Friday, December 30, 2011

MORE SINGAPOREANS ELIGIBLE FOR SUBSIDIZED PRIMARY HEALTHCARE

Dr Khor explaining to one of her constituents in 
Bukit Batok. (Straits Times photo)
Welcome news for those aged 40 and above from households earning S$1500 and less per head. Previously only those aged 65 and above and with a per capita monthly household income of S$800 or less were eligible for the Primary Care Partnership Scheme (PCPS). The changes to the criteria eligibility will take effect from 15 January 2012.


The Minister of State of Health Dr Amy Khor told the Straits Times yesterday there are currently 440 GP clinics and 210 dental clinics participating in the PCPS. More are expected to come on board with the rise in the number of eligible applicants.


A patient consulting a GP. (ChannelNewsAsia photo)
The scope of the PCPS has also been expanded to cover more chronic illnesses, such as dementia and bipolar disorder, in addition to diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, lipid disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, schizophrenia and depression. 


The scheme, launched in 2000, now has 37,000 registered patients with an average of 2000 applicants a month. Application forms are obtainable from hospitals, polyclinics and community centres.


On a related note, ChannelNewsAsia reports that Singapore has also begun mass health screening for Singaporeans and PRs aged 60 and older. The patients' health records plus the screening results will be compiled into a database. This will enable the government to formulate more effective prevention programmes for the elderly in such areas as vision, hearing, oral health, continence, mood and physical function. The screening costs S$30, but the government will subsidize S$25. Drugs and medication, however, will not be subsidized.


Mass health screening for the elderly. (TODAY photo)
The elderly will benefit from the health screening as early symptoms of age-related health problems can be detected through the screenings. Another plus point is immediate care and consultation will be given instead of post-screening referrals and follow-up. 

Despite the positive response to the PCPS, there are calls for the scheme to be open to all Singaporeans and not just to those aged 40 and above. As for the mass health screening, paying only S$5 out of pocket can still be costly for many elderly who have little or no financial resources. Why not make it free for them?

Yes, why not? Singapore is certainly rich enough to be more generous to the elderly and to those who cannot afford medical care.

(This article is based on reports from Straits Times and ChannelNewsAsia.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WHAT'S ON YOUR MURTAUGH LIST?

Just the other day my four grandchildren were watching a Barney video. Barely five minutes into the video, my grandson Max, 11, announces "I'm too old to watch Barney" and promptly went off to read a book instead.

It seems like only yesterday that he enjoyed piggy-back rides with me. Soon it will be his 5-year old sister's turn to tell me "I'm too old to be cuddled, grammy!" Kids are certainly growing older faster than their grandparents!

What about us? What are we too old to do now that we have passed our 50th, 60th, 70th year milestone? What's on your Murtaugh List - the list of things you feel you are too old to do?

The name 'Murtaugh' is a reference to Roger Murtaugh, a 50-year old LAPD homicide detective played by Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movie series. Whenever his partner Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson, gets both of them in a sticky situation, Murtaugh's stock response is "I'm too old for this shit".

Murtaugh List was first mentioned in an episode of the TV series "How I Met Your Mother".

Here's a generic Murtaugh List. See how many applies to you.

I'm too old to:
  • use Facebook, Twitter and Skype
  • sing and dance all night long
  • celebrate my birthday
  • join a street protest
  • start dating again
  • wear bright colours
  • embark on a career change
  • start my own company
  • have a tattoo
  • keep my hair long
Do note, however, that despite saying he's too old for 'this shit', Murtaugh goes ahead and does all that stuff anyway, and does it well too. Just to show that we can never be too old for anything that we really, truly want to do. It's all about changing our mindset.

Maybe so, but Santa is still making the rounds every Christmas!
So go out there and pursue your dreams and goals.

Related article

Don't let your dreams die with you

Sunday, December 25, 2011

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR


My grandchildren and I wish all our dear family members, friends and the online community of Seniorsaloud a very joyous Christmas and a happy New Year! May 2012 bring all of us more love and blessings to share with others. 


Saturday, December 24, 2011

THE EDUCATION SYSTEM WE WANT FOR OUR GRANDCHILDREN



My four grandchildren are now enjoying the last week of their year-end holidays before school starts again on 3 January 2012. Having spent my entire professional life in the field of education, I take a very keen interest in what my grandchildren are learning in schools. Two of them are in Singapore schools, and the other two in private international schools in Kuala Lumpur.

