Saturday, June 30, 2012

BE PROUD OF YOUR AGE


Anyone can have fun, no matter how old

(This article was written in 2009. The message it carries still holds true. Let's be proud of our age, whether we are 50 or 80. Never mind if society thinks we are over the hill. It's more important what we think of ourselves. If we think we are 'useless', 'unproductive' and a 'burden' to the family and society, then we are. Time for a mindset change. Live life!)

My daughter, who will be celebrating her 40th birthday this May, passed me a magazine article a few days ago. It touched on the stigma of ageing. Why are women in particular so defensive about disclosing their age? Why do they pour so much money into futile attempts to stay forever young? Judging by the advertisements in men’s magazines, our male counterparts are feeling the same way too about turning back the clock.



Barbie turns 50 this year. If she were mortal like us....



Growing old is natural and inevitable. So why fight it or try to reverse it? That would be like trying to stem the tide. Age is just a number, and we should be proud to reveal our age. We should look at our wrinkles as life-lines of experience, and our greying hair as threads of wisdom.

Spend some time in the company of those 50 and above. Sooner or later, you will hear the all-too-familiar refrains of “Old already. Cannot study anymore. Cannot travel anymore. Cannot dance anymore. Cannot chew anymore. Cannot wear bright colours anymore....” No wonder young people see us as decrepit old fogies ready to crumble into dust or ashes any minute. That’s how many of us see ourselves too.

And it’s not just our age that we need to come to terms with. It’s also our status, or the lack of it. In social networking circles, why do we feel embarrassed, even ashamed to say we are retired? Since when has ‘retiree’ become a dirty word?

We can't stop growing old, but we don't have to BE old. We need to think outside THAT wooden box or we'll be six feet under sooner than we want to.

Add fun, friends, and fantasy to our lives. Spice it up with a dash of colour and romance. Dance in the rain, sing in the sunshine, enjoy the outdoors, see the world through the eyes of a child eager to discover and learn once more.

No need for expensive botox, hair treatment or facelifts. Throw away those anti-ageing, anti-wrinkles cream. Invest in joy, love, forgiveness, gratitude. Eat sensibly. Exercise regularly. Nourish your skin with moisturizers. Smile often. Have a hearty laugh every now and then. Make positive words a part of your daily vocabulary. Think good thoughts.

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others;
For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness;
And for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."

~ Audrey Hepburn ~

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CAN WE SAY 'NO' TO OUR HAWKER FOOD?


Malaysians and Singaporeans love to eat. No matter what time of day, we can always find a makan (food) place that stays open to feed us. The problem is our favourite food and drinks happen to be bad for our health. They are either too oily (mee goreng), too salty (bak kut teh) or too sweet (teh tarik). We don't care about calories because we have no clue how to figure that out.

But take heed, piling on those extra kilos of fat can lead to obesity. Obesity puts us at high risk of health-related complications, and top of the list is diabetes. In Malaysia. one in five adults has diabetes with 2.6 million cases recorded last year, according to figures from the Health Ministry.

Screen-shots from The Star (top) and Straits Times.

Older adults should take note. At our age we are physically less active. Once we have gained weight, it is a challenge to shed those extra kilos. The recommended daily intake for a sedentary person is between 2000 to 2500 calories. If we are eating way too much, it's time to seriously consider adopting healthy eating habits and a sensible diet that is right for our age.

Instead of issuing health warnings only to the general public, perhaps the Health Ministry should also consider educating our hawkers on healthy food preparation in addition to hygienic food handling. Mamak stall operators, for example, should be told to cut down on the oil for mee goreng and reduce the sugar and condensed milk for teh tarik. Not only will they be saving on costs, they will be saving lives too in the long run - our lives.

Here are some photos taken at the Healthy Cooking classes I have been attending for the past two months under the University of Third Age (U3A) programme for Malaysians aged 50 and above.



Healthy cooking involves using less oil, salt and sugar, substituting milk with yoghurt, white rice with brown rice and opting for healthy methods of cooking where possible like steaming or grilling instead of deep frying. Give it a try if you value your health, and your family's health too.


Monday, June 25, 2012

SUSTAINABLE RETIREMENT - A CHALLENGE FOR MANY

From today's papers. Can't read the small print? Read at Star Online.

If you are a retiree from the lower or middle income group, the biggest fear you probably have is not having enough funds to see you through your retirement. What compounds the fear is the knowledge that your retirement can last as long as 20 years! Throw in healthcare expenses and you feel like throwing in the towel on life itself.

