Friday, November 29, 2013

SEEING THE DOCTOR IN SINGAPORE

Late last Saturday night while crossing the road to Clarke Quay to check out some live music at Crazy Elephant, I stumbled and sprained my ankle. That effectively put me out of action for the next 2-3 days of my week-long stay in Singapore. I suppose it was my body's way of telling me 'Hey, slow down a little. You have been running around too much, and doing too many things."

By early Sunday morning, my right ankle was swollen, and the entire foot had taken on an ugly shade of blue-black. My daughter took me to see her family GP nearby. The doctor-patient session didn't get off to a good start. My cheery "Good morning!" wasn't reciprocated. Throughout the entire 15 or so minutes in the examination room, the doctor never once smiled.

Perhaps we had got off on a wrong foot (no pun intended). He suggested I go for an X-ray at Raffles Hospital. I was hesitant, as I knew from a similar fall some years back that an x-ray probably wasn't necessary. In that previous fall, the pain was immediately excruciating and I couldn't even get up on my feet. This fall, however, was different. I could still limp over to Crazy Elephant, and tap my feet to the music for two solid hours!

I wasn't keen on paying for an x-ray that would only confirm what I already knew - that I had not fractured any bone in my foot. The doctor probably took my hesitation to mean that I didn't trust his judgement. From then on, his manner though professional, was curt. RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, he recommended for my foot. And on that final note, I knew the visit was over. The doctor had nothing more to say to me, nor a reassuring smile for me to take away. The fees charged was S$98.

Fortunately, yesterday's visit to another GP for a scheduled health screening turned out to be a much more pleasant experience. I was told to fast for at least 10 hours before I took my blood test the next morning.

Expecting the nurse to give me the customary hot drink and crackers after the blood test, I had packed a vegetarian bun, just in case I was super hungry after the long fast. What I didn't expect at this particular medical centre was a complete breakfast station. Patients were welcomed to help themselves to a selection of hot beverages, orange juice, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, cereals, toast with jam and butter, and biscuits.

A hearty breakfast after the blood test certainly helps to make the hours of waiting for the health screening to be done more bearable. 

The lady doctor who saw me was friendly and took time to find out details about my medical history, and that of my parents and siblings as well. She then proceeded to give me a thorough physical examination of my breasts, lymph nodes and pelvic area. She added a rectal examination which I wasn't expecting. "No piles!" she declared, much to my relief. Earlier I had my eyes, ears and mouth examined, and also had my ECG and chest x-ray done. I will know the results of my blood test, urine test and pap smear in a few days. Hopefully I will be given a clean bill of health.

Health screening packages in Singapore are not cheap, but with Medisave, Medishield and Eldercare, and heavy government subsidies, most Singaporeans can afford quality healthcare services.

Health screening packages at a private medical centre in Singapore. Similar packages at public hospitals are much cheaper as they are heavily subsidized by the government.

If you are curious to know how much health screenings cost in Malaysia, here are some links you can check out to compare the fees charged.

Pantai Hospital Ampang

Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur

KPJ Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital 

KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital 

Tung Shin Hospital

The official website for Kuala Lumpur Hospital - the country's premier public hospital offers little information. Not surprising as this is the norm with most government websites. In this day and age, there is no excuse for such pathetic websites that are totally lacking in providing the public with the information they seek.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

MEANT FOR EACH OTHER - TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

Every time I read about couples celebrating their golden anniversary, my faith in long-lasting relationships receives a big boost. In my case, that kind of milestone remains only in my fantasy. I have been a single mom since 1976, and then just plain single when my children became moms themselves. If I were to enter into a relationship or marriage now at my age, I would have to live to be 115 to celebrate my golden anniversary!

So when I read that America's longest married couple, John and Ann Betar, will be celebrating their 81st wedding anniversary on Monday 25 Nov 2013, the eternal romantic in me re-awakens. 'And they lived happily ever after' does exist in real life, and not just in fairy tales. The Betar are living proof of that. Ann's father had wanted to marry her off to a man 20 years older than she. This was not what she wanted. There was already someone else in her heart - John Betar. They decided to elope in 1932, and to cut a long story short, they have been together ever since.

