Sunday, June 26, 2011


Consider these statistics:

By 2050,
~ The number of persons in the world aged 60 years or older is expected to almost triple.
~ In developed countries, there will be two elderly persons for every child.
~ In developing countries, the proportion of the older population is expected to rise to about 20%.
~ The number of 'oldest-old' people, those who are 80 years old or over, will increase from 86 million in 2005 to 402million. Most of them will live in the developing world.
(Source: UN Population Division)

The UN categorizes any nation with 10% of its population aged 60 and above as an ageing nation. Going by this definition, Malaysia will reach ageing nation status by 2035 when a projected 15% of the population will be aged 60 and above. That's less than 25 years away. How is the country preparing to cope with the increase in this demographic group? Do we have the necessary systems and structures in place to meet the needs and demands of an ageing society?

Lifelong learning programme of activities for senior citizens.
A look at our neighbouring country Singapore tells us that we are, as usual, lagging far behind. The island nation has a Minister in charge of Ageing Issues in the Prime Minister's Department. There's the Council for Third Age that promotes healthy and active ageing. It organizes the annual 50plus Expo and Active Ageing Carnival. There are dedicated NGOs that are looking after the concerns of the elderly, like the Tsao Foundation and the Centre for Seniors.

Clementi Community Centre, Singapore

The Ministry of Health's website shows a comprehensive list of hospitals, as well as residential and community healthcare services available to the elderly.  The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports offers financial assistance to those unable to support themselves, including the aged. The Ministry of Manpower has a special portal just to address the issue of re-employment of older employees.

There are policies in place to help the elderly like the Maintenance of Parents Act. The >60 Design Centre is Singapore's National Design Centre for Ageing. It was set up in 2008 to generate products and services to improve the lifestyle of older adults. The Housing and Development Board is committed to providing suitable and affordable housing for Singaporeans aged 55 and above. Every community centre in the republic has a programme of activities for senior citizens. The facilities at these centres are well maintained.
Former Singapore PMs Goh Chock Tong (left) and Lee Kuan Yew.
There is no lack of excellent role models of successful ageing in the country, and this includes former PMs Lee Kuan Yew, 87, and Goh Chock Tong, 69. LKY is well-known for his tips on how to live a long and healthy life.

The point of highlighting Singapore's initiatives in meeting the needs of the elderly is to provide a blueprint for our government to get started on preparing for Malaysia's ageing population. What has it done so far? Almost nothing that comes close to the Singapore government's all-out efforts.
Community Centre in Petaling Jaya in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur
From what I've seen, the majority of our community centres are run-down with barely any decent facilities to speak of. The senior citizens' associations offer little more than line dance, karaoke and taichi classes. The National Council of Senior Citizens' Association (NACSCOM) has a website that has not been updated since 2008 as far as membership is concerned. There's hardly any content worth reading on the site.
An old folks home in KL - counting the days.
The same applies to most of the government websites. The Ministry of Health's official website is an embarrassment, while that of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is a joke. Why do government websites require visitors to sign in? Elderly concerns come under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. The page devoted to 'senior citizens' on their website can do with more informative content.

As for role models, I don't recall any of our former PMs taking the lead in implementing policies to raise the quality of life for senior citizens. During his 32-year tenure as PM, Dr Mahathir, 86, could have easily been the perfect inspiration of successful ageing, but he preferred to devote his energies to other areas of more importance than old people who are considered unproductive and contribute little to the economy.

There are people who will come to the defence of  Malaysia. They say it's not fair to compare Singapore, a tiny nation of 5 million people with Malaysia which has a population of 28 million. Ok then, let's compare Singapore and the Greater Klang Valley, or only the greying population of the two countries. Whichever yardstick we choose, Malaysia still comes up short.

Senior citizens queuing up to register for the special discount card for travel on RapidKL buses.
There's so much that needs to be done to prepare the country before it reaches ageing status. The clock is ticking away. In the meantime, the elderly continues to be neglected. There's no sustainable policy, plan or programme to cater to the physical, financial and emotional needs of the aged. Whenever the Budget is announced, there's is only token allocation for the elderly. We have token visits to old folks homes, token donations, token ceremonies and token assistance. Mostly for publicity purposes, to give a token impression of the work being done for the warga emas of this country.