My personal views of Malaysia's education policies have been posted here before. Suffice to say the national education system has been hijacked by the politicians. It will take another generation or two for Malaysia to regain its former levels of academic excellence.

Singapore schools and universities, on the other hand, have consistently been ranked among the top in the world. But frankly, there's just too much emphasis on exams and competition, leaving children with too little time to develop their full potential and creativity.

"Preparing kids for life". Photo: Smithsonian.com

British and Amercian institutions of learning have long been touted as the best in the world. But in recent years, even the US and the UK are looking to learn from Finland's hugely successful education system.

It took Finland almost 40 years of education reforms for its education system to leapfrog over that of the US and the UK. Today, Finland tops the international rankings for having one of the most innovative and successful systems of education in the world.


Teaching is a prestigious and much sought-after profession in Finland, which is not the case in Malaysia where it is the career of last resort for graduates. It is rare for academically-gifted students to end up as teachers in Malaysia. Teachers here are poorly-paid, inadequately trained and overworked, whereas in Finland teachers are highly respected and the backbone of the education system.

Click here to find out 26 amazing facts about Finland's unorthodox education system.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

GETTING READY TO BE RE-EMPLOYED

Another ten days to the end of 2011, and more importantly, to the enforcement of the Retirement and Re-employment Act (RRA). Starting from 1 January 2012, it is mandatory for companies in Singapore to offer re-employment to workers aged 62 who are in good health and have shown good work performance.

Employers should visit the Re-employment of Older Workers Portal or the Ministry of Manpower website to be familiar with the guidelines on wages, work schedules, workplace practices, medical benefits and others.

Workers, on their part, should also find out more about their readiness for re-employment by referring to the Employee Checklist.


Mr Yuen Ah Yip, 67, was rehired as a supervisor at age 62 to mentor younger workers. With over 40 years of experience working in the machinery department of Keppel Shipyard, Yuen had no problem getting his work contract extended without any reduction in salary or employee benefits.(Photo: Straits Times)
SMEs that require financial assistance to put in place a HR system for the RRA can apply for a S$10,000 capability development grant from the Singapore Workforce Development Agency in partnership with the Tripartite Partners. For more details on eligibility criteria, please visit the Prepare Community website. Closing date for applications is 23 December 2011. You can call 6222 1249 / 6222 2461 or email enquiry@preparecommunity.com to request for an applicaion form.



In Malaysia, there is currently no similar Act governing the re-employment of older workers. Workers in the private sector have to negotiate for re-employment on their own, or look for another job when they retire at a young 55. With the average life span now raised to 76, many retirees have little choice but to seek re-employment so they can continue to be self-supporting for the next 25 years.

Here are a few tips on how to improve your chances of getting re-employed.
  1. Update your resume. Focus on more recently obtained qualifications, work experience and achievements.
  2. You may be competing against younger job applicants, but you have an edge over them in these areas - reliability, loyalty, experience, dedication. Make sure you emphasize these in your resume.
  3. Keep your skills current, especially your computer skills. Attend classes if necessary to acquire new skills that would boost your job prospects.
  4. Be prepared to accept a slightly lower starting salary and reduced employee benefits.
  5. Your chances of negotiating for a higher salary are better if you can demonstrate your worth to the company. Explain what you can do for the company rather than what you expect the company to pay you.
  6. If you have to attend an interview, dress smart and avoid clothes that instantly classify you as an 'aunty' or 'uncle'. The same applies to hairstyles and shoes.
  7. Be humble and flexible. You may have a wealth of previous work experience, but show that you are willing to learn new things and to adapt to a new working environment.
  8. Your potential employer may be much younger than you, but do not talk down to him.
  9. Read up on the latest developments in the industry. If you want a job that much, be willing to invest time and money (on retraining and self-improvement courses) to improve your chances of getting re-employed.
  10. Expand your job searches. The classifieds in the papers are not the only or the best source of job vacancies. Check out online employment agencies. Post your resume on Linkedin and let your friends on Facebook know that you are available for employment. Make use of social media sites to enhance your job opportunities.
Related article:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WHERE AGE IS TRULY JUST A NUMBER

Sohrab and Jinn decked in their wedding finery.
Last weekend I was in New Delhi to attend Jinn and Sohrab's wedding. Jinn is the daughter of my very close friend. The week-long pre-wedding festivities gave me an opportunity to observe and learn about the customs and rituals of a Sikh wedding, and also get to know more about the Sikh commuity.

