Saturday, March 31, 2012


The weekend is upon us again. Here are some of my favourite Youtube entertainment videos from my blog archives to lighten and brighten up your Sundays. These elderly folks will amaze you with their high jinks and nimble fingers.

Marlow and Frances tinkering on the piano at Mayo Clinic while waiting for their appointment with the doctor. That was in 2008. That video went viral. This video below shows the couple two years later doing a small concert on the same piano. A couple that plays together and laughs together will stay happy and healthy together. No doubt about that.

Here's another elderly couple, Pete and Beulah Mae entertaining at an old folk home. Really hilarious - shows that aches and pain are not necessarily part and parcel of old age.

And there's Janey Cutler, 80, from Britain's Got Talent 2010 singing "No regrets" and getting a standing ovation from the audience and the judges, including the hard-to-please Simon Cowell.

Finally, here's 94-year old Mathilda Klein dancing with her very much younger partner. What energy! What grace! What more can I say?!

Friday, March 30, 2012


In the yesteryears it was considered taboo to ask a woman her age. Today some of my friends and I proudly declare that we are in the mid sixties. And when told that our age belies our looks, an instant glow is seen on our faces.

And why do I love my age? Let me do a check list of my life: school days check, tertiary education check, courtship check followed by marriage check, a fulfilling career check, children all grown up and independent check, enjoying retirement..... still in the process.

As expected there were ups and downs in the journey of life but with the trials and tribulations I have become more mature and mellow with age.
I love my age because now I can indulge in activities that I like, without having to worry about a job or responsibilities of the home.

So my retired life involves for a start, golf with my buddies all retirees twice a week. We are on the course by 7 am and by 9.30 we finish the game. There is a little wager, and the loser pays for drinks and some cakes. All at affordable prices.

What is more fun is the comradeship that we share. We tell each other of the latest bargains in town, where to get the best nasi lemak, what herbal remedies to take, and so on and so forth. Our breakfast can last a long time as we spin yarns that encompass politics, husbands (a hot topic), children and sometimes just comparing ailments. We celebrate each other’s birthday with a luncheon. We take turns to treat the birthday girl, using the birthday bash as an excuse to try out the new eateries in town.

On another day in the week I indulge in line dancing. My brain is stretched as I remember the steps that can run to 64! Alas my teacher laments when we cannot remember the steps and patiently revises with us. I cheekily tell her that her that there is no examination in line dancing and so I am not stressed to learn all the steps. Most of us enjoy the easier dances that run up to 32 steps easy peasy we say as these dances tickle our brains. Our group members are mostly in their sixties and there is one who is in her late 70’s who puts us to shame with her memory of the steps.

Once a week I do volunteer work at a persatuan that aids and trains young adults with learning disabilities to work in the outside world. Together with the other volunteers we educate the young people aged 18-40. They are educationally below average. But that does not prevent them from learning a skill.

As a volunteer I participate in their activities, socialise with them and teach them the alphabet, numbers and etiquette. Time passes quickly as I mingle with them. It is a joy to come and help and when the trainees improve in leaps and bounds that itself is a reward.

I love my age because only now can I afford to pamper myself with facials (to iron away the wrinkles), a massage or two (for the old bones), a manicure/pedicure (a vain attempt to look better), better health supplements (to live healthy), and most of all now that the children are all independent to use our savings to go for holidays. So my husband and I have visited a few countries, gone for tours and a couple of cruises.

I also love my age because now I have grandchildren to be with. Our grandchildren live across the causeway and we visit them often. When I visit, I tutor my eldest who is 8 years old. Kay Leen tells her mother that doing work with Grandma is more fun than with mummy (a glowing testament to my teaching abilities). Ai leen the 6-year old is happy to have the grandparents play games with her - card games, junior scrabble, etc and the youngest Ai leen only 2 years old has her Kong Kong running at her beck and call.

Ai Leen and Kay Leen in 2008.

Incidentally Kong Kong does not seem to mind being manipulated by this little one. For a start in her baby language she has laid a stake on ownership and declares to one and all this is my Kong Kong and clings to him throughout our stay. The other day the lovelies lamented that our stay with them was too short. Kay Leen wanted us to stay with them “forever and ever “ and Ai Leen suggested that we give our house to the poor and move in with them. Truly one of the joys of old age is to have grandchildren and be with them.

But I digress... for what other reasons do I love my age?

Well I get 50 per cent discount on hi-tea buffets at hotels and when I travel on KTM and the komuter. In the banks and at government offices there is a special row for seniors like me aka warga emas. For some shows in town I pay only half the price.

