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!
Back in 2013, I was asked if I would like to volunteer for a non-invasive anti-ageing procedure. Some doctors were doing a short training course in this field and needed volunteers to practice on. The idea of looking years younger than my chronological age (I was 65 then) was tempting, especially as it wouldn't cost me a cent.
But I declined. I was nursing a bad cough at the time. That was the excuse I gave, but the real reason was my aversion to anything that is labeled 'anti-ageing', whether it's anti-ageing procedures, supplements or cosmetics.
The only exception for me at the time was getting my hair colored black. It had turned almost all grey within a short span of six months, brought on mainly by the stress of caring for my mom after her hip surgery in March 2011. She was also diagnosed with dementia at the same time. I was her sole caregiver.
I would have happily left my hair that shade of grey had it not been for well-meaning young people offering me their seats on trains, or helping me with my bags. It made me feel frail, old and decrepit when the reality was I probably had more energy than those nice young people.
Anyway, since then I have vowed that once I reached my 70s, that's it. No more coloring my hair black. Maybe shades of brown or blonde! Well, I am 70 now, and have kept my vow.
I mean why go against nature? Physical ageing is inevitable. Some are born blessed with great genes that slow down the ageing process. They look terrific for their age, whatever it is. We have all met such blessed individuals and secretly admire or envy them.
Less is always more when it comes to make-up for older women. Unless we know how to apply make-up to look younger and more natural, we may end up looking like a painted Chinese opera performer! Branded cosmetics are expensive. Some of them are meant to help us look natural. The irony of it! Wearing make-up is addictive too. Once we are used to having our face all made up whenever we go out, or when we have company, we will feel naked to be seen sans make-up.
Confident women don't mind being seen in public without a trace of make-up on their face. They know outer beauty is only skin-deep. It is what's inside that makes them glow - inner strength of character and a positive attitude towards life. A light touch of lipstick should suffice. The best face-lift is a genuine smile. It works. Try it.
Ali MacGraw, 79, and Robert Redford. 82, still looking great despite the silver hair and age lines
Men are lucky - they don't need make-up to cover the wrinkles or color their hair to pass off as younger than they are. However, a word of advice - if you are balding on top, please don't drag some strands of hair to cover up the shiny pate. It's a huge turn-off for the ladies. Better to go a la Sean Connery, or go completely bald a la Bruce Willis. Some women do find bald men sexy!
From face lifts to breast implants, tummy tucks and more, older women are resorting to whatever means they can afford to reverse the ageing process. More men are now chasing that elixir of youth too, as evident from the rising demand for anti-ageing products for men in the market.
Alicia Douvall is the world's most surgically enhanced woman. At only 33 (in 2013), she already had 71 operations and 260 cosmetic procedures, with her first one done when she was only 17. At this rate, by the time she turns 50, her entire body would have been re-molded. She readily admits to being an enhancement addict. Surely this can't be considered effectively turning back the clock?
If going under the knife to look good makes you feel confident about yourself, or if you are doing it for functional reasons rather than aesthetic like dental implants, for instance, by all means go for it. Just don't overdo it or you might end up looking really plastic with all that plastic surgery. Make sure you get an experienced doctor. And if you are prepared to spend on costly anti-ageing products, make sure you do the research and find out if the products are genuine and effective.
With the world's population ageing at an alarming rate, the anti-ageing industry can only go from strength to strength in terms of revenue generated. Cosmetic surgeons will likely be the most sought after of all medical professionals, as there will always be men and women who refuse to grow old gracefully.
For the rest of us who prefer to let nature take its course, just remember that growing older isn't all that dreadful if we still enjoy good health, have plenty of good friends and a family that loves us and cares about us. Think of wrinkles as lines that reflect our wealth of life experiences.
Baby boomers all. With my cousin Henry (centre) and Antares after a dip in the river at Kampung Pertak. Staying forever young-at-heart and only slightly older in other places :-) (Photo taken in 2013).
Last weekend was one of the best I had in a long time, filled with music and laughter that can be described as truly uplifting - music that warms the heart, and laughter that heals the soul. It was as if every song was deliberately chosen to reflect this twin purpose, from the opening song 'Getting to know you' to the fitting finale 'Thank you for the music'.
