Sunday, January 30, 2011


From the French Revolution to People Power in the Philippines, from Tiananmen Square in Beijing to al-Fardous Square in Baghdad, and now Tahrir Square in Cairo. History is repeating itself, this time in the Middle East. Leaders who have lost touch with the people, who have grown accustomed to life in their ivory towers and who choose to ignore the signs of widespread discontent, take heed and learn from current developments in Tunisia and Egypt. It may be their turn next.

Mohamed Bouazizi's public suicide on 17 December ignited widespread demonstrations across the Arab world, beginning with the fall of the Tunisian government and the call for Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to resign. There is now unrest in Jordan, Algeria, Oman, Sudan, Yemen and Morocco.

Self-immolation, bloodshed, chaos and destruction could have been avoided if only these leaders had seen the signs, had listened to the voice of the people.

When the poor in the country see no future, when corrupt leaders and politicians grow rich on ill-gotten gains, when thousands of young people can't find jobs, when runaway inflation takes a toll on the people, the masses will rise and take to the streets to vent their anger and frustration.

Dictators can bring in the soldiers, they can lock up protesters, they can clamp down on the media and shut down the internet, but they can never drown out the voice of the people. There will always be people who are prepared to fight or die for a cause they believe in.

After 23 years of authoritarian rule, Tunisia's president Zine-el-Abidine Ben Ali, 74, and his family have fled to Saudi Arabia. What's of interest is that his second wife, Laila, 54, a former hairdresser, is far more reviled by the people than the president. Tunisia's First Lady has been dubbed "The Regent of Carthage" for her power behind the throne, and for the wealth she has amassed for her family, the Trabelsis, the most powerful business clique in the country. Read the report about their opulent lifestyle in The Telegraph.

Malaysians should find the story somewhat familiar.

Power will always belong to the people. In a democracy, the people have the power to choose their leaders, and also the power to get rid of them. Let no President or Prime Minister (and their First Lady) be so arrogant as to assume they can hold on to their position for as long as they want. They should not forget they are PUBLIC SERVANTS, and are there to serve the people.

If leaders are corrupt or ineffective, or have long overstayed their term of office, they should resign or reform. Or they might be the next to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Friday, January 28, 2011


The statistics are there for all to see, but few choose to see them or pause long enough to consider the long-term socio-economic effects.

I am referring to the rapid graying of the world. By 2030, it is predicted that, for the first time in history, the number of people over 50 will be more than those aged 17 and under. Do a Google search, and you can see this demographic pattern repeated in country after country.

In Malaysia, by the year 2025, there will be approximately 2.1 million people above age 65.

In Singapore, the birth rate fell to a record 1.16 from 1.22 last year, while the number of elderly people continues to grow. According to former PM Goh Chok Tong, "In 20 years' time, one in five - or about 900,000 people - will be aged 65 and older." (Straits Times: 12 Dec '10).

In the US, the numbers of those 65 and older will jump from 39 million today to a projected 89 million by the 2050.

In the US there are currently 7,600 geriatricians to cope with the needs of the 39 million above 65. According to the Alliance for Aging Research, there is an urgent need for 14,000 more geriatricians.

Source: Global Action on Ageing
The situation in China is even more critical. At the end of 2009, China had 169 million people older than 60. That's 12% of the population. This is expected to rise to 250 million people by 2025. Think of the implications.

With a shrinking young work force and rising cost of living, do adult children have the time and money to look after their aged parents? Can the government shoulder the enormous costs of healthcare for the elderly? Are there enough trained and qualified healthcare personnel to cater to the needs of the elderly? Are housing developers looking into building age-friendly homes for the aged and retirees?

In Malaysia, there has been a mushrooming of nursing colleges and universities with medical faculties offering nursing courses. A check shows that none of them, including the top two nursing colleges - Masterskill and Mahsa - offer special courses in geriatrics or healthcare for the elderly.

There are no recent figures on the number of qualified geriatricians in the country. In 2006, there were only nine. The number can't have gone up by much since then as geriatrics is not a popular choice of study.

So where do we go from here? Singapore has already embarked on a pilot study to find out the needs of the elderly so that the government can create a support system for them.

What have the Malaysia government put in place for the care of the aged? Are they even aware of the far-reaching repercussions of a graying society?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A toast to my cousins and my three younger brothers - all aged 55+
and enjoying life. 
We’ve heard it before: 60 is the new 40 and 70 the new 50. Yet, there are many among us senior citizens who view themselves as 60 going on 80, and 70 going on 90. They think old, look old and act old. No wonder they feel they already have one foot in the grave.

