Wednesday, July 20, 2016


My new-found hobby, gardening, was on my bucket list when I retired. The timing was perfect because my gardener decided to throw in the towel as his health was deteriorating, so I stepped into his shoes. I soon found that gardening is highly recommended for seniors, especially retirees.

At the back of my house, on a small piece of land, is my garden of treasures.

At the far end of the garden sits a bush of pandan leaves or screw pine. The leaves are well used when I cook nasi lemak. At other times, I use them for my weekly barley drinks or home-made soya bean.

Recently, I learnt that if I tie a bundle of pandan leaves and put it in my kitchen cabinet, it keeps cockroaches at bay. I put some leaves in the car and the car always smells nice. I save on buying air fresheners. Oh, the wonders of the pandan plant.

Next to the pandan bush is my lemongrass plant. I use lemongrass for cooking but now I make a drink out of it after reading on the Internet that lemongrass has anti-cancer properties. So once a week, the family is treated to a few rounds of lemongrass drinks. I cut five stalks of lemongrass, wash them, and cut into smaller pieces or bruise the stalks and put them in a teapot. I pour boiling water and let it steep for a while. You can add honey to vary the taste. The drink is cheap and health-giving.

Serai pandan and banana

Sometimes I use two stalks of lemongrass, bruise them and add a small knob of ginger, five pandan leaves and a small piece of rock sugar. Boil this and voila, you get a very refreshing drink.

Being a chilli padi queen, I have two pots of chilli padi plants. I do not have to run to the market for my daily needs as I have an ample supply in my garden. Sometimes the harvest is bountiful and I distribute the organic chilli padi to friends.

Nearby stand my two banana plants. Recently, I harvested the pisang mas and they were the sweetest ever. The banana leaves come in handy for grilling fish or making nyonya kuih.

So far my papaya tree has not borne any fruit, but my Indonesian maid eats the leaves for detoxification. The other day, some friends came over to pluck some leaves because papaya leaf juice has been shown to increase blood platelet count and assist in the recovery of dengue patients.

Pineapple lime (limau purut) and banana

In another pot is my daun kesom (polygonum). This is so useful in making assam fish. I used to run to the market to buy this herb but now I have it at my doorstep. I grow my own spring onions, too. Just put a few small onions in the pot and you can get a constant supply. How convenient!

In the far corner of my garden of treasures is the lengkuas or galangal plant. This is also a very useful plant as it is used in cooking certain dishes. My curry leaf tree is a hot favourite with neighbours. Whenever they need curry leaves, they know where to get them.

The limau purut plant (kaffir lime) sits in a pot and this is an essential for cooking certain dishes like tom yam soup. The fragrant leaves also enhance the taste of other dishes.

But my favourite is the aloe vera plant. The leaves are thick and huge. It can be made into a healthful drink but I have not tried it myself. Instead, I use the gel from the leaves as a facial mask. Cheap and effective. The gel is also very effective for treating cuts and burns. When I accidentally cut myself, I apply the gel on the wound and it heals well.

Mint and mempedu

The latest addition to the garden is the mint. I bought one ringgit’s worth of mint from the market and planted it in a pot. Now I have a fresh supply of mint. It needs a lot of water, but it is easy to grow.

I tend to my garden daily. The plants need to be watered, the weeds pulled out, and the snails removed. I do not use any pesticides so the herbs are organic.

Gardening is therapeutic; it is a pleasure to watch the plants grow. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to run to the garden for your supply of herbs instead of lamenting that you forgot to buy a particular item at the market.

I have made new friends along the way. My neighbours drop by to get their supply of herbs; in turn, they pass me their home-grown tapioca, four-angled beans, passion fruit, and a pineapple or two.

Not only do we exchange produce and gardening tips, we also swap notes on the health-giving properties of plants.

Gardening is cheap, non-strenuous, enjoyable and above all, eco-friendly.

Which reminds me, I must go to the nursery and get a misai kucing plant. This medicinal plant is said to be good for sore throat and diabetes. Yet another plant to add to my collection.

(The above article by Linda Lim was published in Star2 on July 15, 2016 as 'You can grow a herb garden in your backyard'. It is re-printed here with her permission. 

Footnote: You will also enjoy reading Linda Lim's earlier article in SeniorsAloud blog:


Thursday, June 30, 2016


Ask young people what they think of old people. You can bet they will come up with a long list of adjectives, all negative.

"Cranky, senile, grouchy, grumpy, frail, smelly, nagging, long-winded, useless, stubborn, unproductive, dictatorial, burdensome, ..." You get the picture.

But how did old people get to be this way? Why do they always complain? Why do they insist they are always right, that everyone should listen to them? How did they become such poor company to be with?

We will all grow old one day. So let's try and understand why old people are the way they are. They may have valid reasons for their grouses. Maybe we can learn from them, and when the time comes, we can age gracefully, and with dignity, loved and respected by all.

Let's put ourselves in the shoes of an 80-year old man. He has limited funds and no source of steady income, so he complains about soaring prices. He recalls the old days when a cup of kopitiam coffee cost only 40 cents. Now it's RM1.60 at the mamak stall.

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, no sugar and cholesterol-free foods. No more of his favorite hawker food, no more culinary indulgences, all because he has a host of health problems to deal with.

His old hobbies no longer interest him. He can't read because of poor vision. He has little interest in watching tv as the programs don't appeal to him. He can't explore the rich diversity of information on the internet 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.

Few friends drop by to see him, as they are in the same boat as he is. So he sits in his arm-chair or lies in bed the whole day long with only his memories of the good old days 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 GST and high prices to corrupt politicians and uncaring children.

What a horrible way to grow old! We can't stop growing old, but we can certainly choose how we want to grow old. It all boils down to 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 nostalgia, and not compare them with the present.

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. Let's embrace our twilight years with joie de vivre and fill each day with love and gratitude, not bitterness or regret.

Now you know why SeniorsAloud loves to feature inspiring seniors on our Facebook. They are our role models to show us that we can live to 80, 90, even 100 and still enjoy life to the fullest. It's never too late to start laying the foundation of good health and developing a positive attitude to life.

(The above is an updated version of "Why Do Old People Love To Complain?" first posted on SeniorsAloud blog on 1 July 2012.)