Tuesday, December 31, 2013

WELCOME 2014!


To our blog readers,

Thank you for your support through 2013. Thank you for emailing us articles, videos and funnies to share with the seniors community. Thank you for being our eyes and ears, and keeping a lookout for the latest news and views to send to Seniorsaloud.
Goodbye 2013,
Welcome 2014!




Sunday, December 29, 2013

WAIT TILL YOU HEAR GRANDMA MARY - SHE TRULY ROCKS!

If you were into pop songs back in the 1960s, you would remember The Quests and The Blue Diamonds. They were immensely popular then and had a string of hits to their name. It was therefore a double treat for me to catch Vernon Cornelius, former vocalist with The Quests, and Riem de Wolff of The Blue Diamonds performing live at the benefit concert for victims of Typhoon Haiyan on Boxing Day.

During the three-plus hours, Vernon and Riem took the audience on a journey to nostalgia with covers of classics made famous by Johnny Mathis, Cliff Richard and others, while Riem reprised The Blue Diamonds hits including "Ramona", "Sukiyaki", "Little Ship" and "Mona Lisa".

(Left) Vernon with the Quests circa 1960s, and (right) The Blue Diamonds album of hits
50+ years on, and still going strong - at the benefit concert on 26 Dec 2013

In the audience that night unbeknownst to me was a petite middle-aged lady whom Vernon kept referring to as "Grandma Mary". He had singled her out to thank her for her generous support of the concert. It was only a day later through a cousin's Facebook posting, that I found out who Grandma Mary was. She is Singapore's coolest guitar-playing grandma, and an internet sensation!

Mary Ho, 77, started out learning to play the acoustic guitar at the age of 60. That soon developed into a passion for playing the blues on the electric lead guitar. When I heard her video on Youtube for the first time, I was completely blown away. And later when I checked out her website at Grandma Mary Rocks, I was left in jaw-dropping awe by what this remarkable grandma of seven has achieved in a short span of time. Google her and you will agree with me.


If Grandma Mary can learn something new at the ripe age of 60, what excuses do we have? If we had a childhood passion that we were unable to pursue because of circumstances at the time, this could be the right time to do so, with the children all grown and flown the nest, and with more time on our hands. As Grandma Mary has shown us, age should not be an excuse for not learning a new skill.

Photo: Alex E. Proimos from blog article "Forever Young: It’s Never Too Late to Learn an Instrument" (Text added)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Of all the Christmas songs I have heard this season, and there have been many, these are among my favourites. Hope you like them too. Enjoy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS


Monday, December 23, 2013

ALMOST FORGOTTEN WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME

Ooi Eow Jin. (Photo: Stacy Liu)
I just read an article 'Malaysia’s Forgotten Music Man' posted on Facebook about one of Malaysia's pioneers in the local music industry - Ooi Eow Jin, 75. It is an excellent piece written by Jon Chew, with photos by Stacy Liu.

The name Ooi Eow Jin may not ring a bell to young Malaysians. But to the older generation, there was a time when Ooi Eow Jin's name was synonymous with Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) Orchestra. He was one of the founders.

From the 1970s through to the 19980s, whenever there was a variety show or concert on TV featuring singers backed by the RTM orchestra, you would be sure to see Ooi in the background conducting the orchestra. Those were the days when he was a well-known name in entertainment circles, and his expertise in music arrangement and composition was much sought after by local artistes, including the legendary P. Ramlee and the late Sudirman Arshad.

After his retirement from RTM in 1999, Ooi seemed to have disappeared from the public eye. Apparently, he went into teaching music. He was a lecturer at various music schools including the International College of Music (ICOM). A Google search turned up very little about Ooi and his achievements.

Now, thanks to the article by Jon Chew, Ooi is back in the limelight. If you want to catch up with the man and his music, drop by at Hotel Majestic. Come to think of it, it is the perfect setting for Ooi to carry on his passion for playing music and for entertaining. Both are classy, belong to the same era and have great stories to tell of their former glory days. Hotel Majestic is going through a rebirth. Who knows the same may be said of Ooi now that he is back in the media spotlight again.

This is where you can catch Ooi every afternoon at 3pm, except Mondays

Here are some extracts from Jon Chew's article. To read the full article, please click here.

"At three o’clock, Tuesdays to Sundays, underneath the gold-leaf dome roof of the grand five-star Hotel Majestic in Kuala Lumpur, a man hunches over a black Yamaha piano. He wears a bow tie, a white jacket, and a hearing aid on his left ear. Slowly, he takes out a small turquoise clock, and leaves it on the left-hand ledge. He places a file of loose sheet music next to him. He takes a pause. Then, he begins to play.

He doesn’t smile. His fingers dance on a white ivory floor, born again like a young ballerina’s joy at touching the ground with the tip of her toes. He starts with “Moon River”, segues into “Top of the World”, then flows into the Louis Armstrong classic “As Time Goes By”. He is 75 years old.