Day 1 was all about rehearsals and making friends. Day 2 kicked off with a high energy session of Laughter Yoga led by Debbie Rodrigo and her team.
Credit goes to Cheryl Teh, chairperson and choir director of the Philharmonic Society of Selangor, affectionately known as The Phil, and her team for the long hours of hard work in putting together such a wonderful showcase of songs and singers that not only entertained but also enlightened. True, everyone can sing, but not everyone can sing like Janet Lee, Elvira Arul or Victor Chua, if you know what I mean. Brenda James-Leong was outstanding as emcee, and so was Nish Tham who provided the musical accompaniment. All of you deserve a standing ovation!
Elvira - Bridge Over Troubled Waters - YouTube
My humble phone camera doesn't do justice to Elvira's powerful vocals on this song. Apologies, Elvira!
The Inclusion Choir made up of choir members from the University of the Third Age (U3A) and from Malaysia Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) gave a beautiful rendition of 'Sejahtera Malaysia' under the direction of Dr Indra Selvarajah who is the Founding President of Malaysian Music Therapy Association (MMTA). She also serves on the committee of the Malaysian Society of Music in Medicine (MSMM) at Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Next up was Victor Chua. I had heard Victor sing 'There's a Dream' at the rehearsal and became an instant fan! The song has been haunting me since then. Just can't get it out of my head. It's an original song composed by Victor. He sang it at the 1989 Commonwealth Games in KL. This updated version has new lyrics to reflect the hopes of a new Malaysia.
Victor Chua - There's a dream - YouTube
One problem with video recording at a concert is the obstruction from people walking past or from others who are also recording. I am posting these videos below taken at the rehearsals where there were minimal obstructions.
Mass Choir - Happy Together rehearsal - YouTube
There is so much more to singing than just belting out a song. I discovered this during rehearsals under the direction of renowned founder of community choirs Dr Jonathan Welch from Melbourne who directed the mass choir in three songs: 'This Train is a long time coming', 'Happy Together' and 'Hand in Hand'.
It's amazing after only a few hours of rehearsal, the Mass Choir comprising members from the U3A choir and the Phil choir gave such an impressive performance at the concert.
The Mass Choir with Dr Welch during rehearsal.
I was there on both days and can attest to how meticulous (and insistent) Dr Welch was in ensuring that the choir got the enunciation and the pitch right, down to the phonetics! He said if we got it right the first time, it would be a whole lot easier to get it right every time. Absolutely. He demonstrated the importance of proper breathing and correct posture for singing well. He had such a great sense of humor and made the rehearsals so much fun.
Mass choir - Music laughter rehearsal - YouTube
'Music and Laughter' is another song that I enjoyed learning. The lyrics resonated with me. I understand that the Phil had commissioned Nick Choo to compose the music for the song.
Mass Choir - Tanah Pusaka rehearsal - YouTube
A timely inclusion of 'Tanah Pusaka' given that we are just days away from celebrating Merdeka Day on 31 August. It's a new dawn for the country under a new government after 61 years! So easy this time to sing the song with feeling.
Mass Choir - TQ for the music - YouTube
Indeed, THANK YOU to The Phil for the music, the laughter and the joy we had at the concert. One audience member put it so well when she summed it up thus on the Phil's facebook page: "Enjoyed the Phil's 60th celebratory concert. Full of warmth and love."
We echo that sentiment 100%.
A pleasant surprise to see this flashed on the screen in the acknowledgements.
SeniorsAloud team with Dr Welch and with Cheryl
The Phil looks set to getting plenty of new recruits after the success of the 2-day event.
Couldn't agree more with these quotes. Hope the message goes out to everyone that music (and laughter) is the best medicine.
This is an updated version of my blog article posted in 2014. Reading it now, I find that my predictions were pretty spot on. If you are seriously contemplating starting a business venture, or planning to invest in one, here are some business ideas you might want to look at. Of course, it goes without saying you have to do the market research, check out if there is a demand for your product or services, and find out what the competition is. And lots more. It pays to know what you are putting your money into.