However being my age also has its demerits. Two weeks ago I had vertigo and had to stay in bed the whole day. The cause was unknown. Now and then I get backaches, pain in the joints, an occasional frozen shoulder, sometimes a trigger finger, things which in my younger days were unheard of.

My stamina too is much to be desired. I get tired easily, and watch with envy the zest that younger people have in doing things. I am more careful when I walk taking extra care not to fall because with a fall the consequences would be disastrous.

Oftentimes I experience senior moments. Sometimes I cannot for the life of me remember where I put my reading glasses. I come to the kitchen but I cannot remember why. The other day I left my house keys hanging on the door and only realised it the next morning. I know it is part of growing old but it can be frustrating at times.

But in retrospect I have lived my life to the fullest and before my Maker calls me home, I will continue to live as well as I can. Yes I love my age.

((This post was contributed by Linda Lim. It is easy to see why she loves her age as she recounts the many blessings in her life.) You might also want to check out Linda's article on "RETIRED HUSBANDS - A PAIN OR GAIN?" She gives you an insight into how most wives feel about having to share their domestic domain with their other halves 24/7.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Slide from Dr John Beard's presentation on "Age-Friendly Cities" at the recent World Congress on Healthy Ageing held in KL. Dr Beard is Director of Ageing and Life Course at WHO.

In 2007, the World Health Organization published the Global Age-Friendly Cities Guide. It was the culmination of a project based on constructive feedback from the elderly living in 33 cities in 22 countries.
With populations across the globe becoming increasingly older and more urbanized, the WHO guide makes for an excellent reference for city-planners looking to improve infrastructure and facilities for the elderly. These can range from providing more green spaces and park benches to more accessible public toilets.

I first wrote about age-friendly cities in a 2009 post. Three years on, it doesn't seem as if Kuala Lumpur is anywhere closer to being considered an age-friendly city. (You can view the check-list of essential features of age-friendly cities here.)

New York and Singapore are outstanding examples of city planning that takes into account the needs of the elderly. In 2009 the NY Mayor's office together with various city departments came out with 59 initiatives that would enhance city living for older citizens. The 136-page report should be made compulsory reading for our city-planners here in Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore: Longer crossing time

It doesn't always take billions of dollars to make a city elderly-friendly. Small thoughtful improvements can make moving around in the city so much more convenient for older people. For example, traffic lights at pedestrian crossings could be timed to allow older people ample time to cross busy roads. The lights at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre pedestrian crossing stays green for only 23 seconds! It's a mad dash across even for young people.

Our public transport system here is in desperate need of transformation. For a start, why can't buses have their numbers displayed at the back of the buses? Elderly people need not run after the bus as it is about to move off if they can see by the number that it's not the bus they want to board. Public transport officials can't even think of something so basic as this. Either they have never taken public buses before, or they have no empathy for the elderly, including their parents and grandparents.

23 seconds for the elderly to cross this busy street outside KLCC. Can they make it in time?

By the way, there is a roundtable discussion on "Public transport in Malaysia - issues and solutions" at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, KL, on 28 March from 9am to 1pm. As a frequent user of public transport, I'll be there to air some of my many grouses.

Join me?

Please read related post:

No allocation for the elderly

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The 4-day inaugural World Congress on Healthy Ageing (WCHA) has come to an end. Congratulations to the organizing committee. Who would have thought that the little-known Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) could pull off hosting an international conference on this scale?

WCHA Organizing Chairman and President of MHAS, Assoc Prof Nathan Vytialingam, was all smiles when delivering his welcoming address. So was Scientific Chairman Dr Wong Teck Wee who spoke at the closing ceremony. And deservedly so. The congress was a runaway success.

All we want is 48 hours of blissful sleep!
The decision to host 1WCHA was made two years ago. When I first heard about it, I thought "Wow, MHAS is ambitious!" With limited funds and manpower, how would MHAS promote the event? Without worldwide publicity, how would they get eminent academicians to speak at the congress? And without them, who would want to register? Where would the financial support come from? The event would surely leave MHAS with heavy losses. KL Convention Centre? You need deep pockets to afford a 5-star venue like KLCC.

I said a silent prayer for MHAS.

As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. With the backing of the World Health Organization as co-sponsor, and the support of an 18-member international advisory panel, the congress drew 1000 delegates from 39 countries. The line-up of speakers was just as impressive. It included faculty luminaries from top universities in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, Singapore and China.