John and Ann's wedding photo taken on 25 Nov 1932. They are the longest married couple in the US.


That was 81 years ago. Today, John Betar, now 102, and Ann Betar, 98, remain as loving as ever. Their oldest daughter is 80 years old! Asked in an interview about the key to a happy marriage, John says, "Always agree with your wife!"

The Betars have 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

The longest married couple in Malaysia that I know is Suzanne and Tony from Penang. Tony, 90, and Suzanne, 89, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this year. I have not met them in person, but we have exchanged emails and blog visits. Seniorsaloud has written about the happily married couple in previous blog posts. Suzanne and Tony's marital harmony is an inspiration to all couples, young and old.

(Left) Suzanne and Tony celebrating their 63rd anniversary in 2011. (Right) Truly a marriage made in Heaven and blessed by God.

The other happily married couple I know is Mr and Mrs Jagjeet Singh. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary together with Mr J's 80th birthday. I have known Mrs J since our teaching days back in the 1970s. Effervescent, articulate and well-groomed is how I would describe Mrs J. Unlike Mr J who prefers to remain in the background, Mrs J, 73, is used to taking centre stage. Always ready for fun and adventure, she epitomizes what 'Living life to the fullest' is all about. Seniorsaloud first featured the couple way back in May 2008. Read her advice for married couples in the article "Forever Young".

What a beautiful picture! So happy together and still very much in love after 50 years together. 

We can take a leaf from the pages of these happily married couples. They know how to make their marriage work. Marriage does not come with an expiry date stamped on it. How long it lasts depends very much on how determined we are to make it work.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

SENIORSALOUD IN THE HEAT - AGAIN!

Seniorsaloud was mentioned again in the current issue of The Heat, still available today and tomorrow if you want to grab a copy. Lots of good stuff in the newsweekly. My apologies if the print is too small. Email seniorsaloud@gmail.com if you would like a pdf copy.

If you haven't checked out our Facebook page, please give it a look and click on 'LIKE' to be updated on news, views and issues of interest to the 50plus.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

LIFELONG LEARNING - TWICE THE FUN THE SECOND TIME AROUND

From The Sunday Times 27 Oct 2013

Education is no longer the domain of the young. Lifelong learning is flourishing. Adult education is turning into a lucrative industry, with the mushrooming of open universities and institutions offering skills-based courses targeting those aged 60 and above. Even traditional universities are jumping on the bandwagon and making certificate and degree courses more easily accessible and affordable to everyone, regardless of age.

Picture grab from The Sunday Times (caption added)

With a wide range of interesting courses to select from, and a senior discount thrown in as well, older adults are signing up in droves. And many are enjoying the 'back-to-class' experience. In fact, it's more fun the second time around as they get to study courses they are genuinely interested in, and often, there are no exams to stress them out. They learn because they want to, not because they have to. 

All images above are picture grabs from the print edition of The Sunday Times article "Ageing with Class" dated 27 Oct 2013

Take for example, the University of the Third Age (U3A). It started at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Toulouse, France in 1973. It made use of campus facilities to conduct short courses specially for older people.

Today there are U3As in countries like Britain, Australia, Canada, and Russia. In January 2009, the first virtual U3A was launched to cater to those who lived in places where there was no U3A, or who were unable to physically attend classes.

Banner of U3A Malaysia website

Right here in our own backyard, we have the University of the Third Age, Malaysia. I have written much about it in previous blog posts. Suffice to say that since 2011, I have been attending classes held at the Institute of Gerontology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Kuala Lumpur.

Many of the students have been returning every year since 2008 to take up new courses. This is learning at leisure, and loads of fun - the best kind of learning! The current year has just ended. If you would like to register for the new semester starting early 2014, please visit the U3A Malaysia, Facebook page, and click on LIKE to be kept informed of U3A courses and activities. 