Like Alice discovering Wonderland, I soaked up the rich cultural experience. I donned the salwar kameez, wore a bindi on my forehead, and even had mehendi done on my arms. I sampled every vegetarian dish that was served. Even when my diet wouldn't permit me to take a bite of the mutton or chicken, it didn't stop me from sampling the curry that went with the meat dishes. I found everything fascinating and whatever I didn't understand, my new Sikh friends were ever eager to enlighten me.

For many of the overseas guests, it was their first taste of Sikh cuisine.
The salad section was a hit with the older guests.

Aside from the food, the entertainment and the ceremonies all of which I thoroughly enjoyed, what impressed me most were the people, to be more specific, the older members of Sohrab's extended family of aunties and uncles. If Singapore's Council for Third Age were looking for role models for their active ageing campaigns, they would have plenty to choose from here.

Sikh women are absolutely stunning and regal in their looks and demeanor. They are the epitome of graceful ageing. The men are equally good-looking, well-built and carry themselves extremely well.

Everywhere I looked, there were men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who could have easily graced the covers of AARP magazine (the equivalent of Singapore's PRIME, and Malaysia's PASSAGE). The men I spoke with were charming and affable, and the women gracious and friendly. All of them were well-read and much-travelled. Many had settled in the US and Europe, and had returned to Delhi for the wedding celebrations, and for a family reunion.

Let me introduce a few of these seniors who have impressed me with their dynamism and positive outlook on life. Every one of them is an inspiration to the rest of us.

Ninu and Jitinder. "Love grows," says Ninu.
Ninu, 53, is a home-based designer of exotic jewellery. She spent her early years in Japan and now resides in LA with her husband, Jitinder, 60, and their two sons. Vivacious, articulate and fun-loving, Ninu certainly lives life to the fullest. "Don't live in the past. The past is history, the future is mystery, so make the most of the present." Good advice that we should all take to heart.

It was easy to single out Bobby Oberoi, 60. At over six feet tall, he certainly stood out among the wedding guests. "Don't take life too seriously." Although the advice didn't come from him, he could have just as well given it as he kept me in stitches with his wit and wonderful sense of humour throughout our short interview.

What he did share with me was this: "Never think of harming anyone because bad thoughts come back to you manifold. Live your life as if you have no time left, and don't put off doing what you want to do. Just do it." Advice taken, Bobby. I just wish there were more seniors back home who shared your life philosophy.

Age has not slowed down Sohrab's father, Arvinder, one bit. At 59, he is a tennis champion in the veteran category and has competed in international tournaments in the UK and Australia. He plans to compete in the US next year. Way to go, Arvinder! (Pic: Sohrab's parents, Arvinder and Pinky, looking on as the newly-weds feed each other a piece of their wedding cake.)

Then there is Manjit, 76, who used to work as a financial systems IT analyst in New York. Since retiring at age 71 she has more time to indulge in her passion - singing religious songs and enjoying Indian classical music.

I ask her what makes Sikh men and women age so well. It's the genes, diet and the environment, she tells me. Most Sikhs are vegetarians. Their diet is rich in calcium - lots of milk and yoghurt in their cooking. That probably explains why almost every senior Sikh that I saw stood tall and straight. No bent backs or knees anywhere at the garden party. No visible signs of osteoporosis as far as I could tell.

Finally, there's Jenny, 55, recently retired and, together with her Australian husband, now runs a bed-and-breakfast alpine retreat in Porepunkah, Victoria. Her advice: "Keep busy. Stay active and plan your retirement".

If I've learned anything from all these distinguished Sikh men and women, and from Jenny, it is to be reminded afresh that age is definitely just a number. Our hair may be greying, and our skin no longer taut, but we can all still remain young at heart and in spirit. Life is for living whatever the age. Don't waste it on whining and pining for lost youth.

Jinn and Sohrab with their friends and relatives from overseas. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

IN SEARCH OF OLD DELHI

Namaste! Welcome to India. At the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.

1976 - that was my first visit to New Delhi, and my first trip overseas. I was 28 then and thrilled to bits that I was finally going to visit the country of my birth - if you believe in past lives and reincarnation.

It's still fresh in my mind. The freezing cold as I stepped out of the plane at 5.00am in the Indian winter, the exotic smell of spices in the air and the exciting anticipation of the adventures that lay ahead. A whole month on my own to explore this ancient sub-continent with just a backpack of clothes. No hotel reservations, no itinerary and no friends in India. My mother thought I was absolutely insane to venture abroad alone. And of all countries to start with, why India, she asked. But why not, I replied.

