Saturday, April 19, 2014


One of the best things about retirement is having the time and money to travel. In the old days (was it that long ago?) it took us years to save enough for the airfare and hotel accommodation, and that only to nearby places. Travelling to distant and exotic places was a pipe dream for many of us.

Retirees now form the largest group of travellers and tourists, thanks to budget airlines and seniors discounts. The world is literally at our feet. There was a time when Malaysian passport holders were not allowed to visit several countries, including China. Now only one remains out of bounds to us - Israel.

My first trip abroad was to India and Nepal in 1975. I backpacked on my own for almost a month, roughing it out in cheap hotels in Bombay, Delhi and Kathmandu, and surviving on snacks and sandwiches to stretch my limited resources.

I was in my late 20s then. At that age, you can travel light, and put up with any amount of discomfort, like cold showers in winter and bare beds to sleep on. But when you are in your 60s or 70s, packing for a holiday abroad can involve a lot of planning, especially if you have some health issues to deal with.

Nothing like some sound advice from doctors on what to bring along when you travel if you have health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The travel tips below are extracted from the Straits Times article "Flying Tips for the Elderly" published on April 10, 2014. (Sources: Dr Lim Si Ching, a consultant at Changi General Hospital's department of geriatric medicine, and Dr Raymond Choy, a general practitioner at the Raffles Medical Changi Airport.)


Senior travellers should always take along their routine medication such as those for high blood pressure and diabetes; and inhalers for asthmatic patients. Have a list that spells out health conditions, medication and drug allergies, in case of emergencies.

It is also good to travel with paracetamol for pain or fever; pills for diarrhoea, motion sickness and the common cold; and wound care kits.

Get international medical coverage in case treatment is needed abroad.
You can get good seniors discount at the bi-annual MATTA FAIR. Watch out for the next one later this year.

Before flying
1. Request for an aisle seat near the toilet for convenience.
2. If possible, travel in a group or with a younger person.
3. Get a pre-travel check-up and go for the appropriate vaccinations.
4. Buy low-dose medication for anxiety and motion sickness, if needed.
5. Get adequate travel insurance coverage.
6. Pack your medication and your usual aids in your hand luggage.

On the plane

1. If you use hearing aids, lower the volume during take-off and landing to avoid ear damage from aircraft noise.
2. Avoid carbonated drinks and gas-producing foods such as onion, cauliflower, cabbage and baked beans.
3. Avoid or limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine during long flights.
4. Move around often. A trip to the bathroom every two to three hours will keep the circulation going.
5. Contract the leg muscles periodically, for instance by flexing your feet, to alleviate discomfort,fatigue and stiffness.

1. Elderly travellers can pack a small face moisturiser or cream into their hand luggage to mitigate the cold and dry air on board.
2. Diabetic passengers can also pack a sugary drink or chocolate bar in case of low blood sugar.
3. Elderly travellers should avoid alcohol before departure as it dehydrates and interferes with sleep.
4. Wear special compression stockings to prevent clots forming in the legs, especially for those at risk.
5. Drink plenty of water and move around often on board.

1. People with cardiovascular diseases such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, or those who have suffered a heart attack or undergone heart surgery recently, should not travel without the doctor's clearance.
2. Those who have had a heart attack, for instance, should not travel until at least three months later, as the risk of developing another heart attack is higher due to low oxygen levels.
3. Elderly people with lung problems, such as uncontrolled asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are also advised to seek medical advice before flying.
4. Those with acute ear or sinus infections should avoid flying in case of earache, hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus.

Uncle Xavier in Tibet, 1990
My Uncle Xavier who turns 81 this year is an intrepid traveller. If you name a country, he has probably been there. A heart by-pass has not killed off the travel bug in him. He prefers destinations that are off the beaten track, like Machu Picchu and Pyongyang. A backpack is all he needs when he is on the road.

I certainly wouldn't encourage any octogenarian or anyone with a heart condition to follow in my uncle's travel footsteps. My uncle is made of tough material. The spirit of adventure in him is incredibly strong.

If your next trip is coming up soon, make sure you plan well and follow the good doctors' advice above. Happy Travelling!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Baby boomers are looking much younger than their age these days. 60 is the new 40, they say, thanks in part to cosmetic aids and medical advances.

However, there are certain parts of the body that reveal our real age, that no amount of clever cosmetic tricks will cover up for long. Let's leave aside surgical procedures that enhance one's physical appearance. After all, how many of us have the financial resources to go down that route to looking 'youthful'? Not many.

This post is dedicated to those among us to whom "60 is the new 40" does NOT apply. We look our age, and for some, even older than our age.

10 body parts that betray our age, in no particular order.

1. Face
No prizes if you got this right. The lines on our face tell the truth - that we are no spring chicks. More like autumn hens, if you know what I mean.