Banner of the Coursera website

For those who are interested in online academic courses, you might also want to check out Coursera. There are over 100 top universities including Yale University, California Institute of Technology (CalTech), National University of Singapore and Peking University, offering close to 550 courses all for FREE, and the number is growing. I have signed up for two courses, and am about to complete my first course "Care of Elders with Alzheimer's Disease" this Monday, 18 Nov 2013.

My first course ends on 18 Nov. A 5-week course but so much to learn and absorb. The course work and assignments are challenging, but I have gained new insights into AD. 

One of the best ways for retired persons to keep mentally active is to keep learning. Remember the saying "Use it, or lose it"? If we don't exercise our brain cells, we may end up having brain atrophy. Happy learning!

(Footnote: If you would like to know more about U3A Malaysia or Coursera, send your queries to seniorsaloud@gmail.com)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SINGAPORE SOON TO GET ITS FIRST RETIREMENT VILLAGE

A retirement village in Australia - the model for retirement villages in Malaysia and Singapore

Retirees in Singapore must be feeling on top of the world to hear the good news. In a few years time, they will have the option of moving to the republic's first purpose-built retirement village. For decades, senior citizens here have been clamoring for a retirement village built along the same lines as those in Australia and the US. It looks like their patience and persistence have finally paid off.

The demand for retirement homes and villages has been growing especially in the the last 10 years. But private housing developers have long been reluctant to take on such projects because the Singapore government will only grant a 60-year lease on the land, effectively putting a ceiling on their ROI and on plans for further expansion.

The smiles say it all. (Photo: Straits Times)

That was the situation until last November when property developer World Class Land (WCL), a subsidiary of jewellery group Aspial Corp won the tender for the 10,170 sq m plot of land located in Jalan Jurong Kechil earmarked for residential development. It had offered close to S$75m for the plot. WCL have since confirmed they will be building a retirement village complete with elder-friendly facilities and services. The company has five years to complete the project, which means Singapore's first retirement village should be opening its doors to the first residents by November 2017 or earlier.

Better late than never, as Singapore has one of the fastest ageing populations in the world. By 2020, the small nation will have 600,000 senior citizens aged 65 and above - up from 352,000 in 2011.

What about Malaysia? There will be 2.2 million people aged 65 and above by 2020. This is 7.5% of the country’s population. What housing options are there for retirees who are still active, independent and living alone or with their spouse? Let me share what I know.

Green Leaf Retirement Resort was very much in the news last year when it won the Best Concept for Retirement Development at HSBC's International Property Awards (Asia Pacific Region) 2012. However, as far as I know, work has yet to commence on the plot of land in Sepang. 

Over in the Ara Damansara area, work has begun on AraGreen Residences. The company behind this project is HSB Development, the same company behind the successful Menara HSC in Jalan Ampang, which also houses the HSC Medical Centre. AraGreen is marketed as a 'multi-generational residential sanctuary'.

Artist's impression of Ara Green Multi-Generational Residences

Sri Seronok Retirement Village, Cheras, KL

There are 30 linked units each comprising a living room, bedroom and kitchen built around a courtyard. Completed in 1988, it is reputed to be the first retirement village for active and independent senior citizens. It offers an alternative housing option to singles or couples, who value quiet and privacy in their old age. Residents pay rent, and despite a lack of advertising, all units are taken and there is a long list of people waiting to move in. I visited my aunt there years ago. I like the place. Facilities are basic but if peace and quiet, freedom of movement and pleasant surroundings are what you want, then Sri Seronok is ideal. But it is a misnomer to call it a retirement village.

Sri Seronok - affordable retirement living amidst pleasant and safe surroundings

Green Acres Retirement Village, Meru, Ipoh
This project comprises 120 units of single-storey villas in a gated and guarded community. Expected launch is end of 2013 or beginning of 2014. Developer Total Investment Group are targeting retirees from the middle income bracket. Each of the 650 -1,000 sq ft unit is priced from RM300,000.


Mont Kiara is one neighborhood that already has all the facilities and services to make it ideal for retirement community living. It has a small shopping mall with a supermarket, plenty of restaurants, two clinics, a dry cleaners, an activity centre for children and even a police station! Unlike other housing estates, Mont Kiara has its own 24-hour security patrol and a free shuttle bus service for residents. The route covers Mont Kiara - Publika - KL Sentral, Mondays to Saturdays.