For retirees who are single or without children, old age is viewed with more than just dread. When they can no longer fend for themselves financially and physically, who is there to offer support? Who can they depend on?

Boredom may be at the bottom of the list, but it can lead to depression and that can lead to health complications and higher healthcare costs. A vicious cycle that is difficult to get out of.

For those with children, don't be so sure your adult children will care for you. They may not have the financial means to do so, or they may not even be around, having migrated to greener pastures overseas. With filial piety on the wane, cases of adult children abandoning their elderly parents in hospitals and old folks home are on the rise.


To calculate how much you need for your retirement, click here.


Longevity is a bonus only when retirees have saved enough and prepared adequately for their sunset years.

Despite all these concerns, there is hope, and there are solutions. To quote the last paragraph of the letter above:

"The magic formula is to stay healthy, maintaining social support, keeping spiritual life and finances in order, and developing a daily routine that can help prevent stress after retirement." 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

TIME FOR A FEW LAUGHS



If you haven't seen these videos yet, I am re-posting them here. Hilarious. Enjoy!








Thursday, June 21, 2012

HOME ALONE - A NO-NO FOR THE ELDERLY

One of the biggest sources of anxiety for the sandwich generation is their elderly parents. If you are in your 60s, your parents would probably be in their 80s. If they are still active, independent and in good health, you can count yourself blessed. As long as your parents are together, they can look after each other. But what happens when one parent passes on? Is the surviving parent able to cope on her/his own?

If your elderly father is staying with you, who keeps an eye on him when both you and your husband are at work? What about career women who are single? Your mother is alone at home all day. Do you worry about leaving her by herself for so many hours every day?

This is a situation that many of us now face. What can we do about it? Let's look at some of the options out there, and why for many, there is no choice at all.

Option 1: Have your parent move in with you and your family.
Why not?
  • "Our house is too small, and there's no spare room for her."
  • "My dad refuses to move from his hometown. He wants to die there in his own house."
  • "My mother says she prefers to be where she is - in familiar surroundings and with her own friends."
Option 2: Get your single parent a live-in maid.
Why not?
  • "We can't afford it."
  • "My mother doesn't trust an outsider."
  • "What if the maid ill-treats my mother?"
Option 2: Put your parent in a decent home.
Why not?
  • "We can't afford it."
  • "People would say we are not filial."
  • "My father refuses to live in a nursing home."
For many adult children, there seems to be no easy solution. So the elderly parent continues to live alone, and the family members are stressed out worrying about whether mom is ok when they call and no one picks up the phone. 

There are so many things to worry about when mom lives alone. Did she remember to take her medication? What if she fell and lost consciousness, or had a heart attack? What if she forgot to turn off the gas stove, or lock the front door?


Or worse, what if there is a break-in, and mom is hurt? These are very real concerns.

It is heartening to know that NGOs are coming up with workable solutions. The Befrienders of Singapore, for example, conduct regular house calls to make sure that elderly residents are fine. There are also community groups comprising neighbours and fellow residents in government housing areas who drop by to see if the elderly need anything. 

Not everyone can afford these services.
You can check out Love-On-Wheels, a mobile healthcare service provider at http://www.loveonwheelshealthcare.com/

In Singapore and Malaysia there are mobile or home-care services that offer nursing care for a fee depending on the level of care rendered.

Ultimately, it is an individual decision. Each family has to decide what to do with mom or dad. But just remember the price to pay should anything disastrous happen to your parent who lives alone.

One day it will be our turn to make our adult children worry about us. What will our decision be then? Will we have control over where we want to spend the rest of our lives?

My 86-year old mother is in a special home for dementia care. She is very happy there, and never fails to invite her visitors to 'stay there'. It's a long story how she ended up at the home. I shall write more about this in another blog post.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

AGE IS REALLY JUST A NUMBER FOR THE WORLD'S OLDEST FEMALE BODY BUILDER



Amazing woman, this Ernestine Sheperd. Last year at 74, she made it to the Guinness Book of Records by winning the title of the world's oldest woman body builder.

She started exercising in her mid-50s and participated in her first body-building contest at the age of 71! She wakes up every day at 02:30 to fit in a 10 mile (16km) run before hitting the gym.

Still strikingly beautiful at 75.
Her 1,700-calorie daily diet consists of egg whites in the morning, vegetables, chicken and brown rice. She claims that this regime has helped her with depression, high blood pressure, panic attacks, and acid reflux -- all of which she suffered from in her mid 50s.