2. Knees and elbows
From years of wear and tear, the skin covering these joints resemble the roughness and toughness of elephant skin.

3. Skin
Like the migratory birds that fly south during the winter months, our skin goes south too. Unfortunately for us, it is a permanent southward migration. In old age, our skin loses its elasticity and literally 'hangs loose'.

4. Eyes
From 'Dreamy Eyes' to 'Droopy Eyes'. If only we could iron out those laughter lines or 'crow feet' that surface each time we laugh out loud.

5. Neck
Now you know why older women wear scarves or opt for clothes with a high collar. The dreaded 'turkey neck' syndrome afflicts all of us, sooner or later.

6. Hands
Unless we wear gloves all the time, there is no way we can hide our wrinkled, gnarled hands. They are a dead giveaway of our age.

7. Hair
Not only does our hair turn grey, silver, white, it goes into free-fall whenever we brush it. The horror of removing clumps of hair from the hair brush and from the bathroom floor. Yikes!

8. Teeth
The number dwindles with advancing age. Only solution - dentures or implants. That explains why most older folks prefer soft foods!

9. Breasts
This affects women more than men. No longer firm and perky, the breasts now swing freely and resemble papayas.

This body part in older men spends more time hanging down than pointing up. Fortunately, the little blue pill comes in handy, and is a sex-life-saver.

The funny side of ageing - developing a sense of humor helps to keep us young in spirit
For a peek at some nude paintings that captures the way our body really looks, click here.

Depressing, isn't it? We miss how we used to look. No wonder many of us avoid looking in the mirror, especially a full-length one. The years do take a toll on our body.

Looking great has a lot to do with feeling great. It's more important to remain young at heart and in spirit than looking young in appearance.

Here are some great tips on how we can do just that, courtesy of Audrey Hepburn.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The Star 3 April, 2014
The Star columnist Anthony Thanasagan's article drew attention to the hardship of the elderly and the disabled. They are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the current water crisis. Now into its second month, the situation shows no sign of improving despite the almost daily rainfall which the authorities claim 'doesn't fall in the catchment area'.

I recall during the last water rationing, I had to carry pails of water up three flights of stairs to my walk-up apartment to fill the containers so that my mom and I could have water to drink, cook, bathe and flush. It was certainly a strain on the muscles and on the heart. My colleague at the time told me that the residents in her condo apartments had to resort to drawing water from their swimming pool!

The images below highlight the plight of the elderly, especially those living alone in walk-up apartments. They don't have the strength to lift large pails of water, much less carry them all the way up to their apartments. They will have to rely on help from their younger neighbours.

The elderly coping with the back-breaking chore of carrying water to their homes. Source:Internet images)

What about the elderly in nursing homes and similar establishments? I received a distress call two days ago from my mom's Homecare Centre in Tanjong Panglima Garang, Klang. The nurse manager was in panic mode. The taps had gone dry. With 15 elderly residents to look after, she was understandably concerned about ensuring there was sufficient water to maintain hygienic standards for the activities of daily living (ADLs). The centre's proposed solution was to request family members to take their mother home until the water situation improved.

Lugging heavy pails of water from the supply tanker to the Homecare centre. Backbreaking even for the young staff.

We all share the frustration expressed in this letter below published in The Star on 8 April. Prolonged dry season aside, we should not be experiencing such a critical water crisis. We live in the equatorial zone where there is rain all year round, even during the 'dry' inter-monsoon season. It's poor water management and conservation, plus politics that has left the entire country in the throes of water woes.

The Star 8 April 2014

Taking showers is a luxury now. It's back to mandi kerbau, limiting the number of scoops of water for each family member. The other day I had to sparingly use mineral water to brush my teeth and wash my face, as I had completely run out of water at home. I also had to fill the water cistern with bottles of mineral water in order to flush after using the toilet. An expensive flush indeed!

Those with big families and those who depend on a regular supply of water to run their business must be facing daily challenges making sure there is sufficient water supply for their needs. But some areas in the Klang Valley are assured of water 24/7. These areas, according to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) are:

  • Putrajaya (Federal govt administrative centre)
  • Shah Alam (Selangor state govt administrative centre)
  • KL City Centre
  • KL International Airport (KLIA)
  • Subang Airport
  • Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ)
  • free trading zones
  • hospitals (public & private)
  • dialysis centres

Similar notices like this one are pasted in condominiums as a reminder to the residents. (Source: Straits Times)

To date, more than 700,000 households comprising 2.5 million people are affected. The number is expected to increase when water rationing is extended to other parts of the country.

Teaching the young to value water
The older generation has lived through water crises before. We have learned to use water sparingly. It is the young ones like our grandchildren who are now learning the importance of conserving water. No more playing with water while taking showers, or letting the water run while brushing their teeth.

It is in times like this that we learn how precious water is. Whatever God or Nature has given us, let us value it, conserve it and appreciate it. Love our environment and care for it.