Death is a taboo topic in most Asian cultures, but, seriously, we all need a wake-up call sometimes before it’s too late and we are staring Death in the face. Do we want to spend the rest of our lives merely existing instead of living? The fastest way to speed up the ageing process is to think we are old and ready to die. Sure, we all have to die one day, but that shouldn’t stop us from having fun, adventure, romance and happiness while we can still draw breath.

Some of my Form 6 English College JB classmates at our reunion luncheon last year.
When we think we are old, we are. Our thoughts are very powerful. They govern how we behave and react. There are folks who, upon reaching retirement age, retire not just from their jobs, but from everything that used to define who they are.

The first thing they give up is their physical appearance. In their minds, they are thinking – at my age, nobody gives me a second look, so why spend hard-saved money on unnecessary grooming. Their wardrobe consists mainly of auntie or uncle-type clothes in various funereal shades of black, brown and grey. If comfort is the reason, ok. But if they dress or act to please others, then they are allowing others to dictate how they should be living their golden years.

Many retirees allow themselves to put on weight and wrinkles by avoiding all manner of physical activity. Their excuse – oh, at my age, I shouldn’t exert myself too much. Over time, they build up a host of health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. They become frail and sickly, and dependent on others.

At my high school get-together in Batu Pahat. We completed our Form 5 in 1964. That's coming up to 50 years ago in 2014!

They give up making an effort to keep in touch with old friends or making new ones. They spend their days mostly at home, moping around the house, and idling away the precious hours. They have no interest in anything that will improve their lives or that of others. Their favourite pastime is complaining about the government. A close second is dwelling on the past with regret. No wonder they end up lonely, cranky, depressed and bitter. What a way to live their retirement years!

My first catwalk modelling experience at a fashion show organized by the Malaysian Menopause Society. It was so much fun! That's me in black, third left.

It’s easy to identify people who are ageing before their time. They say things like:

I’m too old to travel.
I’m too old to love again.
I’m too old to dance.
I’m too old to learn a new skill.
I’m too old to take up a course of study.
I’m too old to wear bright colours.
I’m too old to venture out on my own.
I’m too old to be outrageous.

It’s time to get rid of the ‘I’m too old to’ mantra and replace it with a new one:

I’m still young enough to learn a new language.
I’m still young enough to welcome romance into my life.
I’m still young enough to write a book.
I’m still young enough to take up belly dancing.
I’m still young enough to go on an adventure trip.
I'm still young enough to....ENJOY LIFE!

We must constantly remind ourselves to make the most of our golden years, not waste them waiting for Death to knock on our doors. It's so easy to fall into the ageing trap. Time to think outside the casket!

Sorry if I come on a little strong here, but I just want to get the message through that our retirement years are not a period of gloom and doom. It doesn't have to be so if you choose not to live that way.

‘And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.’ – Abraham Lincoln

(Footnote: This article was first posted in August 2008. It's reproduced here with some minor changes. The message remains the same.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The above picture of former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew's house was published in the Straits Times yesterday. It struck me that the founding father of modern Singapore - a man who can certainly afford to live in a mansion, has chosen to live in a rambling old house that was built in the 1940s. It says a lot about him, don't you think?

The sitting room has furniture that one would expect to find in an old folks home! It is this picture that got me thinking. If clothes make a man, how far does a house reflect the core values of the owner?

I am reminded of Warren Buffet's house in Omaha, USA. The world's third richest man with a personal fortune of US$47 billion still lives in a 5-room house that was built in 1921. He purchased it in 1958 for US$31,500.

Then there is the most expensive house in the world estimated at US$1 billion. Located in Mumbai, it is home to India's billionaire Mukesh Ambani, 53, his wife and three children. Named 'Antilia', it has drawn comparison to the Palace of Versailles. The skyscraper-home is 27 storeys high, and boasts three helipads, a cinema, temple, library and six levels of parking space. The luxury home stands in stark contrast to the city slums where more than 50% of the 18 million people live.

Closer to home is this new mansion of Sarawak's Chief Minister. Apparently, this is only one of the several luxury residences he owns here and overseas. Can politicians, ministers and government servants afford ostentatious homes and enjoy a lavish lifestyle based on their salary alone? We all know the answer to that.