"I plan to keep doing bodybuilding shows," she says. "There's no reason you can't be 80, and strutting your stuff." She is a huge fan of Michelle Obama, and not surprisingly, of Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movies.

"I really want to meet Sylvester Stallone," Shepherd says. "Those training sequences in those Rocky films you can't help but think about when you're working out."

In addition to working as a personal trainer, Shepherd leads exercise classes for seniors at the Union Memorial United Methodist Church in Baltimore.

Read more about Ernestine at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/ernestine-shepherd-oldest_n_1587021.html


Sunday, June 17, 2012

SMART TIPS FOR A FINANCIALLY SECURE RETIREMENT

Two hours packed with tips and advice on how to stretch our ringgit, reduce our debts and ensure a financially comfortable retirement. That was what Ms Koid Swee Lian, CEO of AKPK (Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit - fully funded by Bank Negara), shared with our group of seniors this morning (Sat 16 June).

Ms Koid and her team had gone the extra mile  to conduct this special presentation to address the specific financial concerns of those aged 50 and above. Our seniors also shared their personal stories so that others could avoid the costly mistakes they had made. It was a two-way channel of learning and sharing. We gave AKPK an insight into some of the very real financial problems that seniors face.


A captive audience listening to sound advice on money management from Ms Koid.

What should we do if we feel we have been cheated? How do we make a complaint? What does it take to be declared a bankrupt? Is it prudent to pay only the minimum amount of your credit card expenses? Government vs private hospitals - which one should we opt for?


All these questions and more were raised at the session. Having served in senior positions in banking, insurance and law with Bank Negara since 1981, Ms Koid was the right person to offer expert advice to our seniors.

For more details, I highly recommend you get hold of this little gem of a book "Money $ense". Only RM5. Our group received complimentary copies.

Plenty of useful tips in these booklets. 

If you need advice on managing your debts, do drop by at AKPK. They provide free one-to-one personal counselling to help you work out your debt repayment. AKPK is located on Level 8, Maju Junction Mall, Jalan Sultan Ismail, KL. They are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.30pm. Call toll free 1-800-88-AKPK.

You can also check out AKPK website at http://www.akpk.org.my/. It is content-rich with free downloads of documents e.g. the Self-Help Guide for Debt Relief Plan. It has everything you need to reduce your debts, including a debt relief flow-chart and steps on how to negotiate directly with lenders on debt repayment proposals.

For the benefit of those who did not attend Ms Koid's talk:




How would you know if you need financial counseling? Here are some telltale signs.


One for AKPK album, and for SeniorsAloud blog.

A BIG thank you to the following people who enlightened us on financial prudence and took such good care of us, including feeding us! You made our visit to AKPK such a memorable one.

Koid Swee Lian (CEO), 
Khalil Jamaldin (Manager, Corporate Communication), 
Azman Hasim (GM, Operations), 
Nor Fazleen Zakaria, (GM, Corporate Services)
Noor Hamiza Muswan (Financial Education Dept)


To join our SeniorsAloud community and be informed of our activities, email us at seniorsaloud@gmail.com. State your full name and contact number. No membership fees, ID number or address needed for joining. So easy, so simple. And 'LIKE' us on our Facebook page. Thanks! :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

AN EXTRA FIVE YEARS TO GROW OUR GOLDEN NEST EGG

Front page of the Malay Mail today (14 June 2012)

A bit too late for me, but good news for those about to reach the current retirement age of 55 for the private sector. An extra five years can mean additional money for our golden nest. With the ever spiraling cost of living eating into our limited retirement savings, every ringgit counts.

Our generation of baby boomers (those born between 1946-1964) are enjoying longer life expectancy, with 76 years the average for Malaysians. It is ridiculous to retire employees when they reach 55. How are they going to support themselves for the next 20 years or more? How many of us would have at least RM1 million in our EPF at age 55? That's the minimum we would need to continue maintaining our current lifestyle after retirement. Those who withdraw all their EPF savings in one lump sum will use it all up within three years. These are statistics released by EPF based on surveys they have conducted.

From a slide presentation given in June 2010 by EPF's general manager. The figures have probably gone up since then given the escalating cost of living.


Older workers, both professionals and blue collar employees face age discrimination. If you are retrenched or retired, the odds are against you when it comes to re-employment. That is why many use their retirement savings to start their own business and become self-employed.

However, not everyone is in favour of raising the retirement age. There are older folks who can't wait to withdraw all their EPF money for whatever personal reasons. After all, it is their hard-earned money and they have a right to do whatever they want with it. They don't want to wait another five years to be able to do so.