What can we do to make the government take notice of us? Take to the streets in a peaceful demonstration?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


You just can't believe everything you read in the mainstream media.
I was at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last Sunday for the launch of Bersih 2.0. I find it incredulous that reporters covering the same event can come up with different interpretations of the event. Some chose to omit certain details to give a misleading picture of what actually took place.
Datuk Ambiga speaking to reporters before the official launch of Bersih 2.0 .
Invitations were sent out to all major political parties, including those from the ruling party Barisan National (BN) as well as from the Opposition parties. The front row seats were reserved for them. However, none of the BN component parties sent representatives. It's misleading to say that the Bersih 2.0 launch was an Opposition initiated event. It seemed to be so only because the BN had obviously boycotted the launch, while the opposition turned up in large numbers. A pity, as BN could have made use of the platform given to each representative to make known their party's stand on the need for electoral reforms.

Do these two ladies shown above with Bersih 2.0 organizing chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan look like troublemakers?
Many of my friends who supported Bersih 2.0's demands were afraid to turn up at the launch because they were worried that political activists would be out in full force to create mayhem. In actual fact, the crowd was made up of people of all ages, races and walks of life. There was a family with their young daughter sitting behind me. There were grey-haired retirees like me everywhere I looked, and youths too, especially from the universities and colleges.

Perkasa members reportedly burned and stamped on photographs of Bersih chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan on Sunday. Its leaflets have depicted Datuk Ambiga, a former president of the Malaysian Bar, as a 'dangerous Hindu woman' and a threat to Malay Muslims. (Source: Straits Times 21 June 2011)
This is the real troublemaker and panicmonger - Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali. He made a thinly-veiled threat about possible racial riots breaking out if Bersih's rally on July 9 went ahead as scheduled. He warned the Chinese to stock up on food supplies as "anything can happen" on the day. The following day he said his statement was twisted by the online press. He was merely 'advising' the Chinese. His group Gerak Aman is also planning to hold a "Peace March" on the same day. Bersih has repeatedly said their rally would be a peaceful "Walk for Democracy". If both groups have assured the public that their respective rally will be 'peaceful', why should Ibrahim, or anyone for that matter, expect trouble?

Ibrahim was also quoted as saying "When there are protests, I don't see the Chinese joining in. They never take part in street demonstrations. The clash is between Malays and Malays." (The Sun 22 June). Well, the NGOs that turned up at the launch to pledge their support and participate in the rally were of various ethnicity. Among them were the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, OHMSI (a Christian-based group) and The Tamil Foundation. All have promised to send their members to the rally on 9 July. For a list of the NGOs supporting Bersih 2.0, visit their website.

Opposition MP Nurul Izzah takes the mike to pledge support for Bersih 2.0. Behind her are representatives of various NGOs. PAS has said 100,000 of their members would be at the rally.
MP Nurul Izzah Anwar was present at the launch, but her father was nowhere in sight. Datuk Ambiga in her speech pointed out that the decision to hold the rally was made by Bersih, not Anwar. She made it very clear that Anwar had no authority to speak or make decisions on Bersih's behalf. So don't believe everything you read in the papers about Datuk Ambiga being Anwar's stooge, or that he is using Bersih 2.0 as a ploy to further his political agenda.

The rally is much more than just a call for electoral reforms. Here are Bersih 2.0's eight demands:

1. Clean the electoral roll.
2. Reform postal ballot.
3. Use of indelible ink.
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period.
5. Free and fair access to media.
6. Strengthen public institutions
7. Stop corruption.
8. Stop dirty politics.

There's nothing racial or political in these demands. No right-thinking Malaysian would object to any of these eight demands. At the launch the audience was shown a video that gave proof of vote-buying and vote-rigging during the recently concluded elections in Sarawak. You can view this video and more on YouTube.


Please view the video below. It's produced by a young lady with the aim of getting youths to join the rally. I think the not-so-young like us will enjoy it too. It's upbeat and tells you in 3.45 mins why there's a need for change in our country.

The right to assemble peacefully is enshrined in our constitution. If you can't be at the rally, but would like to show your support for these eight demands, wear something yellow or carry something yellow as you go about your daily routine on 9 July. There will be simultaneous rallies in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Osaka, Seoul, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, with more cities being added as the countdown to the rally continues. The world will be watching via the major TV news network. Let the world see that Malaysians are capable of holding peaceful street protests to push for reforms and fair and clean elections.