Who doesn't know this man and his controversial mansion in Shah Alam? There is an on-going court case involving how he came to own this piece of property said to be worth RM24 million, so I shall reserve further comments on this.

So, folks, what a rich man does with his money is his business - provided the money he amasses is gained through his own hard work and honest means. He can choose to live modestly and enjoy the simple things in life. Or he can spend his millions on glitzy homes, flashy cars and expensive hobbies.

For the average Joe and Jane - that's the majority of us, we can either envy people with such fabulous wealth, or shake our heads in disbelief at the obscene display of what their money can buy.

Having lived for 20 years in the servants' annexe of an old wooden bungalow built during the colonial era, my present 3-room 1020-sq ft apartment felt like a dream home when I moved into it in 1990. I still live there, and it remains the only home I can proudly call my own, purchased with hard-earned money saved from a lifetime of working.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Straits Times - 19 Jan '11
I was touched reading about Chia Chwee Leong and former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew's 70-year friendship. They were the best of friends while studying at Raffles Institution and Raffles College, but lost contact after World War Two when LKY left for further studies in the UK. Upon his return in 1949. LKY took the trouble to get in touch with Chia and renew their friendship. For the last 40 years, he has made it a point to visit Chia on the second day of the Chinese New Year for a chat over a glass of water. That is true friendship. 

As I think of friends from the old days, I wonder how many of us can honestly say we have made attempts to keep in touch? It doesn't help either that as we age, the memory of dear old friends fades with each passing year.

"Make new friends, don't forget the old.
One is silver, the other is gold."

Remember those lines? We used to write them in our classmates' autograph books as a reminder to keep in touch after high school. Sadly, we can now recall only a few faces and even fewer names. And when we finally make contact, it is to learn that a former classmate has passed on, another is battling cancer and yet another is suffering from Alzheimer's. Fortunately, there are friends who are still hale and hearty, and enjoying their second prime of life.

As we move into our retirement years, some of us may find ourselves living alone. Our spouse may no longer be with us, and our children have long left the family nest. Good friends provide an important support system that keeps us going. They help to fill the void. They are our travelling companions, partners-in-adventure, and pillars of strength in our times of need.

Me and Kemmy on New Year's Eve - friends for more than 30 years! Our children have become firm friends as well.
Having friends is good for our mental health too. Much as I enjoy my moments of solitude, I can't imagine a life where I have only myself or my cat for company. Loneliness can slowly develop into depression over the years. And that is something I want to avoid like the plague!

The next time you get an invitation to a class reunion or a small get-together of former school buddies, don't turn it down. At our age, who can tell when we will ever get another opportunity to rekindle old friendships again. 

Here's to OLD FRIENDS everywhere.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


If you are curious to find out your life expectancy, try this test. It's easy and takes only a few minutes. If you don't like the numbers that you end up with, just treat it as a wake up call to pay more attention to your health. If the clock says you'll live to a ripe old age, don't celebrate just yet. Remember, this is just a fun activity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Remember our coming-of-age years? Those were the good old days. Music played a huge part in my life when I was in high school and Form 6. Remember the EPs and LPs, Top of the Pops and Dick Clark's American Bandstand? I spent hours listening to chart-toppers, and spent a bomb buying copies of teen magazines just to swoon over pictures of my favourite teen idols, especially Ricky Nelson.

My prized possession at the time was my huge collection of song books. I had compiled thousands of pages of handwritten lyrics of Billboard's Top 40 songs. I knew the words of every single hit and enjoyed singing along whenever they were played on the radio or the turntable. Those 1960s hits have become classics of yesteryears.

Then came the university years. My songbooks were soon replaced with reference books. I lost touch with pop music, and much later discovered another genre of music that was darker and less innocent. But that's another story.

Fond memories of those teenage years came flooding back again last Tuesday, courtesy of Alfred Ho, 61, guitarist and singer extraordinaire. When I heard that Alfred was playing at Ol' Skool Bistro, I knew I just had to be there.
I had such a blast that night, singing and dancing to Alfred's rendition of evergreens. His music makes you want to snap your fingers, move your feet and sing along. It has that feel-good effect on his listeners. You can feel the passion, the energy of this man as you watch him on that little stage, sitting all alone on the stool, guitar in hand. When his fingers start plucking the strings and as he sings the first few notes, you know you are in the presence of a genuine legendary performer.

Here's a sampling of Alfred's music videos:

Blind since the age of three, Alfred's visual impairment has not stopped him from having a vision of his future. He hopes to perform in Las Vegas one day. All he needs is someone to give him a break. Ted Williams got his, why not Alfred?