The decision to hold WCHA at the classy Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre also paid off. Delegates were treated to a spectacular view of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and the sprawling KLCC Park as they networked over cups of tea and coffee during the breaks. Lunch was a love affair to remember, and delegates made a beeline for the banquet room come each lunch break.

And who would have thought the PM's wife, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, would consent to deliver the keynote address and officially declare open the Congress.

The press kit and the 216-page congress handbook (left) - testimony of the scope of the scientific programme.

Credit must be given to Dr Wong Teck Wee, Scientific Chairman of 1WCHA. The programme was meticulous in details and boasts 8 plenary sessions, 32 symposiums, 14 lectures, 26 workshops and 16 oral presentations. Delegates were definitely spoilt for choice. It was a challenge deciding which concurrent session to attend. My friends and I had to strategize so that we could cover as many sessions as possible.

Poster Competition (top); Healthy Ageing Photo Competition (centre); Banner Gallery of Plenary Sessions (above)

For me personally if there was anything that stood out right from Day 1, it was the strict adherence to the schedule. I love it that no time was wasted waiting for late-comers or for the conference halls to fill up. If there were any hiccups at all, they were minor and barely noticeable. There was little for the delegates to complain about.

True to the congress theme of Holistic Ageing, virtually every aspect of healthy ageing was covered. From early morning Laughter Yoga sessions to late afternoon Qigong workshops...

From Vegetarianism to Erectile Dysfunction....
From The Secrets of Okinawan Centenarians Longevity to Age-Friendly Cities...
From Elders as a Resource to Oncology...

In his closing speech, Dr Wong called upon the delegates "to plant the seed of healthy ageing in each and everyone of us". He also announced that MHAS would issue a consensus statement that would provide a framework for healthy ageing policies.

In case SeniorsAloud readers are wondering why I am devoting so much space to 1WCHA, it's because I am absolutely amazed that MHAS has achieved what bigger organizations have yet to do - put Malaysia on the world map of healthy ageing. I hope the buzz reaches Putrajaya.

I shall be sharing some of the insights I have gained from the congress in future blog posts.

Before we say goodbye. "See you again at World Congress on Healthy Ageing 2 in Johannesburg!"

South Africa will be the next host in 2015. There is no lack of bidders to host future WCHAs - a strong indication of the success of the inaugural WCHA held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Syabas, MHAS!

If you are interested to register as a member of Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society, you can find out more information at their website. Click here to access.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Today was Day 2 of the 1st World Congress on Healthy Ageing. I have so much to write about and share, but later. Suffice for now to share an article "A Short Burning Fuse" that was published in The Economist in 2009.

The article was referred to by William Green, one of the speakers at the plenary session this morning on "Investment in Health as Good Economic Policy for 21st Century Active Ageing".

I highly recommend that you read the article. It is very well-researched, and gives you an idea of the dire economic, social and political consequences of a rapidly greying population.

The alarm bells have rung and will continue to ring increasingly louder in the coming years.

In the Asia-Pacific region, countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore will see their elderly population explode in the coming decades. Their governments have switched into high gear to prepare for this impending and unstoppable silver-haired tsunami.

Now is there any way to get our policy-makers here to do the same too?

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Had meant to share this yesterday so you could enjoy it leisurely during the weekend. Well, better late than never.

If you love the blues, you just have to watch this video clip.

For the full one-hour performance, click here.

You will be surprised at who else are in the line-up of blues musicians at this White House performance. Turn the volume up, sit back, and let the music blow you away. Remember to switch to full screen for better viewing.


Saturday, March 17, 2012


Report in The Star 15 March

Honestly, some of the things the government does makes no sense. Take the latest example. The government launched the My First Home Scheme in March 2011 to help young working adults own their first home. Banks were supposed to provide 100% loans for houses costing up to RM200,000 (for single applicants earning up to RM3k a month), and up to RM400,000 (for couples with a joint income of up to RM6k a month).

A year on, Bank Negara has issued a statement to say that half of the applicants from a total of 1062 do not qualify. The main reason - they failed to prove their ability to repay the loan due to poor credit history and non-sustainable income. (For details of eligibility criteria, click here.)

Not surprising. Which bank would want to lend to borrowers who have a high risk of defaulting on their repayments?

Time to crack the whip? Hah! Yet another empty threat.