P.S. If you haven't registered to vote, please do so at the nearest post office. Bring along your identity card. If you are already a registered voter, use the power of your vote to bring about the changes you want to see in our country. If you would like to be trained as a polling agent or counting agent (PACA) to spot any irregularities at the polling stations, please take note of the next PACA training session on July 10th, Sunday, 7pm - 10:30pm, MPSJ Hall, USJ 2/4S, Subang Jaya. Do volunteer.

Monday, June 20, 2011


The highlight of the 50plus Expo organized by Council of Third Age (C3A) Singapore from April 1-3 was the "My Life, My Home" exhibition. This video above posted on YouTube by C3A takes viewers on a virtual tour of an age-friendly home.

When you have an elderly parent living with you, safety in the home becomes a paramount concern. Poor vision and limited mobility make the elderly prone to accidents and falls. It's better to take preventive measures than be sorry later.

Clear passage way for my mom. The floor is free of rugs and clutter.

My 85-year old mother uses a walking frame to move around. We had to remove all the rugs and carpets so she wouldn't trip over them. We got her a lightweight wicker chair with arm-rests so she could sit comfortably and safely at the dinner table. Never mind that it didn't match the rest of the chairs at the table.

We didn't have to spend a bomb on expensive home renovations to reduce the risk of falls. My mother sleeps on a queen-size bed. It gives her more room to turn over on her side without falling off the bed. For a single bed, adding a side rail serves the same purpose. There are two bedside lamps (one broke) and the switches are within easy reach.

(Above) My mother's ground floor bedroom with French windows opening out to a little courtyard with flowering shrubs. Minimalist is the word. She dislikes using the air-con or the fan, unfortunately for me. I slept on the floor next to the bed for the first three months after her discharge from hospital, so I could watch over her at night. There wasn't room to put in another bed. Now that she is more independent, I have moved to the family TV room adjoining her bedroom so I can still see to her if she needs anything at night.

Like most elderly people, my mother has incontinence. She refuses to wear adult diapers at night, and would rather use the toilet 2-3 times a night. So it's important to leave a night light on. My mother and I had an argument over this. She thinks it's a waste of electricity. We finally compromised by having an electric mosquito trap do double duty as a night light.
My mother's bathroom cum toilet adapted to her  needs.
The bathroom is where falls are most likely to happen. Fortunately, the flooring in my mother's bathroom is non-slip. The shower is adjustable and the walls have grab bars for her to hold on to. There's a seat in the shower area for her to sit on while I shower her. If there isn't one in your bathroom, it's easy enough to place a bath chair there. And if there isn't enough space to manoeuvre a walking frame or wheelchair in the bathroom, remove all clutter (e.g. pails) on the floor.

Hand rail all along the stairs and broad steps lessen the risk of falls. It's a good thing my mother has no desire to venture upstairs, at least for now. 
My mother's clothes and personal belongings are kept within her reach. The elderly have difficulty getting things that are placed too high or too low. So crockery, cutlery and snacks should be conveniently placed for them. This is one area that is often overlooked by family members.

With careful planning and simple adaptations, we can make the home comfortable and safe for our elderly parents, and ourselves too when we reach their age. Housing developers are starting to realize there is a huge demand for age-friendly housing, and are incorporating safety features in the design of such homes.

It's about time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Money for cars but no money to pay rental??? (Source: The Star 14 June)
When it comes to settling their debts, Malaysians are certainly a recalcitrant lot. It has become the norm to read about the number of Malaysians who refuse to repay their loans or arrears. There are also those who simply ignore traffic summonses. Defaulters are getting increasingly bold because they know they can get away with it.

The government has come up with one solution after another to recover the money, but so far it has met with limited success. The defaulters know if they wait it out long enough, the government will offer them incentives to clear their IOUs or just write off the amount owing as bad debt.

These ugly Malaysians are giving the country a bad name. They are also encouraging those who want to settle their government loans to think twice about doing so. After all, why bother when so many others don't bother? Why be a fool when the smart ones just shrug off all reminders about their outstanding loans?

The headline says it all. Source: The Star 14 June
Errant tenants living in government low-cost flats owe Kuala Lumpur City Hall (KLCH) more than RM82m of which RM25m has to be written off as bad debt. KLCH rents out a total of 52,851 low-cost units. More than half (36,995) of the tenants have rental arrears, even though rentals which range from RM90 to RM124 a month are among the lowest in the world. Judging from the number of Astro satellite dishes, air-conditioners and cars outside these flats, it is clear that it is not a question of inability to pay, but rather of refusal to pay.