There are also the younger work force who argue that retaining older staff means depriving them of career advancement opportunities. Think of it this way. Wouldn't they want their parents to be financially independent for as long as possible?

We can look at the issue from all angles, but in the end, the pros of raising the retirement age far outweigh the cons. This issue has been covered numerous times on this blog. Here is a sampling - click on the links to read.

Related articles:

A Daily Struggle To Survive
Can We Afford To Retire?
Not Ready To Be Put Out To Pasture
In Praise of Older Workers

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A RETIREMENT RESORT TO CALL OUR OWN


This article first appeared in The Sunday Times June 8, 2012. In case you missed it, here are excerpts that might interest you. You can read the full article at http://www.nst.com.my/life-times/sunday-life-times/club-med-for-oldies-1.92784

‘Club Med’ for oldies 

By Aneeta Sundararaj | features@nst.com.my 

THE four-bedroom apartment in the Green Leaf Retirement Resort Community is stunning. Located in the rapidly growing “Sepang Gold Coast”, the master bedroom looks out into the Straits of Malacca. Use the complementary iPad to surf the Internet or prepare your meals in a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Wait a minute. Something’s amiss. This resort doesn’t exist. Yet, it won the Best Retirement Development — Malaysia and Best Retirement Development — Asia Pacific Region awards at the recent 2012 International Property Awards. Furthermore, Raphael Yap, 68, managing director of Gracious Homes Sdn Bhd, says that in December, it will compete for the title of overall Best International Retirement Development in London.


"There are people my age. They’ve worked all their lives and never developed a hobby. So, when they retire, they don’t know what to do with their time. Also, they think that retirement consists of two stages: you’re either living independently or having nursing care (where they’re immobile). They don’t see the stage in between — where a person is not as mobile as he is but he is not bed-ridden either. This could last between 20 and 30 years. It’s these people I’m looking at. I want them to come and interact with people who have similar interests.”

With a twinkle in his eyes, he says, “I’ve always liked Club-Med. So I’m going to build a Club-Med for Oldies.” It is not a wonder then that the Green Leaf Retirement Resort Community is the sum total of experiences, knowledge and resources that Yap has gathered over a lifetime.

Although altruism plays a big role in what Yap is doing, this is a project that he will benefit from as well: “There isn’t a place in this part of the world for me to go to. I need it myself. My friends need it. Society needs it.” It’s certainly tempting.

From idea to award

Bearing these in mind, the concept for his development combines real-estate, hospitality and health care. The first component is a Destination Resort. “I wanted to move away from the taboo that comes with using the word ‘old folk’s home’. There’s stigma attached to that and people think of it as a place where old people get exiled to and are abandoned. A resort is always a place where people love to go,” Yap elaborates .

Component number two is Ageing-in-Place, which ties in with Yap’s vision that the development should be a place “where you are empowered to age with grace and dignity within a supportive community”.

“My friends say that when they were working, they told people what to do. Now, everyone tells them what to do. Even the maid will tell them what to eat. They had control and now they’ve lost it. We’re also not the kind of place that will allow you to stay then call your family to take you when you need nursing care. I want those who come to us to stay until the end,” explains Yap.

Finally, “to cater to the Asian mentality that we must leave something to our heirs, buying into this development,” Yap says, “is a safe investment in real estate”.

The kind of retirement lifestyle that we all dream of ... But obviously only for those with the means to turn their dream into reality.

The core components aside, there are other little facets of this development that make it unique. For instance, it is also visitor-friendly.

“You know how we Asians will invite family for dinner, then say, ‘Why don’t you stay here the night?’ It’s rare for children to just come for dinner then leave.” This is why even the smallest unit has two bedrooms.

Moving on to the next award -  the Best International Retirement Development award?

The submission for the International Property Awards was made at the last minute. With such care and attention to details, coupled with maintaining the purity of the concept throughout the 10-year-planning process, it’s easy to understand why Green Leaf Retirement Resort Community won the Best Retirement Development for Malaysia and the Asia Pacific Region.

Whatever the outcome of the overall competition in December, Yap is looking forward to ‘realising’ his idea in three years as the Green Leaf Retirement Resort Community is on the verge of being built. And Yap insists, “We’re different. I don’t say, ‘Here. We have an apartment to sell to you.’ I’m asking you to ‘Come join us’.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

SENIORSALOUD COMMUNITY - ABOUT US


SeniorsAloud is in the news again, this time in the latest quarterly issue of PASSAGE - the premium magazine for seniors in Malaysia. Lots of great stuff inside specially targeted at older adults. If you are curious to check out PASSAGE,you can pick up a copy at major bookstores. I got mine at Kinokuniya, KLCC for RM15.