Opened in 1982, the iconic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium underwent major renovations
to meet international standards to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the
XIX Commonwealth Games in Oct 2010.

The New Delhi of 2011 is hardly recognizable to me, thanks in part to the 19th Commonwealth Games which the city hosted for the first time last October. The city underwent massive construction and renovation in preparation for the international sports event. It was an opportunity for the city to showcase India as an emerging economic power.

Taking the metro is the most efficient way to see the sprawling city. Get a tourist day pass to
save on fares and the hassle of queuing for tickets.
Looking down at the expressway near Lajpat Nagar station. The traffic gets heavier as the day progresses.

But I was more interested in seeking out Old Delhi. Was it still there beneath the veneer of modernity?

I found the answer when I revisited Chandni Chowk. The old city centre seems to have been bypassed even as development envelopes the rest of the city. After 35 years since my last visit, not much has changed for the poor and the homeless as these pictures below show. Is this a reflection of the government's failure to address urban poverty?

Rows of shops lining the streets of Chandhi Chowk. Little signs of progress and development here.
The homeless live on the sidewalks, often next to piles of uncollected garbage like the one below.
Rummaging for recyclables. Littering, spitting and even peeing in the streets are still common in the older and poorer parts of the city.
Absolute chaos on the streets as rickshaws, autos (tuk-tuk), buses, motorcycles, cars and pedestrians fight for right of way. Note the absence of lanes.
Earning an honest living: tailor, barber and bicycle repairman share work space. These guys can teach entrepreneurs a thing or two about cutting down on overhead expenses!

Is it possible to retain the old while embracing the new? Can there be a happy compromise? When it comes to urban renewal and redevelopment, Singapore has shown that it can be done without sacrificing its historical and cultural heritage.

Chinatown Singapore in the early 1900s. Source: Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board
Chinatown today attracts both locals and tourists. Source: William Cho (Flickr)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

FINDING GOLD IN THE SILVER-HAIRED INDUSTRY

We talk about the retirement years as the sunset years. Ironically, the silver-haired industry is really a sunrise industry, with opportunities aplenty for those who can see the potential in catering to a market that is growing exponentially. From 523 million people worldwide aged 65+ in 2010, the UN estimates the number will swell to 1.5 billion by 2050. This age group has needs that remain largely uncatered for. For those with the right entrepreneurial skills and experience, and of course money to invest, why not set up a business that provides products or services aimed at the seniors market?

Here are some areas you might want to consider:

Homecare:
Similar to babysitting services. Family caregivers can engage these eldersitters on an ad hoc basis to keep an eye on their elderly parents for a few hours while they nip out to run errands or take a short break from caregiving.

Comfort Keepers is a Singapore company that provides companionship and
eldersitting services for stay-at-home older adults. (Photo: Comfort Keepers)
Food:
Set up restaurants that cater to the health conscious. Most of the fare that is served in so-called vegetarian restaurants are often deep-fried and heavy on the salt. Or provide home catering for the elderly with the focus on nutritious food cooked the healthy way. Bakeries can have a section for seniors with special dietary needs. Think of pastries that are low on sugar, gluten-free and fat-free.

Providing nutritious meals can mean using healthier alternatives like
brown rice and yoghurt, and opting for healthier cooking methods.
Fashion:
Why do fashion designers invariably assume that older folks go for aunty and uncle type clothes? Department stores churn out shapeless garments in shades of gray and beige that most active 60+ers shun like the plague. It's time for a kindred spirit to pick up the challenge and pioneer trendy fashion for this age group. Let's not forget footwear too. Comfort is top priority of course but a close second is design. None of those matronly-looking types, please.

Most departmental stores stock clothes that make older adults look frumpy and matronly.
Transport
We have school buses and shuttle buses, why not senior buses or vans that provide transport for retirees who do not have their own car or are unable to drive? For an affordable monthly fee, these buses will send the elderly to the daycare centre and back on a daily basis.

Buses or mini-vans with low steps, wide doors and ramps 
for wheelchair access.
HOME RENOVATIONS
Be a specialist in making homes safe for the elderly. Think of all the thousands of homes that do not have ramps, grab bars, non-slip flooring or footlights. Elderly people are at-risk living in such homes.