It's the same with paying maintenance fees. In my housing area, more than half the owners refuse to pay the monthly charges. Some have not paid for several years. Their reason? They are not satisfied with the management services. But if they don't pay, where's the money for maintenance coming from to upkeep the facilities? It's also unfair to those owners in good standing.

The management tells me they are at a loss about what action they can legally take. They have no authority to cut the water or electricity supply to these units. The only legal recourse kicks in when these owners find that they are unable to sell their units should they decide to move out. But as long as they intend to live there for life, why should they care if they owe thousands in maintenance fees, or rental arrears for that matter?

Still RM2.5bil outstanding!
As for educational loan defaultors, never mind that they are depleting the pool of funds available, and depriving deserving students in need of financial aid. According to the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), 228,000 loan recipients have yet to repay a total of Rm2.5 BILLION. The numbers numb the mind. Many of these defaulters have long graduated and are earning a good salary. But the thought of repaying their loans is far from their mind, and low on their list of priorities. They would rather spend the money on home renovations or a family holiday abroad.

Empty threat? Poor enforcement encourages loan offenders to be bold. (Source: The Borneo Post)
The government regularly publishes in the local papers the names of these study loan defaulters, in particular, those who took MARA study loans. The ignominy has little effect on these thick-skinned, bare-faced defaulters. It's the same story for the more than 64,000 school leavers who owe the government Rm520m in skills development loan arrears. These numbers reveal the blatant disregard of their obligation to repay the loans. Imagine what this sum of money could provide for the poor and needy.

Non-payment of debts and late payment of bills is so rampant that some government departments have resorted to desperate and novel measures like offering various incentives to these underserving and irresponsible citizens.

The Water Department of Negeri Sembilan (Syarikat Air Negeri Sembilan) recently offered an array of prizes totalling more than Rm100,000 to consumers who settle their electricity bills promptly within 30 days. These prizes include a car, laptops, LCD TV sets, digital cameras and MP3 players.

Imagine how responsible citizens must have felt. They paid their traffic summonses on time and in full, but it's the irresponsible traffic offenders who not only escaped a fine or a blacklist, but got a 50% discount!
Long queue of traffic offenders waiting to pay their summonses before the deadline. Photo: The Star
Two months ago, motorists were offered a 50% discount if they settled their traffic summonses within the grace period. Despite this gesture, 17.3 MILLION traffic summonses remained unpaid. (Star 3 March)

Offering incentives is not the solution. It will only encourage Malaysians to expect rewards for doing something that they should have done in the first place. It is giving the wrong message to others, especially the young. The government should pull up their socks and be firm about eradicating this bad practice before it becomes ingrained in our culture.

Do what the private sector does. For example, the banks do not hesitate to sue loan defaulters, repossess their car or auction off their house if they fail to meet the monthly loan repayments. The government should know by now that soft arm tactics don't work.

Why is the government so reluctant to mete out harsher penalties? Why is it hesitant to act more firmly to recover the hundreds of millions owed by these recalcitrant Malaysians? Only the government can answer these questions. Meanwhile the public coffers continue to bleed, and bleed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


It's been three weeks since the first semester started at the University of Third Age (U3A), Malaysia - a non-academic 'university' for older adults aged 50 and above. My friends and I are enjoying all the classes we have signed up for. Not only are we learning new skills, but also making new friends.

Here's a pictorial account of the classes I've attended so far.

(Above): At the beginners' swimming class. Instructor Syaizalah Kamarudin taught us the correct breathing techniques, as well as how to float and move forward in the water. It must have been quite a challenge for him to teach a group of seniors many of whom had never stepped into a pool before. By the end of the second class, he had built up our confidence, and we are now well on our way to becoming water babies!

(Above): Instructor George Wong showing us how to take good photos. There's so much more to photography than just point and shoot. He took us through all the features in our digital camera and shared useful tips on what to look for when buying a camera. Next week we shall be going on a field trip to apply what we have learned in our photography classes. It should be loads of fun.