Here are some excerpts from the article on SeniorsAloud community.

Hope this explains how SeniorsAloud community came into being. 

“The biggest concern for many seniors is financial. In Malaysia the average life span has increased to 75. But the retirement age in the private sector remains at a young 55. How can retirees continue to be financially self-supporting for the next 20 years? How can they stretch their ringgit? What are the options available to grow their savings? It was with this in mind that we decided to kick-start our 2012 program with a half-day seminar to address these financial issues.

The inaugural event on 16 February saw 60 seniors packing the venue to listen to a series of talks on the theme “How to Grow Your Golden Nest Egg”. Author and financial coach Carol Yip, offered the participants useful tips on how to manage their money; Francis Padamadan, Director of Operations at Kelly Services spoke on the challenges facing older workers seeking employment, and MD of D’Tandoor International Group of Restaurants, Abdul Malik Abdullah, shared his entrepreneurial expertise on the ABCs of starting your own business.

“The turnout was beyond our expectations. We had to close registration a week before the event due to limited seating capacity, says Fu. “The feedback we received was most encouraging. The participants are eagerly awaiting the next seminar which will be held in April."


Join our SeniorsAloud Community. Just go to our Facebook page and 'LIKE' us. So easy. No fees to pay. The only condition is you must be 50 years and above. But even that isn't a hard and fast rule.
Footnote: Since the above inaugural event, SeniorsAloud has also organized the hugely successful "Social Media for Seniors" last April. Coming up is a free talk on "Smart Money Management for a Stress-Free Retirement" on Saturday 16 June. (See below for more details.)

In July our SeniorsAloud lifelong learning series will continue with a seminar on "RETIRE HEALTHY AND HAPPY". We have invited specialist doctors to share their expert advice on how to maintain good health and embrace the joie de vivre (joy of living). Details will be announced soon.

All SeniorsAloud events are organized by SeniorsAloud Consultancy, a not-for-profit registered social enterprise. Sponsored events are free. For those that are not, a small fee applies to cover organizational costs. Any nett proceeds are donated to charity.

If you have any seniors-related queries, you can email seniorsaloud@gmail.com or leave a message on SeniorsAloud Facebook page. We will do our best to provide the information you need.



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN - THE SINGAPORE MEMORY PROJECT

This book is a treasure trove of pictures that tell of a time passed but not forgotten.

One topic that invariably crops up whenever old friends get together is life in the good old days. The pranks we played in school, our teenage infatuations, childhood heroes, favorite songs, best foods - all these are now distant memories of an era when life was simple yet fun, and the expression "no time - too busy" was unheard of.

The man on the left shows the best sitting position to enjoy your cup of kopi kau (thick black coffee) or your favorite bowl of Teochew porridge. Note the spittoon under the table. (Photo credit: Singapore National Museum)
The original kopitiam - undoubtedly a man's domain 
(Photo credit: Singapore National Museum)
Remember these vinyl 33rpm records? They were breakable and would warp if left in the heat. (Photo credit: Singapore National Museum)

I thank my good fortune that I managed to get a copy of "Vintage Singapore" last year. I am not sure if it is still in print. It was first published in 2006 by Editions Didier Millet Pte Ltd. If you would like to order a copy, try contacting the publishers at their website at http://www.edmbooks.com/

I share this book with my mother who has Alzheimer's in the hope that it will trigger some memory recall as she pores over these pictures of a bygone era.

You can access all these memories of the past in images and articles at this link:
http://www.singaporememory.sg/

Alternatively, you can check out Singapore Memory Project (SMP). To quote from the website, SMP is "a national initiative started in 2011 to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials, so as to tell the Singapore Story. It aims to build a national collection of content and preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research. The SMP aims to collect 5 million personal memories as well as a substantial number of published materials on Singapore by 2015.

How the project began. Read more at http://www.iremember.sg/   


What a brilliant idea to preserve the past! To date, 112,684 memories have been added, and more coming in even as I write.

One more link to share with you. If you enjoy western country music, and old photos that will definitely put a smile on your face, click here for an interview with Matthew Tan, Singapore's 'one and only bona fide cowboy'. And if you want to sing along, the lyrics are in the Youtube video below.

Click on http://www.singaporememory.sg/showcases/22/contents to listen to Matthew share about the early days before he hit the limelight with "Singapore Cowboy".



Enjoy happy hours browsing the websites.