Tuesday, July 31, 2012

THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE'S VOICE

Front page of The Star 31 July 2012

It's not often that the mainstream media feature headlines that brighten up the rakyat's (citizens) day. Today's front page of The Star is one such example, and a cause to celebrate especially for the residents of Taiping. More than 10,000 of them signed a petition to protest against the setting up of fast food and handicraft kiosks that would have marred the tranquil beauty of the iconic Taiping Lake Gardens and threatened the existence of the century-old raintrees.

Front page of The Malay Mail 30 July 2012

Yesterday's front page of the Malay Mail is another example of the power of the rakyat's voice. When the PM launched this year's National Day theme - Janji Ditepati" (Promises Fulfilled), my immediate reaction was "OMG, the BN (ruling political party) has hijacked the National Day celebrations, and is forcing their election campaigning down the throats of the people!"

Singapore's Straits Times 

In the weeks that followed, the shock waves grew louder and angrier, extending to beyond the shores of the country. A few days ago the unveiling of the National Day logo also drew the same incredulous reaction from the people.

The rising criticism and anger left the government with no choice but to withdraw the logo and issue a statement to the effect that there will be no 'official logo' for this year's National Day theme. The people have won!

No end to splashing out money and vouchers to make the rakyat happy. Only shallow minds would think that that is all it takes to win votes. The government should give us more credit than that.
Could this video go on record as receiving the most dislikes on Youtube?

If the government thinks the people are a bunch of gullible fools who will accept without murmur anything the government says or does, it's time it took a course on PEOPLE POWER 101. The people have also learned to harness the sweeping reach of social media to express their displeasure. The latest example - the number of 'DISLIKE' for the Youtube video featuring the National Day song. The latest total will have probably reached over 20,000 by the time you click on the video below to view.



Watch the video for yourself and see if you can find anything that is honest and unscripted.

There was a time when the rakyat would listen to the government and accept everything they were told without question or dissent, or face being detained under the ISA (Internal Security Act which has since been abolished). This is no longer true today. The government should learn that it would be made a laughing stock if it chose to ignore the voice of the people.

The people have spoken as we have seen in the Bersih demonstrations, and they will speak again in the coming elections.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE, RIGHT ON!



Friday, July 27, 2012

A HOME SWEET HOME FOR MY MOM

Take note of the address and contact number. Not many people know of this centre. It's about 45-60 minutes drive from  KL/PJ.

Ever since I wrote in an earlier post that my mother has dementia and is currently staying in a home-care centre specially catering for folks with dementia, I have received many requests for more information on the place.

I hope the pictures below as well as my comments will provide some answers to the frequently asked questions about the home. For more about dementia or Alzheimer's, just type either word in the search box in the side column. I have done a lot of research on the topic and am happy to share with those who are interested. Happy reading!

A view of the centre from the outside. Well-kept garden, fresh air, peace and quiet and the sound of running water from the fountain to the left (not in view). There is a pre-school in the same compound. I think it's great to have the bookend generations sharing space. The sight and sound of children helps to liven up the place.
Spacious, clean, bright and well-ventilated. Such conditions are almost non-existent in most care centres that I have visited.
Some of the residents having lunch. Through the windows, you can catch a glimpse of the dragon fruit orchard at the back of the centre. There is also a swiftlet farm in the same back compound. Most of the residents are able to feed themselves and move around on their own.
The dormitory with six beds and two attached bathrooms. Rooms with two beds and three beds are also available as well as single rooms. All rooms have attached bathrooms and toilets. I have seen centres where as many as 20 beds are crammed into a similar-sized room, with barely two feet of space separating the beds.
There are different activities on weekends which are also the days when family members usually visit. They are encouraged to make regular visits to the centre and spend time with their parent.
One reason why I chose this home-care centre for my mom is the structured programme of daily activities to stimulate the mind and keep the residents occupied. It's like going back to kindergarten for them. They learn the 3Rs all over again to help boost their memory. In most homes, the residents are left to themselves to do their own thing. Most end up either lying in bed all the time or starring blankly into space. How utterly depressing!
Jigsaw puzzles, card games and many more. Going through a second childhood for the residents.
An hour of singing the oldies and playing percussion before lunch. Not everyone is into singing, but everyone tries. The residents are encouraged to participate in all the activities. No one is forced to do anything against their will.
The daily menu. My mom has a very healthy appetite. She enjoys every meal at the centre.
Morning exercises to improve flexibility and balance. The staff are all trained nurses. Staff to resident ratio is 1:2.
Members of the Philharmonic Orchestra performing at the centre in May. Special events are organized for the residents. The Alzheimer's Disease Foundation of Malaysia (ADFM) is organizing an overnight trip to Genting Highlands for the residents and their carers from 12-13 October in conjunction with World Alzheimer's Day. (See poster below for more details).
My 86-year old mom with Angela Lee who manages the centre. Angela holds a degree in Nursing Science and was a lecturer at a nursing college before she took up her current post. She is pursuing her Masters on a part-time basis. I personally find Angela very knowledgeable, experienced, and caring - important attributes for anyone looking after the elderly.
Me and my mom. I try to visit as often as I can. I am glad I have found a place for my mom that she is happy with. I must have checked out a dozen or more homes before my search led me first to the Alzheimer's Daycare Centre in PJ . My mom was there for three months before she moved to the Dementia Homecare Centre in Telok Panglima Garang in September 2011. Both homes are run by the Alzheimer's Disease Foundation of Malaysia (ADFM). Please click on the links for more about the daycare centre in Section 11, PJ.