Free shuttle bus for Mont Kiara residents and Publika shoppers

Jeta Care Kulai, Johor.

This is more of a mixed ageing-in-place and nursing home facility. There are plans to open up more centres in other states. Hopefully, there will be one based on the model of Jeta Gardens in Australia which is marketed as 'a unique retirement lifestyle, where east meets west'.

Jeta Care, Kulai. (Photo: NST)

What's in the offing for the near future? 

Recently I attended a conference on "Aged Care: Empowering the Elderly II" organized by the Australian High Commission here in Kuala Lumpur. A number of established Australian retirement home operators and developers have partnered with local aged care companies to build retirement villages in Malaysia. Here are a few that were mentioned at the conference. The images are screen grabs of the slide presentations at the conference.

Eden-on-the-Park, Kuching. Developers: Optimum Healthcare Asia Pacific. Expected date of completion: 2015


Waterbrook Malaysia (based on Waterbrook Australia's concept)


From the drawing board of Veritas Architects, there are several projects in the pipeline, including The Peak at Gita Bayu, Selangor and Sungai Pulai Eco Resort and Retirement Village in Johor.



The time is right for housing developers to step in, given the rising demand for retirement housing. Retired baby boomers are not ready to move into nursing homes yet. They are still active and financially independent. Many live alone, either because they never married, or have lost their spouse. Given the option of moving in with their adult children or living in a retirement community, many would choose the latter.
They want to live an active lifestyle in a community environment that comes with elder-friendly facilities and services, and most important of all, an on-site management committee that keeps a watchful eye on quality maintenance of the place and that has in place a well-organized program of activities for the residents.

There is definitely a ready market for retirement resort/community living. With several projects due to launch or already in progress, it is a race to see which one is first past the finishing line to earn the title of Malaysia's first retirement village. If it has everything that a baby boomer retiree is looking for, and the price is right, the units will be snapped up in no time.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

'ELDERGARTENS' - DAYCARE CENTRES FOR THE ELDERLY

Elderly couple caring for each other
If you are in your 60s, chances are your parents would be in their 80s. Consider yourself blessed if both parents are still physically active and able to look after themselves. They have each other for support and companionship.

But there will come a time when one parent passes on, leaving the other to face the twilight years alone and lonely. What happens then? Your father moves in with you. You and your spouse are at work the whole day, and the children at school. Your father is left on his own. Even if you can afford a maid, your father would still feel lonely. It is not the same as having his own friends for company - people his own age who share common interests.

Another scenario. You are single and retired. Your 87-year old mother lives with you. You are her sole caregiver. You need to run errands and go for appointments sometimes. But when you are out, you have no peace of mind. You worry about your mother being left alone at home. What if she falls, suffers a stroke or wanders out on her own? Unless the elderly parent can find something to do at home, being alone may lead to loneliness, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The above scenarios are actually real life dilemmas faced by older adults with elderly parents. What solutions are available? Where can the elderly go during the day that is safe? Is there some place where they can spend time enjoying activities with their peers?


The only rest and recreation centre for senior citizens that I know of here in Kuala Lumpur is the AUTORR Centre in Ampang. The place has a lot of potential, but it will be some time yet before it can offer a regular program of activities. There is one in Kluang that has been around since 2004. Membership is free and open to senior citizens aged 56 and above. 


What I have in mind is a daycare centre run along similar lines as the nursery (taska) or kindergarten (tadika) for children. Elderly parents are dropped off at the centre in the mornings and picked up in the evenings. The centre will have trained staff who will not only keep an eye on the elderly, but also organize activities for them. These can include games like mahjong or chess, talks on health, classes on art and craft, and even outings to the city.


From The Star. Original article from Xinhuanet.com

A few days back I was delighted to read about China's 'elder-gartens'. With its burgeoning ageing population projected to reach 437 million, or 30 percent of the country's population by 2050, China must come up with solutions to accommodate the needs of this demographic. Nursing homes and retirement communities are mushrooming in the country. For the elderly who require minimal supervision, and who prefer to age in their own homes, eldergartens seem to be the best option.