Making the bathroom safe for the elderly.
The sky is the limit as to the type of SMEs we can venture into. As seniors ourselves, we have the advantage of understanding what senior consumers like us want and are willing to pay for. If you are looking for financial assistance to get started, check out what's available at SME Corporation Malaysia.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

IMAGINE A WORLD THAT'S AGEING, IT ISN'T HARD TO DO

Note the shrinking 0-19 age group and the growing 65+ age group.
(Source: UN World Population Prospects)

Would John Lennon have imagined a world that is rapidly ageing? Given the statistics, it's not that difficult to picture a world where one in every four people is 60 and above. We can expect that to happen as early as 2050. Everyone grows old. That is a fact. With the longer life span now enjoyed by the elderly, and with young people delaying marriage and opting for smaller families, the net result is a world population that is increasingly turning gray. What are the repercussions? How prepared are countries to face the challenges posed by an ageing population?

This video posted by the International Monetary Fund gives a forewarning of the crisis ahead and offers some solutions on what can be done to reduce the adverse impact of global ageing.



Here is another video with the same urgent message. Lifestar Institute believes that the solution lies in biomedical technologies that can "retard, arrest, even reverse the damage of ageing' and at the same time 'make a big difference to the health of the elderly'.

The vision and mission as stated on Lifestar Institute website: "We are dedicated to averting the pending global ageing crisis in the pursuit of personnel, sciences and processes to develop therapies that restore knowledge and productivity. We invoke solutions to the human, social and economic burdens of our ageing population... and advocate open, informed discussion about the challenges and opportunities ahead." (Click here to read more.)



Some countries like Singapore are scrambling to get ready for the rising number of elderly people. Some are blissfully ignorant of the coming silver tsunami. Some are aware but choose to be complacent about it, preferring to give priority to other concerns.

Which category does Malaysia fall into? Which countries are most prepared to meet the challenge? And which countries are least prepared? The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has published the Global Aging Preparedness Index (or GAP Index) that provides the first comprehensive quantitative assessment of the progress that countries worldwide are making in preparing for global aging, and particularly the old-age dependency dimension of the challenge.

You can download all 76 pages of the full report here.

Of the 20 countries covered in the Index, four are in Asia: India, China, Japan and Korea.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

TONY PUA TELLS IT AS IT IS

MP for Petaling Jaya Utara Tony Pua must have felt vindicated. When he first drew public attention to the false labelling and inferior products sold at Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) outlets, he was called a liar, troublemaker, and accused of politicizing the issue for personal gain.


MP Tony Pua kept the audience engrossed for almost three hours with his slides and stories
 highlighting how the government (mis)spends public funds.

Last night he shared his side of the story with the audience at a dinner-lecture organized by Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM). This morning the Star ran this report:

Removing items because of incomplete labeling? Read between the lines. (Source: The Star 4 Dec 2011)
Before he started his lecture, Pua jokingly said some in the audience might want to emigrate after hearing what he had to share that evening. As he presented chart after chart, figures after figures, you could hear gasps of horror from some people in the audience. The weak of heart would have suffered cardiac arrest at the shocking revelations - the size of government debt from overspending and over-borrowing, of contingent liabilities and the extent to which the government is milking their cash cow Petronas.

Reading the numbers is like watching a horror movie. At least the movie ends after
two hours, but not our government spending spree. It is a never-ending story. 
Emoluments and pensions eat up the biggest chunk of government expenditure. Not
surprising at all given the 1.3m civil servants and the perks they get without even asking.
Why is the government so eager to please them? The answer should be obvious.
Pua pointing to the percentage of Petronas' profit that is reinvested each year. 
It fell from a high of 42.5% in 2005 to only 13.5% in 2010! Mama Mia!
Skeptics may pooh-pooh the numbers. But time after time as each scandal is made public in both the mainstream and alternative media, it only lends credence to what the opposition has been saying all along. The ministers and BN MPs may deny everything, but when documents and receipts are produced as evidence, how much longer can they continue to claim that every scandal as an outright lie? The gross overspending and abuse of public funds as highlighted in the Auditor-General's report year after year gets from bad to worse.


The Public Services Department director-general had to issue a warning that civil servants would be held accountable for losses highlighted in the AG's report. But don't expect much to happen. The same misuse and abuse of public funds will continue to fill the pages of next year's report, and the next and the next.

For more revelations of the truth behind government mismanagement of public funds, these two books below make for compelling reading:

(Left) Teh Chi-Chang's 106-page book presents the facts in easy to understand layman's terms with illustrations by Antares, while Pua's 335-page book is literally a thesis. Both are must-reads before the next elections.
Back cover detail from Pua's first English publication "The Tiger That Lost Its Roar".