Meanwhile, over in Petaling Jaya, the PJ City Council (PJCC) is threatening to evict defaulters of their public housing scheme. Tenants of the low-cost apartments in Taman Putra Damai, Subang and in PPR Kota Damansara owe a total of RM10 million in arrears. Despite the low monthly rental of RM124 for a 3-room unit, many tenants still don't / won't / can't pay up.

The defaulters have been issued several reminder letters, but they have chosen to blatantly ignore all these reminders. You can be sure they will similarly chuck the eviction notice in the trash bin.

The EPF is flushed with money and currently holds RM470 billion in assets.

The crux of the problem is the half-hearted attempts by enforcement officers to impose penalties, coupled with the habit of bending over backwards to accommodate defaulters. PJCC is prepared to discuss payment arrangements including accepting instalments. PJCC wants to wield the stick, but at the same time doesn't want to be seen as the bad guys. The result? PJCC is perceived as a toothless tiger that no law-breakers would take seriously.

The same goes for most government agencies. They make poor bill collectors. And so the losses keep mounting. Billions of the rakyat's money washed down the drain. No chance of recovering it. The same thing with student loans.

FT Minister (Pic: Malaysian Insider)
Unfortunately these financially painful lessons are not learned. And the long history of mistakes repeats itself. A case in point - Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) recently announced that RM1.5 billion of EPF funds will be used to finance DBKL's low-cost housing scheme. Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik said the ministry had already offered the loan to 24,000 City Hall low-cost housing tenants. The funds will be disbursed by June or July this year.

For sure, no commercial banks is prepared to finance these high-risk loans. The solution? Turn to the EPF. It's the government's second piggy bank after Petronas.

But EPF funds belong to people like you and me who have worked hard to put aside some savings for their retirement years. Should we be concerned that City Hall is digging into our retirement pie without so much as a "May we?" to ask for our permission? Have we no say in where our money goes?

Based on the poor track record of low-cost housing defaulters, we can probably say Bye-Bye to the bulk of the RM1.5 billion. What happens if these "eligible" applicants later find themselves unable to keep up with the repayments? Or worse, refuse to honour their part of the contract even though they can afford to?

How safe are my EPF savings? Of course, DBKL will assure employees and retirees that there is no cause for alarm. What would be your course of action if you had savings with the EPF?

It's obvious, isn't it?

Thursday, March 15, 2012


All ears when DAP's Lim Kit Siang took the rostrum.

Last Friday I was at the Thean Hou Temple for the Lembah Pantai fund-raising dinner. The hall was packed with Pakatan Rakyat supporters. Aside from the proceeds from the 96 table reservations at RM100 per person, an extra RM27,000 was raised on the spot from donations.

Featured speakers were DAP's Lim Kit Siang, PAS's Mat Sabu, Bersih's Ambiga, Nurul Izzah and her father Anwar Ibrahim. The latter was a no-show as his flight from Penang was delayed at the last minute.

The night definitely belonged to Nurul, not only because she is MP for Lembah Pantai, but also because she wowed the audience with her oratorical skills. She is not afraid to speak out against injustice and against corruption. She is well-informed, articulate and humble. Her good looks is an added bonus. She is also a loving wife, a doting mother of two, and plays a mean guitar, so I was told. She is a fan of English rock band Radiohead, and supports Arsenal. It's easy to see why she has a huge following, especially among the young people. And she is only 31 years old!

If you have never heard Nurul speak, do watch the video.

As Ambiga said in her speech, Malaysia is ready for a woman PM, and guess who that would be? You know the answer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Imagine a greying world in 2050. The fastest ageing countries are Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, mainland China (Hong Kong) and Singapore. Guess what they all have in common?

These statistics from Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development are representative of an ageing world. The ranks of the elderly are swelling rapidly whilst at the other end birth rates are falling.
The United Nations reports that by 2050, for the first time in human history, old people will outnumber children. The impact of this "demographic age-quake" will have far-reaching effects on almost every area of life, including the economy, work force, taxation, pension funds, inheritance, family composition and housing.

There will be fewer young people supporting the elderly. Pension funds will be insufficient to pay the escalating number of pensioners. Governments will have to raise the retirement age to keep older workers employed longer so that they can continue to support themselves. That means we will be seeing an ageing work force.

It's not just happening in Taiwan that women will outnumber men in the over-80 age group. It's a worldwide trend.

Singapore is pulling up all the stops in getting the island nation ready for the silver tsunami. It's all hands on deck as each ministry gears up to meet the challenges imposed by a greying population.