(Above): Nutritionist Dr Rosita Jamaluddin's class on healthy cooking is another much-in-demand course. It is easy to see why. Not only did we learn better methods of food preparation, we got to taste all the dishes at the end of the class. There was also much camaraderie during the two and a half hours of hands-on cooking session.

(Above): Sabariah, Catherine and SP giving the thumbs up for their dish of Nasi Hijau Iran or Iranian Green Rice - an exotic alternative to plain white rice, and definitely much more nutritious and tasty.

(Above): A healthier version of the much-loved nasi lemak using a mix of brown and white rice. The sambal is cooked with less oil and sugar. The side dishes of kangkong, cucumber, eggs, nuts and fried anchovies make this a balanced meal that's easy and fast to prepare.

According to Dr Rosita, healthy cooking is all about reducing the fat, sugar, salt and oil in your cooking and opting for healthier alternatives like brown rice for white rice, yoghurt for coconut milk and lime juice for mayonnaise. You can still enjoy your favourite dishes without worrying too much about your cholesterol or blood sugar levels. Think of the long-term health benefits for your family when you switch to healthy cooking.

(Above): Dr Rosita demonstrates how to toss salad without leaving half of it outside the bowl! Commercial salad dressing is packed with calories. So if you don't want to pile on the pounds, try making your own dressing.

(Above): The groups take turns to share healthy cooking tips about their dish. After the presentations, it's chow time with everyone tucking into the healthy spread. A virtual feast for the eyes and tummy!

I can't wait for my Traditional Chinese Medicine class to start in July. My friends are absolutely delighted with their Mandarin class and ICT class. I've also heard positive feedback from those taking home gardening, oil painting and seal engraving. There are 39 courses offered for the first and second semester which begins in September. The instructors are either highly qualified academicians, or industry experts with years of experience.
There are two classes for Basic Computing and the Internet to cater to the large number of seniors eager to learn how to use the computer, and how to access the internet.

At this stage of our lives, we have the freedom to select courses that appeal to us. There are no academic qualifications required for registration. There are no exams or assignments, so there's no stress or pressure. As life-long students, we are highly motivated. We have to be to drive all that distance to UPM Serdang just to attend a 2-hour class. But what does that matter when we are having fun rediscovering the joy of meaningful learning, of acquiring new skills and knowledge that we can put to good use.

If you are interested to register for any of these classes or just want to find out more, visit the U3A website at or email

Related article:

A University For Senior Students

Monday, June 13, 2011


Would you pay Rm10 for this plate of nasi bryani with one measly piece of fried fish? I did, at an Original Kayu restaurant in Ampang Point. When I complained, I was given an earful of the high price of fish, rice, cooking oil, etc, etc..
If your wife asks you for more money for groceries because Rm1000 a month just isn't enough to feed the family anymore, she's giving you a taste of reality. Unless you do the marketing yourself, you probably won't realize how fast and how much food prices have risen.

A loaf of wholemeal bread is now Rm3.20, bananas are Rm5.65 for a bunch of five. Add coffee or tea, butter or jam. Breakfast at home no longer comes cheap.
It wasn't that long ago when a loaf of wholemeal bread cost Rm2.10. Now it's gone up to Rm3.20. I don't eat meat. You would think I spend less on a fruit and vegie diet. I wish. My favourite Fuji apples were Rm1.19 each only a month ago. I was already complaining then. Now it's up by almost 30 sen. And you won't believe how expensive apple jambus are, especially the imported ones.

Rm14.75 for six apple jambus. That's about Rm2.50 each or 85 sen a bite.
Rm8.94 for six Fuji apples at a hypermarket. So much for eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away! Probably cheaper to fall sick and see the doctor at a public clinic.
Prices are also creeping up at hypermarkets like TESCO and Giant. Whether it's meat, beverages, cereals, sugar, garlic, vegetables or eggs, Rm100 doesn't buy as much as a year ago. Retirees are hard-hit. With no income coming in and money flowing out, they are digging into their piggy banks to pay for food.

Why is the government so reluctant to disclose the agreements signed between Tenaga Nasional and the Independent Power Producers (IPPs)? Is there something the public should not know?
Now that the electricity tariff has gone up by 7.12%, expect another round of price hikes. Don't be taken in by the government's assurances that this increase will have 'minimal impact' on consumers. Neither should we commend the 2500 members of the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association for their promise not to raise food prices. Not yet anyway.

Talk is cheap. Let's see some action.