With global ageing comes global demand for products and services that cater to the needs of an ever growing seniors market. As seniors ourselves, we know how frustrating it is to discover that something we need is not available or not easily accessible. So here's our pick of 10 business ideas that might give you the impetus to start coming up with your own ideas:
1. Health Applications Seniors are very concerned about their health. As apps are easily downloaded and most seniors own smart phones, there is demand for good, reliable health apps that monitor our vital signs, e.g. blood pressure and heart rate, and that offer safety warnings like fall alerts. There are already many in the market, but if you add useful features to your app, you can beat the competition. There are plenty of app developers who would be happy to build your app for a fee. But the idea and details will have to come from you. As a senior citizen, you have that extra edge of knowing from personal experience and insight what seniors need or want. 2. Home services
The elderly will welcome such services, especially if they live alone, and do not go out much. Home delivery services take the hassle of having to go out to shop, run errands, or see the doctor. Think home nursing care, food catering, grocery delivery, car wash, pet grooming, hairdressing, manicure, etc. There is a long list of home services that you can provide on your own, or you can start a small company and employ staff to deliver these services. Home delivery is not new, but catering to a niche market of the elderly is relatively new. There are retirement homes that outsource some of these services to individuals or companies. Think of the number of elderly residents that require, for example, personal grooming, massages, or physiotherapy. Of course, expect a mushrooming of nursing homes and aged care facilities as the population continues to age rapidly.
3. Social networking for seniors There are many lonely seniors out there - singles, widows/widowers and divorcees, who are looking to making new friends or finding a companion. Social networking sites such as Senior FriendFinder are popular, but three factors deter more seniors from using these sites. One - not all seniors are internet-savvy, two - they are not sure if the sites can be trusted with their personal particulars when they sign up, three - there is some hesitation in making friends with strangers. Trust has to be built up over time. SeniorsAloud has been approached to organize social gatherings to enable seniors to meet up and make friends. If you are already operating a restaurant or coffee house, contact us. We may consider hosting our social luncheons at your premises. If you have the resources to start an online senior friendship or dating agency, and would like SeniorsAloud to collaborate with you, give us a call.
4. Niche restaurants and cafes
This 'Grandmama's' restaurant serves all patrons regardless of age. But the name does give us some marketing ideas. If you own a restaurant or a bistro, you can attract more patrons especially seniors who are quite fussy about what they eat and drink. Offer more healthy choices on your menu - low fat, less sugar, less salt, organic, preservatives-free, non-GM, etc. Food companies, including fast food and soft drinks companies are already doing that to stay relevant in an increasingly health-conscious market. To stand out from your competitors, make your restaurant elder-friendly in terms of design, furniture and facilities. Not a bad idea to introduce 1960s decor to create an ambience of nostalgia. Chinatown already has several restaurants that are remodeled along such lines.
5. Medical devices
Step into a healthcare supplies retail shop, and you will be surprised at how many assistive devices there are on the market. As the population ages, there will be a growing demand for medical and health devices that help the elderly with their activities of daily living (ADL). There are walking aids, hearing aids, customized beds, wheelchairs and many more. Think of what would help make life easier for older adults, that would be the business you may want to explore further and invest in.
6. Retail for seniors
Bet many of you know the frustration of shopping for clothes, shoes or bags and not finding something that suits your size or taste. The retail world is still very much geared towards the sartorial tastes of the young, while the middle-aged and older adults will have to make do with limited selections of apparel. Off-the-rack clothes in department stores and fashion outlets are designed for svelte young bodies, and killer stilettos are meant for young feet. Left with limited choice, we patronize shops like Ms READ or VIOLETA in MidValley Mall that cater to older women and carry bigger sizes.
7. Senior travel
Travel agencies are smart enough to realize that seniors love to travel. They have the time and the money to do so. Many travel agencies now offer tour packages that are specially designed for older travellers. Meals, accommodation and itinerary are planned to provide safety and comfort for senior travellers. If you are already managing a travel agency, this is one area you can expand to attract more customers. Build a reputation as the agency for seniors to go to when planning a vacation, whether it's a 3-day cruise to nowhere, a day trip to Sekinchan for seafood or a week-long getaway to explore Bhutan.