Speaking at a Ministerial Committee on Ageing dialogue session in January, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong stressed the urgency of the situation. "We need to act now ... in view of the more rapid pace of ageing post-2020. We need to ramp up aged care services and facilities significantly ... We cannot wait for the increase in needs to materialise before we start to build more facilities. 2020 is less than 10 years away. We must be ready when rapid ageing sets in." (Source: Today.)

There is constant coverage in the media of the latest government efforts in tackling the ageing issue. From new insurance schemes to healthcare provisions, from elder-friendly housing to nursing homes, from the Maintenance of Parents Act to the law on Re-employment of Older Workers, the government is wasting no time and effort in getting the country ready. By 2020, some 600,000 people will be above 65, or about 15 per cent of the population.

Growing number of elderly needing healthcare services. (Photo: Straits Times)

The Ministry of Health is feeling the pressure most. It will:

- Expand number of day social and rehabilitative care places from 2,100 to about 6,200

- Increase home-based healthcare services from 4,000 to between 8,000 and 10,000.

- Increase the number of seniors who are eligible for home-based social care, from 2,000 to 7,500.

- Ramp up number of nursing-home beds by some 70 per cent, to 15,600.

- Review aged care financing schemes and make aged care more affordable.

- Take the lead in building more aged care facilities such as day centres.

Students wearing grey singing for the residents in Ren Ci Nursing Home.
(Photo: Embrace Ageing)

Even the young people in Singapore are preparing themselves for a future of more elderly people. Aware that they too will turn grey one day, a group of them recently started the "Embrace Ageing" initiative on Facebook. Last Saturday March 10, it was "Wear Grey Day" to spread the message that ageing is a natural process, and not something to dread or fear. The event received good public support and extensive media coverage. This is yet another indication of the urgency in getting the country and the people ready for the grey explosion ahead.

Countries that have yet to implement elder-friendly policies and practices will have less time to adjust when the full impact of an ageing population hits them in the next 10-20 years.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I sometimes wonder if our leaders think before they speak. They must take the rakyat for fools to assume that we believe everything that sprouts from their mouths. The truth is, more often than not, when they do open their mouth, it's to put their foot in it. Take this report in the NST today - "Najib's ratings 'a boost for party'". Since when does one man's improved approval ratings automatically translate into "positive indication of the people's support for BN'? Mana ada logik?

The PM is constantly in the limelight. Pictures of him are in the papers every day, not just on one page but several pages. Whether it's the removal of toll, the scrapping of the Public Service New Remuneration Scheme, the projects launched under the Economic Transformation Programme or the launch of the My First Home Scheme, it's the PM who makes the announcements. It is also the PM who offered his apologies for the mistakes his ruling party made during the last elections, although what these are he has yet to specify.

Shouldn't the respective Ministers be making announcements on behalf of their ministries? Our ministers hardly get their names or pictures in the media, and if they do, it's more often for the wrong reasons, like the Minister of Defence having to defend the fiasco of his multi-billion ringgit Scorpene submarine purchase. Or the soon-to-be former Minister of Women, Family and Community Development having to repeatedly deny that she has anything to do with the National Feedlot Corporation scandal.

The only other minister who is given some media exposure is the Deputy PM who is also the Education Minister. Unfortunately, his statements often reveal his lack of the Malaysian spirit or his ignorance about the status of English in the public exam system. By the way, can you name the Minister of Housing and Local Government? Or the Minister of Works? Or the Minister of Agriculture? Or the Minister of Foreign Affairs? ....I rest my case.

How do we know if they have done a good job if we don't know what they have done? What will their report card show at the end of their 5-year term in office? Will the people have confidence in them to vote them back for another four more years? The PM alone cannot ensure a win for the ruling party. It's about time his cabinet ministers reached out to the people and find out what they can do for the people in their constituency. Perhaps it's already too late.

The Malaysian Cabinet in 2009. Click here for the latest line-up, 

How many of the above ministers and deputy ministers have you read about in the papers since they were appointed in 2008? Look at the ministers again. Do they inspire confidence in their leadership? What are their academic or professional qualifications? How much experience do they have for their post? Does the BN cabinet stand for good governance? Several faces are no longer there today, and by the time you read this, Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat, will be history when her term ends on April 8. (Pix below: Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat.)

The Malaysian electorate has grown up since the last elections. Thanks to the alternative media and the new social media, we have become more critical and more aware of our rights as citizens. No longer will we listen to what our politicians say and embrace it as the gospel truth. We want to do our own research, we want to do our own thinking and analyzing of what we hear and read.

Come GE-13, we know which party to support, and who to vote for.