For 45 minutes, history’s greatest pop songs are seamlessly twisted in the pianist’s hands. Still, no smile."
~~~~~~~~~~
P Ramlee with Ooi Eow Jin, early 1960′s. Photo: Hotel Majestic
"It was Ooi who once toured with P. Ramlee, who conducted the most lauded orchestra in the land, and who wrote the first song ever recorded in a studio by a revered Malaysian singer: Sudirman.

Ooi will always have a love affair with hotels. In 1960, he became one of the first resident pianists at the E&O Hotel in Penang, and entertained guests every night in their lounges for three years. On one of these nights, Alfonso Soliano, a jazz hero, music arranger and the founder of the seminal RTM Orchestra, came to the hotel for drinks."

~~~~~~~~~~

"But of the details on the night that changed his life, his memory is still as clear as a full moon. “I was playing that night, and he heard me,” he recalls. “He got interested, started asking questions about me with his friends. After I played, he got a hold of me personally and asked, ‘Why don’t you come to KL and play with the Orchestra?”

"It was a fork-in-the-road moment for the then-24 year old Ooi, and he left his day job as a government clerk and took the risk of moving to the capital. Ooi would spend the next 17 years in the RTM Orchestra."

~~~~~~~~~~

"But as Ooi deep-dives through his past, something escapes his grasp like grains of sand. For all the credits, his name rarely comes up in any historical tome of Malaysian music."


Piano man Ooi at Hotel Majestic - "I will play until I cannot play." (Photo: Stacy Liu)

"When asked about his success, Ooi pinches the skin of his wrist. “I am the only one amongst so many Malay composers. I was the first non-Malay composer to write Malay songs for films,” he says. “There is something, when I tell you, you’ll feel a bit sad. You know FINAS [National Film Development Corporation Malaysia]? I won the prize for best theme music for one movie, you know? After they announced the prize for best theme song for the movie, you know what came out in the papers the next day? Nothing came out.”

His voice becomes unsteady. “You devote so much to this, and you get nothing out of it. Just because of…” And he pinches his skin again.

~~~~~~~~~~

Many years later, Ooi still plays because it is a calling that he cannot quiet. “How do you retire? Unless you are too sick to play? I will play until I cannot play. Because there is nothing else to do.”