Admission to either centre is strict. You need a doctor's referral, preferably from a geriatrician who will have to verify that your parent does have dementia or Alzheimer's. This is done through a series of cognitive tests. My mother was seen by Dr Philip Poi of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre. She was examined and put through tests at the Memory Clinic and diagnosed as having signs of Alzheimer's Disease. 

If you wish to know more, please contact the centres directly or email me at seniorsaloud@gmail.com


Click here for details of the above seminar/workshop.

Related article:

Am I just forgetful or do I have dementia? 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

THE UGLY MALAYSIANS - ARE WE AMONG THEM?

I have seen a woman removing some strawberries from a packet, and replacing them with fresher ones from another packet. She had to open two packets in order to make the swap.
Courtesy is not a way of life for many Malaysians. Have they not heard of the Golden Rule? "Do not do to others what you don't want others to do to you." (Screen shots from The Star.)

These bad habits of ugly Malaysians were on the front page of The Star for two straight days. A timely reminder for us to look at ourselves and ask if we are among the counted. It's easy to point fingers at others who annoy us with their lack of civic-consciousness. If no one is perfect, we are probably guilty of at least one or two bad habits, if not more.

Here are more shameful acts of Malaysians who give our country a bad name.

Vandalism - A phone kiosk with no phone but plenty of garbage, and stickers on any available space like trees, lamp-posts and bus stops. Wiring exposed on street lights.

Ugly sight. This entire drain is filled almost to the brim with thick sludge.  It was finally cleared after persistent complaints. Uncaring passers-by throw garbage into the drains. Irresponsible restaurants in the area empty their leftovers into the drains as well.
What I find annoying is the impatience of most Malaysian commuters. They rush into the lrt trains to get seats blocking passengers from getting out. So kiasu! (afraid of losing out).


Taxi drivers blatantly flout the sign on their taxis at tourist spots. Try asking for a receipt, and you will likely get the answer "Meter spoilt". I feel bad for all the foreigners who have been fleeced by unscrupulous taxi drivers who overcharge and do not use the meter.


Bus drivers who hog the road preventing taxis from leaving with their passengers. Meanwhile the meter is running as you sit and wait for the bus to move off before the taxi can move off.
Add Kelana Jaya LRT station to this list. None of the taxi drivers there use the meter. It's a conspiracy to exploit their passengers who often have no choice but to accept the charges. 


As you can see, my biggest grouse is with taxi drivers and commuters who lack basic civic-mindedness and simple courtesy. I have to deal with such people on a daily basis as I depend on public transport to get around.

Before we point an accusing finger at all these ugly Malaysians, perhaps we should examine ourselves first. It's time for an introspection. We can all strive to make our city, our country, a better place to live in. Let's not give visitors a chance to label us 'Ugly Malaysians". 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

WHY IT MAKES SENSE TO LEAVE YOUR MONEY IN THE EPF

While awaiting the EPF Act 1991 to be amended which will likely take three to five years, contributors can still withdraw the full sum at the old retirement age of 55.


When the government raised the retirement age for the private sector from 55 to 60, contributors to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) were concerned about whether they would have to wait an extra five years before they could withdraw their EPF savings in full.

