since 1995.
As more older adults take up running and other sports, the Masters Athletics Championship will likely get more competitive. I am sure Ansgar is keen to represent Singapore again in the Masters next year, and the next. After all, Mr Kor started running at 75. Now at 85, he is still running and winning. Salute!
What an evening it was at the Elvis 40th Anniversary 'All Shook Up' tribute last Friday 11 August 2017. The ballroom at Serangoon Gardens Country Club shook, rattled and rolled to Jailhouse House Rock and Love Me Tender, and all the hits from an era beloved by the baby boomers all decked out for a rollicking good time. And that they certainly did, thanks to Jimmy Preslee Productions. They brought in four top Elvis Tribute Artistes (ETA) from Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines to entertain the audience, together with two ETAs from Singapore.
I first heard about the event from a good friend Dr Pok Tham Yien from Johor Baru. I have always been an Elvis fan. Of course I wouldn't want to miss the event but tickets were already sold out weeks in advance. Yes, Elvis still lives on in the hearts of his legions of devoted fans. I can't think of anyone in the music pantheon that has left behind such a global following, one that has remained undiminished long after their demise.
Preslee Productions' very first Elvis Tribute was a roaring success, and paved the way for subsequent tribute concerts.
As luck would have it, Jimmy Lee, the organiser, turned out to be from my hometown Batu Pahat, and my cousin's ex-classmate at BP High School. He called me up with the good news that Judy, his lovely wife, had a ticket for me. One of her friends couldn't make it for the event. We met up at Sim Lim food court on 31 July. It was over lunch that I discovered how Jimmy Preslee Productions (JPP) came into being.
It all started in 2009 with Jimmy's love of karaoke, especially singing Elvis songs. One thing soon led to another, and he was invited to perform alongside other Elvis performers in Hongkong, Manila and Penang. To cut a long fascinating story short, Jimmy saw the demand for such shows. So he became a show agent and in 2014 organised the inaugural tribute 'Elvis is Back in the Building' under Jimmy Preslee Productions (JPP). It drew such overwhelming response that it has become a JPP staple to feature two Elvis tribute events a year.
Here's a snapshot of the recent 'All Shook Up' Elvis 40th Anniversary Tribute:
A sold-out event. Can't go wrong with an Elvis tribute. Baby boomers love songs that bring back fond memories of the 1960s era.
(Left & right) NONIE ELVIS YAMBAO from Philippines and ELVICH PHATIHATAKORN from Thailand (centre). Below: TITUS CHEONG from Singapore
JIMMY PRESLEE from Singapore, JUDY CHONG LEE (yes, Jimmy's lovely wife emcees and sings too), and HANCHE PRESLEY from Indonesia
Close-up of the three Elvis ETAs (Photo credit: Judy Chong Lee)
Judy and Jimmy Preslee ~ the driving force behind JPP
I asked Judy what is the difference between an Elvis impersonator and an Elvis artiste? Her quick reply: 'Elvis impersonators usually exaggerate and do some clowning around. ETAs don Elvis outfits and try to sing Elvis songs just like the King himself.' Ok. Got it. ETAs are serious professionals whose mission is to keep alive the legacy of Elvis Presley through songs and concerts. I have listened to many ETAs over the years, and I must say some of them are really incredible. They sound and look almost like the King himself.
Judging from the enthusiasm of the audience, especially the ladies, it was an evening to remember - a marathon singalong and dancethon. These baby boomers sure know how to have a fabulous time!
These ladies definitely have Happy Feet. They kept the energy and fun level high the entire evening. A tough act for the guys to follow!
At Elvis 40th Anniversary All Shook Up Tribute, Singapore - YouTube
At Elvis 40th Anniversary All Shook Up Tribute, Singapore - YouTube
At 'All Shook Up' ELVIS 40th Anniversary Tribute, Singapore - YouTube
At 'All Shook Up' Elvis 40th Anniversary Tribute, Singapore - YouTube
(Jimmy's video above by Oei Seok Cheng. Thanks, Seok Cheng.)
The ETAs were not the only ones on stage. The good-looking duo of ELVICH and KNIGHT PHATIHATAKORN from Thailand were a big hit with the ladies. They sang 'Let It Be Me' and 'Sounds of Silence' and had the ladies literally swooning!
At Elvis 40th Anniversary All Shook Up Tribute, Singapore - YouTube
Special mention must be made of the band BABY BOOMERS, also called the Philippines Elvis Band. They provided excellent backup for all the singers and performed a couple of songs on their own too. On keyboard is band leader Lui Simbulan, with Gerry Yap on lead guitar, Bork De Leon on bass guitar and Tim Ponce on drums. Both Gerry and Bork sing in the band.
As I made my way around the ballroom, what caught my roving camera eyes were the many gorgeous ladies of Singapore. Here are pictures of some of them, all taken with their knowledge and permission. It is invariably the ladies who determine the success (or failure) of a dinner and dance event. If the ladies don't dance because the music is terrible, the event is heading for one big yawn.
Some of the lovely ladies I spotted in the ballroom. Too many photos to post all here.
One of the guys that caught my attention...for the tee he was wearing :-)
The first of two tributes this year. This one was in March 2017.
This is the second Elvis tribute this year, so that means Elvis fans in Singapore will have to wait till 2018 for the next one. I am sure JPP is up to the challenge of giving loyal Elvis fans another unforgettable tribute as successful as, or perhaps even more successful than 'All Shook Up', if that is possible. If you are a die-hard fan and can't wait, make your way up to Kuala Lumpur. I hear there are Elvis tribute shows this weekend. Check out our SeniorsAloud FB page for more details.
Ladies (and guys), if you are reading this and would like to learn line-dancing or join a line dance group in Singapore, I can put you in touch with Judy. Contact me at 012-3068291 (only whatsapp messages, please). For Kuala Lumpur/PJ, I can recommend my club that teaches line dancing and ballroom dancing as well. As my cousin Lawrence puts it, "At our age, we should be rocking around the clock!" Agree absolutely, Life is for living, not for existing.
And to Jimmy and Judy: don't keep us waiting too long for the next Elvis tribute, or he will have left the building!
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