Sunday, May 30, 2010


Too busy to blog this weekend, so am posting a short video here that I have shared with my grandchildren. It was an eye-opener for them, and they had many questions to ask. There's a message for everyone of us too.

Postscript: By coincidence, after posting the video above, NST today came out with an editorial entitled "Waste not, want not". Apparently, urban Malaysians throw out nearly one million kg of food from their kitchens every day. None of this will ever reach the 1.02 billion people worldwide who are hungry.

Friday, May 28, 2010


In a speech at a recent White House reception to mark 'Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month', US President Barack Obama praised the contribution of generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders "who have helped to build this country, defend this country and make America what it is today".

He went on to say they are "part of America's past but...also going to be part of America's future."

Now wouldn't it be nice to hear our PM express the same appreciation for the contributions of our pioneering fathers, regardless of whether they came from China, India, Indonesia, Borneo, Ceylon and elsewhere.

Today we, the descendants, are true-blue, bone fide citizens of Malaysia, born and bred in Malaysia. We should be accorded full citizenship rights and equal opportunities. No one should continue to label us 'pendatang' or 'immigrants'.

Indeed, it would be near impossible to find Malaysians who do not have some immigrant blood in them if they care to trace their ancestral roots back a few centuries. No Malaysian, politicians in particular, should have this holier-than-thou or I'm more-Malaysian-than-you attitude.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


We all know about the recent surge in the number of Malaysians emigrating to greener pastures overseas. In 2007, 140,000 professionals emigrated. The figure has since doubled to more than 300,000.

So it came as a surprise to me when I read that Malaysia is a much sought-after destination to retire to for many Britons, Europeans and Australians. Under the revamped Malaysia My Second Home programme (formerly known as The Silver-Hair Programme), more than 120,000 foreigners so far have chosen to retire in Malaysia.

To quote Kathleen Peddicord, author of How to Retire Overseas - the definitive book on the best retirement places in the world, "Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur is my top pick in Asia for living the very good life on a budget...Kuala Lumpur is an affordable choice, but Malaysia outside its capital city is one of the cheapest retirement havens on earth right now."

High praise indeed! And sure to bring in a flood of expat retirees. Click here to find out what Malaysia has to offer.

For me, I was born and bred in Malaysia. And God willing, I shall die here. Malaysia is my beloved country. But Malaysian politics and government policies are another matter.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


My 9-year old grandson, Max, just completed his third international triathlon this morning in Bintan, Indonesia. He swam 150m, cycled 6 km and ran 1.5km. He was placed second overall in the age 8-9 years category. Great job, Max! The whole family was there to cheer him on.

Ever since Max and his dad took up triathlons a few months ago, our family holidays have not been the same. It's no longer a question of where's our next family vacation but rather, where's the next international triathlon.

The men waiting for the start of the 1.5km swim
Sports events like this triathlon offer an excellent opportunity for intergenerational bonding. In our family, Max and his dad compete in the events, while his mom keeps pace with the camera and camcorder. His sister and grandma are his biggest cheerleaders and supporters.

I hear the next triathlon is coming up in Phuket...

Friday, May 21, 2010


Imagine waking up in the morning, and when you turn the pages of the morning papers over breakfast, you are confronted with pictures like the one above. Most annoying, and that is putting it mildly. Especially when it's a subscriber's personal copy of the International Herald Tribune and not one off the news-stand.

Why bother to censor pictures of cigarettes when they are openly sold in the country? Smoking may not be good for your health, but let people decide for themselves.

I can't believe there are actually people whose job is to scrutinize pictures and words to see if there are any that might be considered offensive. Okay I can understand if some folks get upset (aroused?) by pictures of naked men or women, but paintings or statues???

And what are the reasons for these below? I wonder. Makes me even more curious to find out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


If you want to know how to make a deal, you can't do better than watch this video clip. You will learn plenty. Your word of honour alone may not be enough. More effective if you have something to offer, like RM3 million. Don't worry, it won't hurt your pocket because it's not your money to start with. So you can be flippant about increasing the amount to RM5 million without missing a single heartbeat or breaking out in cold sweat. No need for consultation or approval.