While waiting for that break, Alfred has another dream too that's closer to home. He wants to start a cafe where he can share his love of good music and good food with good company. A place where older folks (like you and me) can relax and feel right at home, and where everybody is a friend.

If you want to help turn Alfred's dream cafe into a reality, do watch this space. Seniorsaloud will keep you posted on Alfred's upcoming concert. In the meantime, do support him by showing up at Ol' Skool Bistro, Jalan Gasing, PJ. Alfred plays there every Tuesday till end of February. His CDs are on sale at all his performances.

For more about Alfred, his music and his story, click here. Alfred also performs at private functions. His extensive repertoire includes Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Vietnamese songs. You can contact him at 03-7984 8560 / 016-635 9800 or e-mail him at

Thursday, January 13, 2011


What makes Chinese students so successful academically? The answer may lie in strict discipline aka traditional Chinese upbringing. But just how strict is strict? Where does one draw the line?

In her new book 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother', Yale professor Amy Chua shares how she raised her two daughters to be academically brilliant and musically-talented. Western mothers are horrified by her methods of parenting. By western parenting standards, Chua is considered a Monster Mom.

Click here to read the extract taken from Chua's book.

Our own parenting days have long passed, but with our adult children so busy with work, we are often called upon to babysit our grandchildren. We become stand-in parents. How do we fare in the 'nurturing and upbringing' department? How do we make our young ones do their homework, or practise the piano? When they don't do well in their exams, do we call them "Retards! Worthless!"? Do we threaten them when they refuse to sleep early or spend too much time watching TV? Do we spank them if they are rude?

Or do we spoil them and excuse every display of mischief, rebelliousness and disrespect with "Oh, they are just kids"?

If you are a Chinese in your 60s and 70s, you will probably recall the strict rules of discipline that Chinese parents enforced upon their children back in the 1940s and 50s. Those were the days of the rod. Remember the awful name-calling? It's a wonder that most of us survived our childhood physically and emotionally unscathed.

On a related note - how do parents plant the seed of financial brilliance in their children? For instance, what did Mark Zuckerberg's parents do right to produce a son who, at only 26, has a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth USD6.9billion? Or the parents of India's Suhas Gopinath, the world's youngest CEO? Now 24 and a multi-millionaire, he started his company when he was only 14.

If the secrets of bringing up future billionaires were published in a book, parents the world over would be queuing up to grab a copy.

Has anyone done an in-depth study of parents of gifted kids? It would be interesting to know whether these parents share similar child-raising methods. Food for thought.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Gray divorces are on the rise, and I'm not surprised. We've all heard of the 7-year itch - that's when after seven years of marital bliss, husbands start to have roving eyes and wives start to roll their eyes and beat their hearts in helpless frustration.

That was a generation or two ago when most wives didn't have much of an education and had no means of fending for themselves and their young children if they left their husbands. For them divorce was not an option. So they remained the faithful, long-suffering wife while their husband went AWOL night after night.

Not anymore. These women have been bidding their time waiting till the children are all grown and on their own before filing for divorce. This is the 37-itch, and this time it's the women who are getting the itch, to split, that is.

Being divorced is no longer a social stigma for older women in their 50s and 60s. They are not willing to settle for less or second best anymore. Why should they? They can't see themselves remaining in a boring, loveless marriage, having to share space 24/7 with someone whom they have little in common with. Financially independent, college-educated and empowered by those who have already taken the bold step, these women are ready to move forward to a new chapter of life without their men by their side. And the future looks promising and exciting. For many, it's Freedom At Last!

Gray Divorce Statistics

According to the 2008 U.S. Census, 25% of new divorces were among couples married at least 20 years and 51% of those divorced were Baby Boomers (born between 1946-64).
The Gores split in 2010 after 40 years of marriage.
Of the more shocking statistics, a study by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reported that 66% of the divorces studied were initiated by the wife.
Age-specific divorce rates in Singapore (Source: Statistics Singapore)
There are no available statistics of gray divorces in Malaysia. In Singapore, the numbers are still low, but if global trends are anything to go by, it's a matter of time before we see a spike in gray divorces in these countries.
Pay heed to these warning signs if you want to make your marriage last a lifetime.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Source: Straits Times 8 Jan
Is filial piety is a fading value in our Asian culture? It would appear to be so according to these headlines. If you are a baby boomer, you would have parents in their 80s or 90s. How often do we make time to visit them? Or call them up on the phone to ask how they are doing?