7. Mobile businesses
Another fast-growing area with the potential to generate good income for small business owners. Decide on what you want to sell, and do it from a customized van. It doesn't have to be food, although that is obviously the most viable option. Park in areas where human traffic is excellent like near office blocks or tourist attractions. Remember the Milo van at sports events during our school days? Today Milo vans are still around. They are joined by Starbucks vans and others offering fresh fruit juices. These vans are frequently seen in up-market office and residential areas. They are now so ubiquitous that The Star has done a cover feature on them. There is room for more mobile businesses if you have something better or different to offer. Think Blue Ocean strategy. (Note: one of the earliest food truck parks or TAPAK is the one next to Corus Hotel along Jalan Ampang. It is packed every night. Go check it out.)
8. Lifelong learning for seniors
Many senior citizens missed out on a college education during their younger days. Now is the time for them to study and obtain the academic or professional qualifications they have always wanted. They can also choose to pick up new skills or learn new languages. Demand is high for schools or instructors that can teach seniors how to use the computer and social media. Seniors also enjoy learning for the sake of learning. They sign up for short courses in art and craft, music and baking. Gyms and dance schools attract seniors by offering special programs like Zumba for Seniors and Ballroom Dancing.
That's me taking ukulele lessons from instructor Kelly Teh at YMCA in 2014. Skills-based short courses are gaining popularity among seniors as seen in the rise in enrollment for courses offered by University of the Third Age at UPM Serdang.
Social media workshop organized by SeniorsAloud for members. One of our key objectives is to provide opportunities for older adults to learn to use digital devices e.g. tablets and smartphones.
9. Transport service for seniors
Although there is no upper age limit for driving, most seniors give up driving when they reach their 70s. But they still need to go see the doctor, or do their grocery shopping. There are mobile clinics and grocery delivery services but their routes are restricted to certain areas. Just like the mini school buses that provide transport to and from school for children, we can also have a similar transport service for seniors living in a particular neighbourhood. These mini buses should be wheelchair-friendly and have lower steps for seniors to board and get off easily.
10. Social enterprises
If making money is not the main driving force, but the passion for doing good is, then social enterprise is for you. It is a for-profit business venture. The profits are used to cover administrative and operational costs and to reinvest into the business to sustain and grow it to do even more good for the community. You should be able to find a few that will appeal to you. Or you can come up with your own. This quote from Thomas Friedman should ignite the entrepreneurial spark in you.
Without doubt the easiest and least capital intensive, and therefore the most popular business to set up for semi-retired or retired professionals is a consultancy. You can put your wealth of working experience and expertise to good use by providing consultancy services to companies or organizations that require such services. But know that competition is stiff and you have to really stand out to stay ahead of your competitors.
Glad I caught Doug Church's concert a week ago on 17 Aug at Serangoon Gardens Country Club, Singapore. Another excellent sold-out show brought in by Jimmy Preslee Productions. Backed by the band King Creole from Indonesia, Doug sang 30+ Elvis classics in the 2-hour concert with a short break in between for a costume change. He had the ladies in the audience swooning over him especially when he went around 'scarfing' the lucky ones. I happened to be one of them!
The flyer promoted Doug Church as 'The True Voice of Elvis'. If I closed my eyes and just listened to Doug, yes, it certainly felt as if the King himself was right there singing to all of us. This is probably the closest any of us there could get to an Elvis experience.
Uncanny resemblance to Elvis, down to that famous smile!
The King certainly lives on in the voices of the many Elvis Tribute Artistes (ETA) around the world. I have seen and listened to many, including Malaysia's own Elvis, the late Ricky Teoh. But the ETA crown and title go to Doug Church, hands down.
I managed to record a handful of videos before my phone battery died on me.
Teddy Bear Don't be cruel - YouTube
Polk Salad Annie - YouTube
Can't stop loving you - YouTube
Dixieland - YouTube
The wonder of you - YouTube
Jimmy gets to sing 'The Wonder of You' with Doug. Well done, Jimmy!
From left: Judy (Jimmy's wife), me, Ellen and Jimmy
Nice of Doug to oblige with group photos after the concert.
Elvis' presence lives on in Serangoon Gardens Country Club. Jimmy Preslee Productions will make sure of that. Keep us posted, Jimmy!