Based on views expressed in the media, many are unhappy with the government's proposal to amend the EPF Act of 1991 to allow only partial withdrawal of EPF savings at the age of 55, and full withdrawal at 60.

There are contributors who are happy they can now work longer and accumulate more savings in the EPF. There are also those who have retired and are content to leave their EPF funds intact until such a time when their EPF savings no longer earn interest. Last year a 6% dividend was paid out to EPF contributors. That is way more than the interest paid by banks.

Would you get this much if you saved with a bank? Makes sense to leave your money in the EPF for as long as possible. It's risk-free as by law contributors are guaranteed of a minimum return of 2% .


On the other hand, public opinion seems to be in favour of lump sum EPF withdrawal at 55. Some of the reasons cited by EPF contributors include the pressing need to:

  • clear their debts and housing mortgage
  • pay for their elderly parents' medical treatment
  • start a small business
  • invest in shares, business ventures
  • renovate the family house
  • upgrade to a better car
  • finance their children's post-graduate studies
  • contribute towards their children's wedding expenses
  • help their children with the down payment on their first home

Our EPF contributions make up our retirement nest egg . Will we have enough to retire on for the next 15 years or more, given that the average life span of Malaysians is now 75? If we withdraw our savings and spend some of it on any of the reasons listed above, how much is left for us to live on?

Adult children should not take for granted that Mom and Dad will help them with their debts and financial commitments. They should remember that Mom and Dad may have no other income to draw on, and they may still have Grandma and Grandpa to support.



As for using EPF funds to start a business, conventional wisdom says "Don't do it!". Without the essential business know-how and with age against them, retirees are likely to end up losing every single ringgit they have invested in the business venture. Only a handful will succeed in business after retirement, regardless of what wealth gurus may tell them.

To many new retirees used to drawing a 4-figure salary, suddenly having their hands on hundreds of thousands of ringgit makes them feel rich and reckless. Prudence goes out the window, with frugality hot on the heels. No wonder all their retirement savings are gone long before they themselves are gone!


Remember, EPF savings are for our old age.


If you think you can manage your EPF money wisely and even make it grow, by all means take out every sen from the EPF. But if you don't have a good track record of money management, or are adverse to risk, hold off touching your retirement nest egg till you are fully retired. Many retirees seek a second career and continue working till 65 or even 70. Your EPF savings are meant for your old age, in case there's no one to look after you and your needs. Sustain yourself on other sources of funds, including drawing from your bank accounts, interest from FDs, or dividends from shares and unit trusts. If you don't have enough saved, you have little choice but to work for as long as you are able to.

Welcome to the harsh reality of retirement. The truth bites!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

TAPPING INTO DIVINE ENERGY TO HEAL OURSELVES

Pardon my ignorance, but I had never heard of Bruno Groening till I read Dr Amir Farid Ishak's column in the Star over breakfast this morning. I was intrigued by the story of this man who had the power to heal people without any medication. Thousands would flock to his mass healings where he would teach them how they could heal themselves by tapping into the divine energy that was present everywhere. He called this "heilstrom" or the healing energy from God.

His healings have been medically verified and documented. You can listen to some of these testimonials in a documentary on his life and work. The Circle of Friends, a group set up in 1979, 20 years after Groening's death, organizes free talks to practice and spread his teachings around the world.



Groening died of stomach cancer in 1959. I am puzzled though as to why he wasn't able to turn his healing powers on himself. I found the answer in another article about his final days. Do read. A truly incredible story.

Before you dismiss Groening as another charlatan or shaman, you might want to also read Dr Amir's article. It gives a detailed background of Groening's life and teachings. A Google search of my own revealed more fascinating details about this spiritual healer. Below are the links and videos that I have checked out.



If your interest goes beyond just reading and viewing videos of Groening and his teachings, there is a free introductory talk given by the Circle of Friends right here in Kuala Lumpur.

Date: Saturday 11 August, 7 pm; Sunday 12 August, 11 am, 2.00pm and 5.00pm
Venue: PMCC International Sdn Bhd, Unit 17-3A, 3rd Mile Square, 151, Jln Klang Lama, KL
To register, email gtenberg@asiamail.com

If you would like to get an idea of what the talk is about, you may want to read this first and then decide if you want to attend the talk. It might not be everyone's cup of tea.

