Tuesday, May 26, 2015

WHAT DO SENIOR CITIZENS IN MALAYSIA WANT?

Our recent trip to Singapore for the 50plus Expo at Suntec left us more than a tad envious of Singaporean seniors. This year marks the silver jubilee of Singapore's independence in 1965. Singapore citizens, including permanent residents can look forward to receiving plenty of goodies from the government.

As a tribute to the pioneer generation for their contribution to nation-building, the government has put together a SG50 Senior Package that will benefit more than 700,000 older Singaporeans. From transport vouchers to discounts for dining, as well as free admission to some of the country's top tourist attractions, there is plenty in the package to put Singapore seniors in a celebratory mood.


The package comes with a 50-page booklet, with a complete list of the benefits. Most of the offers are valid from June to August this year.

And that's not all. In her speech at the launch of 50plus Expo on 16 May, Senior Minister Dr Amy Khor announced that Singapore seniors can sign up for 400 free courses ranging from literature and dance to business and culinary skills. The Ministry of Health aims to encourage lifelong learning with this generous perk. 

For seniors that surely must be the icing on the cake to top off the year-long silver jubilee celebrations. No wonder the Singapore cheer turned into a deafening Singapore roar at Dr Khor's announcement.

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

We don't want awards and titles, for they benefit only a few selected individuals, not the community. (By the way, Singaporeans from the PM to the man-in-the-street are addressed as Mr, and for the ladies, a plain Ms/Mdm.)

We don't want cash handouts which offer only short-term benefits to the needy. We want 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, will do for us. We also don't want general 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 simple cause and effect.

So, what do we want?


Here's a short checklist to begin with for the various ministeries to take note of. In no particular order.


An impossible dream, or a soon-to-be reality?
If you click on any of the links above, you will find that SeniorsAloud have 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 Scheme and 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 5-10 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.

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. Last week, the PM announced details of the 11th Malaysia Plan for 2016-20. To date, we still have no clue what 'supporting active ageing for the elderly' involves, or how 'the government will address the needs of...the elderly'. (The Star 22/5/15)

How long do seniors in Malaysia have to wait before they hear these words from our ministers? Words are cheap, unless they are backed by effective action.

Our ministers are seniors themselves. Like us, they have elderly parents. One day they too will be elderly. Isn't it time they gave more attention to what the seniors and the elderly want?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

50PLUS EXPO REVISITED 2015

Last weekend 38 members from SeniorsAloud and University of the Third Age (U3A) Malaysia went on a 3-day joint trip to Singapore. Our main purpose was to visit the 50plus Expo 2015, but we also took in some sightseeing on Day 1, and a visit to Econ Medicare Centre and Nursing Home on Day 3. More of that later.

The trip was originally scheduled for 27-29 March. When Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced a 7-day national mourning period. As a result, the organizers Council for Third Age (C3A) and PICO had to postpone the expo to 15-17 May.
Our group (not all are in the photo) outside the expo hall on 16 May, 2015

If I remember correctly, the first 50plus Expo was held in 2009 to promote active ageing. Since then it has become a much anticipated annual event for older Singaporeans. I have visited it twice, in 2010 and 2011. It has grown bigger and better over the years. I had expected this year's Jubilee Edition to be even bigger and on a grander scale. But it didn't seem to be so. Perhaps the last minute change of date had affected the participation of some exhibitors and speakers. 

The Singapore Cheer team (in red) and the crowd waiting for the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour

Still, our group spent an enjoyable and fun day at the expo. There was much to see, do and learn as well, from health checks to food sampling, from games to entertainment on the stage. A pity, though, that the forum talks were held on a separate floor, and required pre-registration. Otherwise, many more of us would have attended the talks as the topics were of interest and relevance to seniors.

Senior Minister of State from the Ministry of Health and Manpower Dr Amy Khor, and Chairman of C3A Mrs Chua Foo Yong at the launch of 50plus Expo 2015. They sat on benches just like the rest of us. Exemplary!

In line with Singapore's Jubilee celebrations this year, Dr Khor announced that the Ministerial Committee on Ageing is offering 400 free courses for seniors as part of the SG50 Seniors package. You can imagine the boisterous response from the crowd. More reason for the Singapore Cheer!

Here is a small selection of photos taken at the expo. If you missed this year's expo, do make sure you visit it next year. It'll be worth your time. For now, do check out C3A's portal at http://www.c3a.org.sg/. It's packed with plenty of info and goodies for seniors.
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My granddaughter would love this - creative arrangement of food to whet the appetite 
Always fun to play around with make-up for a new look. For ladies only? Don't men need grooming too? 
Cooking demo on how to make yummy crepes
This hobby is fast gaining popularity with seniors
These seniors are having fun learning to strum on the ukulele
 Puan Kasummah was interviewed by ST. This image appeared in Straits Times' online write-up about the expo.
Non-slip socks - great gift for grandma and grandpa
Queuing up to get the eyes tested
This might turn out to be the next big indoor board game for seniors
Portrait photography inclusive of styling by professionals, and you are ready for a cover shoot!
Waiting patiently for a talk on herbs and their benefits 
The ladies from People's Association getting ready to perform the cha-cha
Tapping into seniors as an excellent resource for community service
Spotted this foldable wheelchair at the expo. This young man and his mom were kind enough to give a demo.
Always great to meet up with Singapore friends like Eleanor Yap (left, back row) of Ageless Online and members of RSVP Singapore.
Meeting up with our counterpart U3A Singapore, led by their president Mr Goh Kim Seng (with orange lanyard)
With members of YAH (Young-At-Heart) College

On behalf of the group members, SeniorsAloud would like to thank C3A for the warm welcome given to us. A special note of appreciation to C3A's Ms Tan Si Ling and Ms Cheryl Ho for arranging the logistics for our visit, and to Ryan Lau for the guided tour and briefing.

It's time we had an expo for seniors in Kuala Lumpur. There have been several in the past, but nothing on the scale of 50plus Expo. Well, never too late. Will the private sector or the relevant government agencies take up the challenge?

Photo Credit:
Lily Fu
Koeh Siew Lim
Spencer
Eleanor Ong