However, a word of caution. Results are not always guaranteed as all Malaysians should know by now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


(Catch the repeats on Astro Channel 555.)

The History Channel recently screened all 10 episodes of "WORLD WAR II: LOST FILMS". What viewers get to see is actual footage from films shot on the battle frontlines during the WW2 years 1939-1945. These are first-hand accounts of the horrors of the war. Some of the images are so graphic they can make your stomach churn. Yet today there are world leaders who are hell-bent on waging war never mind the consequences. They are devils in disguise.

All war films and documentaries carry anti-war messages. The death toll and destruction is staggering. In the span of six years in WW2, an estimated 70 million people died, 67% were civilians.

(All images taken off History Channel.)

War of any kind, (and that includes civil war, genocide) is totally senseless and anyone who wages war for whatever reason is absolutely insane. Racial or religious tension can easily escalate into civil war, the same with political differences as happening in Bangkok right now.

Let us remain vigilant against any evil forces that seek to plant seeds of hatred. And let us also be mindful that perpetuating lies and racial discord is the same as stoking the flames of hatred. Before you know it, a small fire can grow into a conflagration that will ultimately consume us all, including the innocent.

Friday, May 14, 2010


The controversial "Bangkit Melayu" or "Malay Uprising" rally did not happen yesterday. It shouldn't even have been planned in the first place. What were the organisers thinking? And who are the men behind it? Terengganu Integrity Institute director Arpin Deraman and Gerakan Kebangkitan Rakyat (Gertak) chairman Razali Idris.

You would expect leaders like them to know better than to plan a rally with racial undertones on May 13. When asked about the choice of date, Razali, who is also Marang Umno vice-chairman, said it was a "coincidence" that the gathering was held on May 13. Come on, who was he kidding? The event has been 'postponed'. The authorities should have banned it outright.

And where was I yesterday? At OHMSI's 1-day conference on "COMMON GROUND DIALOGUE: FORGING UNITY IN MALAYSIA" held at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS). The 6-member panel of speakers were Tunku Zain Al-'Abidin Muhriz, Zarina Nalla, Art Harun, Dato Paduka Marina Mahathir, Dato Ghazali Yusof, and Prof Dr Lim Teck Gee. Anis Yusal Yusoff was the moderator.

Mind-map of main points made by speakers. Click to enlarge.

The roundtable talks that followed gave the multi-racial participants from both the private and public sectors a rare opportunity to discuss 'sensitive' issues to better understand and accept our cultural and religious differences. It was a no-holds barred session as we brainstormed the challenges that lay ahead.

There was a call for politicians who were "out of touch with the realities of 21st century democracy" to "get out of the way" as they "hallucinate and see imaginary monsters" and "exaggerate fears of violence". Clearly, we cannot rely on them to forge national unity. Ultimately, we have to take personal responsibility to build bridges of understanding and trust among all the various ethnic groups.

I was unable to attend Anas Zubedy's book launch on the same day. I like his call to "recolour May 13". It's about time. But "one race"???

Thursday, May 13, 2010


When it comes to having a good time or showing off your talents, don't let your age stop you. Enjoy! Life is for living, and not merely existing from one day to another.

And here's a video that's worth repeated viewings - Marlow and Frances Cowan's delightful tinkering on the piano at Mayo Clinic.

Anyone has similar videos of older adults in Asia having a good time singing and dancing? Or are we simply too restrained, imprisoned by an ageing mindset?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


If you are an older adult, divorced or widowed, would you consider remarriage? Not an easy question to answer for a number of reasons:
  • As an older adult, you are already quite set in your ways. It would take a lot of effort to give and take to make the marriage work.
  • At 60+, health can be a big issue. What if your new spouse is later diagnosed with a health problem that requires 24/7 care from you? Are you prepared to be his/her caregiver for the rest of your sunset years?
  • If you are widowed, would your in-laws think less of you for remarrying?
  • Your new partner's children may not accept you. They may resent the thought of having a stepmother or stepfather.
  • There's also the issue of inheritance. Would a new spouse mean a new will? This might sour your relationship with your partner's adult children.
These are just a few of the issues and complications that might arise when older adults remarry. Perhaps one solution is to seek companionship or co-habitation rather than remarriage. Unfortunately, in Asian societies, co-habitation is frowned upon regardless of the age. Elderly couples living together outside the sanctity of marriage would be viewed as setting a bad example for young people. In Malaysia, if they are Muslim, they would be arrested under Syariah law!