For more about Bruno Groening, please visit http://www.bruno-groening.org/english/

Saturday, July 21, 2012

MANAGING YOUR MONEY: REDUCING YOUR ELECTRICITY BILLS

Keeping expenses under control is one big concern for retirees and pensioners. For many households, the electricity bill remains the biggest item on their monthly expenses.

Fortunately, there are smart ways to minimize your home electricity usage without compromising on your comfort. Does leaving your desktop computer and TV on standby mode add to your electricity charges, or does it make little difference? What electrical appliances consume the most electricity? The air-conditioner or the refrigerator?



You can find the answers and much more at this website. Check out how to reduce your electricity consumption, do your own calculation of the bill, and find out about safety tips..



Lots of useful information, so do browse and apply. Not only will you be reducing your electricity bills, you will be helping to reduce energy consumption and contribute towards protecting our environment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

WHEN THE DEAD CAN SAVE THE LIVING


When I first saw this page in the papers early this month, I had wondered about it the whole day. It was the first time I had come across such an announcement. The following day The Star's report shed some light on what the ceremony was all about.

'Silent Mentors' is the term given to people who have donated their bodies for medical training and research. This is different from organ donors, living or dead. These cadavers are used for a 3-day workshop at the Minimally Invasive Laparo-Endoscopic Surgery (MILES) training centre at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, after which they will be cremated and the ashes interred in a special memorial site at the Nilai Memorial Park.

From The Star, 5 July 2012

At this first memorial ceremony, doctors and students expressed their gratitude to cancer patients, Lim Kian, 67, and Low Siew Yeok, 47 for donating their bodies, and also to their families for giving their consent.

Increased awareness of organ donations to save lives has led to more Malaysians pledging to donate their organs after death. Last year 27,205 did so - a jump of 37% from the previous year. However, the number of cadaver donors remain small - only 38 in 2010 and 47 in 2011.

In many cultures the belief that there is life after death albeit in another realm has discouraged organ donation, especially among the Chinese. There are cases where the family refused to honor the pledge of the deceased to donate his organs. They cannot accept the thought of their loved one living on in the after-world missing an organ or two. The body must be whole and intact.

Many of these graves at Bukit Brown in Singapore will have to make way for new roads and housing projects.

Times have changed. Cremation is the order of the day when death strikes. In land-scarce Singapore, burial grounds are being dug up for developmental purposes. The dead and the living are fighting for limited land, with the former losing out in this relentless march of 'progress'.

That being the case, it's time for us to rethink how we want to leave when our time comes. If we can't leave a legacy, the next best thing is to leave our body or our organs so that others have a chance to live.

Age isn't a barrier. There are octogenarians who are still fit and in robust health. Neither should disease pose a problem. MILES accepts cadavers of cancer patients.

My donor registration card. I have pledged my heart, kidney and lungs and have informed my children to honor my pledge. That's before I knew about cadaveric donation.

We have no further use for our body when we die, neither do our family members. But others may have a need for it to survive or to enjoy a better quality of life.

If you would like to pledge your organs, or just want more information, contact The National Transplant Resource Centre at 1-800-88-9080 (http://www.agiftoflife.gov.my/register.php). You can also register with the Malaysian Society of Transplantation at http://www.mst.org.my/

To find out more about body donation, contact MILES at 03-7949 2677 or 019 282 6608. You can also email ummc.miles@gmail.com or siate019@yahoo.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

THE LONGEVITY PROJECT - AN 80-YEAR LANDMARK STUDY ON WHO LIVES LONGEST AND WHY

Two more books to add to my burgeoning home library on retirement and longevity.

The high point of my day today must surely be the purchase of these two books: "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" (HRHWF) by Ernie J. Zelinski, and "The Longevity Project" (TLP) by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin.

I had never heard of TLP till a few days ago while researching online for an article I was writing. This was one book I was determined to get my hands on. I thought I would try my luck at my favorite bookstore Kinokuniya at KLCC. Imagine my excitement when the sales assistant told me there was one copy available.

Finding HRHWF on the book shelf as well was a bonus. I borrowed a copy from the National Library of Singapore last year. I had to renew it an extra three weeks so I could make notes from it. So much great stuff between the covers. Two gems of a find in a local bookstore. Unbelievable.

If I could get a copy of the video, I would love to share it in a special screening for SeniorsAloud community.

I haven't finished reading TLP yet, but I'll tell you what first got me interested in the book. There are probably hundreds of books on longevity, but none can claim to be based on an 80-year study. The project began way back in September 1921, when Stanford University psychologist,Dr Lewis Terman, embarked on a study of 1500 gifted children, aged around 10, to see if intellectual leadership could be identified early.