My siblings with mom tucking into durians - her favourite fruit.
I know of siblings who never make the effort to ask after their elderly parents or visit them except for the obligatory once-a-year birthday, Mother/Father's Day and festive visits. At other times, it's a case of "Out of sight, out of mind".

On the other hand, I also know of siblings who make it a point to take their parents out for a meal every weekend, and visit at least every other day. They take turns to make the arrangements and foot the bill. They are concerned about how their parents are doing, and jointly contribute towards taking care of their parents' expenses like nursing care, maid, medical bills, health supplements and other necessities. (Pic: My mom on her 84th birthday on 10-10-10.)

Is it because adult children are too busy with their own lives, or is it because they are simply being honest in displaying their lack of filial piety? There are 1001 reasons why an increasing number of adult children don't or won't take care of their frail parents.

The top five reasons that I've heard:
  • no extra room at home for their parents
  • no one is free to care for them at home
  • their children come first, not their parents
  • they can't afford to support their parents
  • their parents are not easy to live with
  • they don't deserve to be taken care of
Of all the above reasons, I find the last one most unacceptable. No matter how badly our parents may have treated us in the past, we can't stand by and do nothing for them in their time of need. Their blood runs in our veins - this is something we can't deny.

And when they are gone, can we ever forgive ourselves for neglecting them in their final years?

Friday, January 7, 2011


Source: Straits Times (7 Jan 2011)
This must surely be one of the most heart-warming stories to start off the new year. God does answer prayers after all.

Last month, vagabond Ted Williams, 53, a former drug addict and alcoholic with a criminal record, was standing by the roadside in Columbus, Ohio, with a sign advertising his God-given voice and begging for help. A local reporter pulled up and asked him to say something so he could record it. The video was later posted on Youtube.

Within three days, the video went viral and to date has been viewed more than 12 million times! Williams, the man with the golden voice, has been inundated with job offers and has appeared on NBC and CBS. And it's only the beginning.

'I can't believe what's going on,' said Mr Williams. 'God gave me a million-dollar voice, and I just hope I can do right by him."

This tent had been Ted's 'home' during the past months. 

Ted reunites with his 92-year year mother, Julia, after 10 years. (Photos: Daily Mail)
 Click here to read the full story and view the mother-son reunion. Truly amazing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I listen to talks almost every day. I do it in the comfort of my home office, sitting at my desktop computer with the speakers turned up and a pen in hand ready to take down notes. I have been enriched and empowered by what I've learned so far, and it's all absolutely free!

I am referring to TEDTalks and to YouTube videos. I first heard about the web-video sites in 2008 when a good friend, a former school teacher, forwarded me a link to Sir Ken Robinson's talk on "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" That link led me to TEDTalks and YouTube. Since then, I've been 'home-schooled', learning directly from a host of experts happy to share their cutting-edge ideas.
Over the past three years, I've posted many of these web videos on Seniorsaloud. TEDs' tagline is "Ideas Worth Spreading", and I'm doing exactly that. Here's one TEDTalk - "The New Age of Government" - that should be made compulsory viewing for our politicians and government officers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


A friend just forwarded an email extolling the benefits of consuming eggs. Apparently various studies have indicated that taking eggs regularly prevents blood clots, lowers the risk of developing cataracts and cancer, promotes healthy hair and nail growth, etc...It's best to take these egg claims with a pinch of salt, until verified and authenticated.

Before you start stocking up on your egg supplies, beware of fake eggs being sold to unsuspecting consumers. With the Chinese New Year less than a month away, eggs will be in high demand for baking CNY biscuits and cakes.

The Straits Times today carried an article alerting the public of the possible dangers of consuming fake eggs. These are chemically produced by folks out to make a killing on the market as these eggs are produced at a fraction of the cost of real eggs.
Click on this link to know how to identify fake eggs.

From China we have tainted milk, fake organic vegetables, fake wine, fake tofu, fake sausages - what's next? Did someone say 'fake China virgins'?

Saturday, January 1, 2011


May I take this opportunity to thank all my friends and blog buddies who have helped make 2010 a great year for Seniorsaloud. You know who you are. Thank you for sharing your views and updating me with all your emails and links. You have kept Seniorsaloud thriving with your support.

In appreciation, I would like to share with you this video. May we take to heart the advice and make 2011 a truly HAPPY NEW YEAR for us and our loved ones.