The elderly in China enjoying group activities at retirement homes and daycare centres. 

Singapore, the fastest ageing nation in South-east Asia, also faces a similar situation. As far back as the 1980s, the government had begun studying the implications of an ageing population and seeking solutions to face the challenges. One of these was the setting up of senior citizens clubs in all the community centres. Today this initiative has borne fruits. Not only are these clubs a centre of activities for seniors, but also a place for social networking.

The Clementi Community Centre, Singapore

There are also privately-run daycare centres for the elderly. One such example is the Geylang East Home For The Aged. Aside from providing residential and respite care for a fee, the Home also offers daycare services. Operating hours are from Mondays to Fridays, 7.30 am to 6.30 pm. Fees are S$400 a month, inclusive of breakfast, lunch, dinner and an afternoon tea break. There is a full-day programme of activities and also provision for resting.

Awareness of ageing issues is important. Government funds cannot cope with the rising tide of the elderly population. The private sector has to step in as well to cater to the housing, healthcare, and nutritional needs of the elderly.

Ultimately, all of us, from young adults to the elderly, must be responsible for our own health. We will all grow old one day. By adopting an active and healthy lifestyle, we can look forward to enjoying better quality of life in our old age.

Tao Porchon-Lynch, 94, world's oldest yoga instructor and Fauja Singh, 102, world's oldest marathon runner. Still living life to the full at their age. 

If you know of any daycare centres or activity centres for senior citizens in your town or city (in Malaysia), do email us and let us know. We have received many enquiries about such centres. Write to us at seniorsaloud@gmail.com

Friday, November 1, 2013

WELCOMING THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS


This year Deepavali (or Diwali) falls on Sat 2 Nov. In Malaysia, Hindu families will be busy with last minute shopping today in Brickfields and Leboh Ampang, both popularly known as the city's 'Little India'.

To non-Hindu friends who would like to know more about the Festival of Lights, here's a short video clip from National Geographic.



For more information, here's a short background about Deepavali. (Source: http://publicholidays.com.my/deepavali/)

Deepavali or Diwali, is a festival celebrated by all Hindus to commemorate Lord Rama and his wife, Sita’s return to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile. It was a dark night when they first returned hence his people lit their houses with little lamps (diyas) so that Rama and Sita could find their way.

For some Hindus, Deepavali is also celebrated in honour of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lighting of these diyas would then make it easy for Lakshmi to find her way to houses. Thus, this festival is known as the Festival of Lights.

The Festival of Lights is to signify the victory of good over evil; however, it does not just mean the physical lighting of these diyas but refers to an Inner Light, which, according to Hindu philosophy, is called the Atman.

On the morning of Deepavali, Hindus get up before sunrise for a ritual oil bath known as ganga-snanam to signify the cleansing of one’s sins and impurities of the past. After that, prayers are conducted on the family altar and some go to temples for special ceremonies and worship. The rest of the day is celebrated over festive fireworks, traditional Indian savoury dishes and sweets like ladu, vadai, ommapadi and the ever-popular murukku.

In Malaysia, Hindus would invite friends of different races and religions for an ‘open house’. This is a unique practice; it definitely builds stronger ties among Malaysians and promotes unity in this multi-racial country. On this occasion, children would be the happiest as they collect purple or sometimes yellow packets containing money.

Here are some photos of traditional savories and food served at my friend's pre-Deepavali open house recently.

Hor d'oeuvres - finger food before dinner.
Sweet desserts after dinner - truly sinful on the sugar content but oh so irresistible!
Dinner is served - so much to eat, so limited space in the tummy!

Another tradition of Deepavali is the rangoli, also known as kolam. It is a beautiful decorative design made up of coloured rice or flour done on floors usually at entrances to welcome the Hindu deities. Here are some photos of rangolis that caught my attention.



HAPPY DEEPAVALI & HAPPY HOLIDAYS!