No wonder remarriage among the elderly remains uncommon. However, the situation might change in the near future with more "matrimonial meetings" or marriage fairs like the one held recently in Ahmedabad, India. Over 300 single, divorced and widowed senior citizens in their 60s and 70s gathered to make friends and enjoy lunch together, and at the same time check out who's available as potential life-partners.

Surveys have shown that a happy marriage or relationship helps us live longer and healthier. That's good enough reason for the lonely ones among us to start dating again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Today I would like to pay tribute to all the women who may not be mothers in the conventional sense of the word, but who nevertheless are like mothers to hundreds and thousands of children everywhere. 

These are the unsung heroines who have chosen not to marry or have no children of their own. They have dedicated their lives to teaching children, looking after them when they are sick, minding them when their parents are at work, or simply being there for children who have lost their own mothers.

Mother Teresa was a mother of the highest order. She never married, but devoted her life to caring for sick, homeless and orphaned children. She was a true mother to them all.  

I have met many of these wonderful, selfless women who work tirelessly with children in schools, kindergartens, hospitals, or volunteer their services at community centres, churches and temples, orphanages, and welfare homes. I salute all of you and say a big THANK YOU for helping to take care of the children and for loving them like a mother would.

And to mothers everywhere, a HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Two generations of mothers. My daughter Belle at her jumble sale stall to raise money for the Kachin refugee children. The annual event held on Mother's Day was organized by ibu, a family resource group.

Friday, May 7, 2010


As my mom's sole caregiver, it worries me sometimes when I see signs of confusion and memory lapses in her. At aged 84, is she already displaying signs of Alzheimer's Disease? She can't remember dates, places and names of family members. She doesn't know one day from another, and forgets what she just had for dinner or where she has left her purse.

But I have the same forgetfulness too. And I am only 62! Am I also going through the early stages of AD?

Tucking into durian - my mom's favourite fruit after apples and bananas

According to Alzheimer's Association, these are the 10 signs of AD:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure:

4. Confusion with time or place

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

8. Decreased or poor judgment

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

10. Changes in mood and personality

Based on the above, I am relieved to know that my mom shows only 2 (#4 and #7) out of the 10 signs. So are her memory lapses and confusion nothing more than typical age-related changes? Is she at risk of developing full-blown AD as she advances in age? Only a geriatrician can answer that. 
If you want to set your mind at ease, find out more about AD at Alzheimer's Association.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Where are the men?

In case you are wondering - no, I am not lamenting the lack of eligible older guys but the question often crops up at events and activities organized for older Singaporeans. JUST WHERE ARE THE MEN?

The People's Association (PA), which runs many of these seniors activities including the National Wellness Programme launched last Sunday by former PM Goh Chok Tong, admits that it is difficult to attract 'elderly men' to turn up. Participants at most of their events for senior citizens are overwhelmingly women.

Why do retired men shy away from social activities? Is it because women are better at making friends, while men feel more comfortable in the company of other men? Retired women also tend to be more actively engaged in community projects and volunteerism than their husbands.

Which leads me to the question: Do women handle their retirement much better than men?

I did a simple survey among my retired lady friends. Their comments are revealing.
  • "My husband stays at home most of the time. He has no interest in joining a senior citizens' club or attending the activities with me. I can't even get him to go for a medical check-up or do a blood test. He's so stubborn."
  • "Jack (not his real name) hates dancing and karaoke. He says they are for old women. I think he just doesn't want to look silly or make a fool of himself in front of others."
  • "Golf is my husband's only passion. I've tried to get him interested in doing some community work, but he says he has no time for that. I know that's just an excuse."
  • "I try to encourage my husband to register for computer or language classes conducted at the community centres. His response is always the same: I'm too old to learn anything."
Do men feel a loss of self-worth when they retire? Is that why they have a problem adjusting to their retirement?