Dr Terman died in 1956, but other researchers carried on with the project. What began as a study in psychology culminated in an eight-decade study on longevity. In 1990, when Dr Friedman and Dr Martin began their work on the project, many of the respondents had passed on, but many continued to live to a ripe old age. As the lives (and deaths) of these men and women were meticulously documented, Dr Friedman and Dr Martin were able to apply scientific methods to construct a series of studies to find out whether there was any correlation between health (and longevity) and personalities traits, social relations and behaviors. The findings are surprising and contradict some long-standing beliefs about why some people die young while others live to the 90s and beyond.




I don't mind plugging their book if it empowers us with the knowledge and tools to live a long and healthy life. 

I shall share more in a later post. In the meantime,this excerpt from the book published in The New York Times will provide readers with some interesting background on The Longevity Project.

You can also follow the conversations on The Longevity Project Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/TheLongevityProject 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

ASSISTED LIVING IN OUR OLD AGE - WHAT IS IT LIKE?

Straits Times 14 July

This article appeared in The Straits Times today. It is well worth a read. As ST allows online access only to subscribers, I am posting the link to the Washington Post which published the article on 10 July.

The article is written by Martin Bayne. Stricken by Parkinson's, he had to move into an assisted living home when he was 53. He writes about what it is like to spend his days among people so much older than he is, and to see them dying off one by one.

The article has received more than 500 comments. Do read some of them.

"People my age — I’m now 62 — might go to an assisted living facility every now and then to visit an older family member. But few people in my age group actually live in an assisted living facility. I do.
Illustration from the Washington Post
Eight years ago, in a wheelchair and after nearly a decade of living at home with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, I decided to move into an assisted living facility. I knew what my decision meant. I’d be moving into a place where the average resident was 32 years older than I was, and the average levels of disability, depression, dementia and death were dramatically higher than in the general population.
What I hadn’t calculated was what it’s like to watch a friend — someone you’ve eaten breakfast with every morning for several years — waste away and die. And just as you’re recovering from that friend’s death, another friend begins to waste away. I can say with certainty that the prospect of watching dozens (at my young age, perhaps hundreds) of my friends and neighbors in assisted living die is a sadness beyond words."
(To read the full article, click on the title below.)
A man depicts the often grim atmosphere in assisted living facilities 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

HOW POPULATION CONTROL IMPACTS ELDER CARE

What happens when laws are passed to slow down population growth in a country? What are the repercussions when people are forced to keep their families small?

China introduced the one-child policy in 1979 in an attempt to control its burgeoning population. The policy has led to forced sterilization and even late-term abortions. A recent case involved Feng Jianmei who was forced to abort when she was seven months pregnant because she and her husband could not pay the fine for breaking the country's strict birth control policy.

Singapore also implemented population control measures in the early 1980s with its stop-at-two policy. Hefty fines were imposed on couples having more than two children. Other disincentives included no paid maternity leave for third and subsequent children, progressively higher delivery charges for each additional birth, and income tax relief only for the first two children.

Based on CIA World Factbook

Now more than three decades later, these countries are facing the dire consequences of their demographic engineering. In Singapore, the government is grappling with problems brought on by years of declining birth rate. It has relaxed its stop-at-two policy, and is offering a host of attractive incentives for large families. So far attempts to raise the birth rate have met with limited success. The birthrate continues to remain low at just over 1 per cent.

What implications does this demographic tweaking have on parents affected by such policies?

In China, for example, who will take care of the elderly parents if their one child dies before them or is unable or unwilling to support them in their old age?

According to the Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, China already had 14 percent fewer people in their 20s compared with a decade ago. In the next 20 years, their numbers will dwindle an additional 17 percent, while the share of China’s population that is 65 and older is projected to double to 16 percent. By 2050, nearly one in four Chinese will be elderly, according to United Nations projections.

In Singapore as in China, a low birth rate translates into a smaller labour force, which in turn, affects national economic growth. In fact, the labour force has started to shrink. The country has been importing foreign labour on an unprecedented scale, much to the consternation of the local citizens. One only has to take a ride on the MRT to notice that foreigners now outnumber Singaporeans, at least on the trains.

In both countries, the 1-2 child culture is so ingrained in the Chinese populace that it is an uphill struggle for the government to encourage couples to have more children.