It would be interesting to hear from the men.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Good news for businesses chasing the silver dollar. According to a recent survey by Mastercard, by 2015 spending by consumers aged 65 and above is expected to hit US$1.5 trillion annually within the Asia-Pacific region. The figure for Singapore alone is projected to hit US$10.8b.

Statistics showing Asia has the fastest growing ageing population. Click on the image to enlarge.

Companies here are wasting no time in coming up with products and services targeted at this silver market, with banks and insurance companies leading the way. Restaurants are offering discounts for senior diners, and gyms are enticing seniors to join with a 50% off on membership. One enterprising hair salon has come up with S$10 hair-cuts for seniors as well as discounts on pedicures and manicures.

The health & wellness industry, and the travel industry are no longer the only ones wooing the silver-haired consumer. Companies dealing in anti-ageing products and equipment for home nursing care are now raking in huge profits. Housing developers know there is a growing demand for housing that incorporates features catering to the specific needs of older residents.

Indeed, almost any product and service today can be customized or re-packaged to target the silver consumer. So if you have money to invest, or are looking at starting your own business, you might want to give the silver industry some serious thought.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Last Friday (30 April) the Straits Times (ST) published an English translation of an article "Chinese Malaysians asking for too much" that had first appeared in the Utusan Melayu on April 28. In the article, a comparison was also made to the Chinese in Singapore.

As I was in Singapore at the time, I was expecting some ST readers to write in with their comments. After all, several assumptions were made that were bound to ruffle more than a few Chinese feathers on both sides of the causeway.

There's been no response till Kee Thuan Chye posted his article "What the Chinese Want" in FreeMalaysiaToday (2 May). Kee is a journalist and author of 'March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up'.

Read both articles and draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


If you are 60+, retired and wondering if you might be too old to seek re-employment, you would be heartened to know that there are folks in their 70s and 80s who are still putting in a good day's work AND enjoying it.

Meet some of these older adults who are still passionate about what they are doing.
  • Prof Shanmugaratnam, 88, histopathologist - "I will work as long as I am able, as long as I am needed and as long as I have nothing better to do."
  • Mrs Teresa Jodhi, 74, midwife - "I never dread going to work. Never. Mothers are so happy when we give them their newborn baby. I also get to keep my relationships at work."
     Mr Seng Lee Fong, 82, and Mr Sani Mokjie, 64
     Mrs Nancy Goh, 71, and Mrs Herminia Ilano, 72
  • Mr Sani Mokjie, 64, chief inspector of posts - "I work to share my experience."
  • Mr Sin Leong, 83, Mr Hooi Kok Wai, 76, both master chefs - "Having responsibilities gives meaning to your life... When you work, your brain won't die. You won't get dementia."
  • Mrs Herminia Ilano, 72, cello teacher - "When you enjoy what you do, your body is not tired. Your calling doesn't stop when you are old."
  • Mrs Nancy Goh, 71, beautician - "It's a good idea to have a balanced life with work and also time to enjoy the fruits of my labour."
  • Mr Seng Lee Fong, 82, club bartender - "Meeting people, chatting with members keep me alert and active."
Not all young workers are thrilled with the government's legislation for the Re-employment of Older Workers. Perhaps they should look at the situation from a more positive point of view. They don't need to support their working parents!

Would adult children deny their parents the right to be happy, productive and financially independent?

(All photos and quotes from The Straits Times.)


Click to enlarge. Source: MOM's newsletter WORKING

Older workers in Singapore have reason to celebrate May Day today. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has implemented not one but several best practices to encourage companies to rehire older workers.

There is the ADVANTAGE! scheme that offers a grant of up to S$400,000 to companies that re-train and re-employ workers aged 62+. Next up is the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Two of TAFEP's publications

For a one-stop resource centre, there's the Re-employment Portal where employers and employees can look up more information on legislation, workshops, conferences, funding schemes and view video clips of companies that have successfully implemented age-friendly practices at the workplace.

In the week running up to May Day, print ads like the one above appear daily in the local papers. Such ads help to project a positive image of the older worker.

Legislation on re-employment of older workers will only come into effect in January 2012, but the long list of companies already signed on for early adoption of the policies is a clear indication that the millions spent on the campaign is bearing fruit.

For a print version of PM Lee Hsien Loong's May Day message, click here.