Soon, he returns for his second 45-minute session. The medleys will fill the room. But all around him, the music stays silent."

~~~~~~~~~~

It is really sad when former greats are forgotten with the passage of time. Even sadder when the country does not acknowledge their achievements during their heyday, whether in music, sports or science. Ooi Eow Jin certainly deserves to be given due recognition. A title perhaps?

It's not too late.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

HOME DELIVERIES AND SERVICES - A BOON TO THE HOUSE BOUND

At one time, the Milo van was the only mobile service we were familiar with. The green van still remains a ubiquitous sight at all sports functions, but the popularity of businesses on wheels has grown so much that if you name a mobile business today, chances are someone has already started it. If for some reason or other you are unable to go to the shops, the shops can come to you. From fast food delivery to home nursing care, practically anything you need is a mere phone call or a mouse click away.

Food Panda delivery is available in many countries, including Malaysia

Too lazy to cook or go out for some food? Or living alone? Check out food delivery services. If you prefer the traditional simple home-cooked meals, there are many neighborhood food catering businesses that will deliver meals directly to your house five days a week, excluding weekends.

Room Service is another option you could check out.
Too much of a hassle to go all the way to the supermarket, especially if you have to depend on public transport? Call TESCO home delivery.


Unable to go to the malls for your Christmas shopping? Try ordering from Lazada, arguably Malaysia's premier online shopping mall.


We had some groceries from TESCO delivered yesterday, and this morning my daughter received the first of several items from LAZADA. She had decided to do most of her Christmas shopping online this year. We have also ordered food from ROOM SERVICE when we didn't feel like going out to eat.

Delivered to our door step from Lazada (left) and from TESCO (right)

There are also mobile businesses that operate from vans equipped with the tools of the trade. Below are some that I have checked out personally.


Hello Handyman charges a little more for going to your house to do home repairs. I happened to catch their van in 2008 when it was making the rounds in the neighbourhood. The business is thriving as it fills a niche in the market for such services.

I thought this mobile car wash service was a great idea when I took the photos above in 2011. Unfortunately the business didn't last very long. Pity as I still think it is a viable business. Anyone would like to take it up? 

Other mobile businesses that I have spotted in the city:

This frozen yogurt van was spotted in the parking lot at Ampang Point.
Two enterprising young men, Jack and Keagen, started  this mobile fresh fruit juice business. I spoke with them in Mont Kiara some months ago. Their van is popular with those who enjoy health drinks. I can imagine brisk business at sports events and concert venues. Check out their Fruit Bank+ Facebook page to find out where they are parked daily. 
You can have your cake and eat it too on the van. This photo was taken outside KLCC in Jalan Ampang. The next time I saw it, it was in Bangsar. They should have added their URL so folks can find out more about their cakes and know where to buy them.
This van was parked opposite the Ampang LRT station. Overhead costs are very much lower if you operate your business from a van. Besides, you enjoy the flexibility of choosing your preferred locations.


If you require home nursing services, call Love on Wheels. They have been around for a few years, and have been mentioned in previous Seniorsaloud blog articles.

What mobile businesses would do well here in this region in case you are interested in starting one? I can immediately think of two.

Many senior citizens find that washing and grooming their dog can be very tiring work. They would welcome such a mobile service.
A mobile library in Singapore. Seniors love to read, and wouldn't mind paying to borrow books. Current mobile libraries should offer books that cater to all ages, and not only to children.
If this itinerant street cobbler had the capital to invest in a small van and offer shoe repair service, he would probably make more money than he does now. 

Mobile businesses have been around for decades, selling anything from food and drinks to groceries. However the new generation mobile businesses extend beyond selling food and drinks to personalized services like home manicure and massage, computer troubleshooting and cooking lessons, to name just a few. House-bound seniors are fortunate that they can now enjoy such services in the comfort and safety of their homes.

You can book for a cab via your smart phone. I have tried MyTeksi. For an extra RM2, you enjoy the security of knowing that all info is recorded. There is also Easy Teksi service.

If you are considering setting up a mobile business, or investing in one, just think of the kind of services you can offer that house bound residents and the elderly need. It is a niche market that is expanding rapidly as demographics change, with more older folks staying home because of illness, disability or just plain inconvenience.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

WHY CAN'T MALLS MAKE SHOPPING AN ELDER-FRIENDLY EXPERIENCE?


The countdown to Christmas has started, and shopping for gifts is in full swing for those celebrating this festival. Mine began last Friday the 13th with a visit to the annual Big Bad Wolf (BBW) sale at The Mines Exhibition Centre. It's my third time visiting this mother of all book sales, and it gets better each time.

This year 3 million books are on sale at a fraction of their original prices. That's one book sale that's hard to beat. Of course don't expect to pick up the latest bestsellers. Still one can always find plenty of gems to cart away. I spent only RM252 for a total of 24 books. That works out to an average of RM10.50 per book.

My only complaint: there are no benches for older shoppers to sit down and rest their weary feet after hours of standing and browsing the books.

The sale ends today - Sunday 15 Dec at 9pm. Still time to catch it and get fantastic bargains!

I love books. I think they are great value for money. Not only do good books give me many hours of enjoyment, they educate and enlighten me. Best of all, books can be shared, given away or kept to be re-read at leisure. So this Christmas, books are at the top of my shopping list.

Kinokuniya understands how to keep customers coming back for more. That's building customer loyalty.

The next stop was Kinokuniya at KLCC. It's my all-time favourite bookstore in Kuala Lumpur. There is always a good crowd any time of the day at Kinonuniya. The reason - excellent customer service. The staff are well-trained to be courteous, helpful and knowledgeable about what's available and where the items are located. It helps too that the store carries a wide range of titles, many of which are not available at other major bookstores.

I have been to bookstores where the sales assistants have no clue what you are looking for. Some are just plain lazy. They point out the general direction where the item is located, and expect you to go there on your own and search for it.

Japan's nonpareil customer service makes shopping an enjoyable experience

At Kinokuniya, the sales assistants will walk you there and help you look for the particular item on the open shelves. At the BBW sale, the staff on duty even brought the book to me. I was told that the majority of the helpers were undergraduates part-timing at the sale during their semester break.

Some of the worst sales assistants I have encountered during my Christmas shopping trips were at Central Market (Pasar Seni). The typical response of untrained sales staff is a curt "Don't know", "Don't have", or "No stock". In one case, the counter assistant was so busy texting on her cell phone, she had the audacity to tell my friend to wait for a few minutes! Well-trained sales assistants will walk the extra mile. If their store doesn't carry an item you want, they will recommend a store which may have it. 

The gigantic table replete with Christmas fare of lobster, pudding and wine. Note the size of the man (arrow) in comparison.

During the past week I have been doing my Christmas shopping at the premier malls in the city: Central Market, KLCC, Pavilion, Sungei Wang, Lot 10, Bangsar Shopping Centre and MidValley Mall. My vote for the best Christmas decorations goes to Bangsar Shopping Centre. The concourse boasts a giant replica of a table filled with a Christmas spread of food and wine. Worth a visit just to see it. It's also the best mall in terms of quality and variety of Christmas fare - if price is not an issue.

The Christmas decorations at Pavilion, the city's award-winning shopping mall.

Apart from poor customer service at some of the retail outlets and department stores, the other issues for the mall management to tackle are the lack of benches and toilets for the elderly. At MidValley, for example, aside from some token benches on the concourse level, elderly shoppers will be hard put to find a place to sit down and rest their tired feet.

(Left) Time to take a rest for this gentleman while his wife is busy shopping. (Right) Grandparents minding the little ones need to sit down too. At KLCC.
(Left) Don't they know elderly shoppers can't squat?  There are also no grab bars
on the walls. (Right) What an idiotic design for a public toilet. How is anyone able to sit comfortably with that contraption in the way?

Some of you may find these photos of public toilets offensive. My apologies, but if no one highlights this problem on behalf of older shoppers, they will continue to suffer in silence. The toilets at a popular department store at MidValley are certainly not elder-friendly. There's no way elderly shoppers with knee problems can use the toilet on the left. As for the one on the right, only a contortionist can figure out a way to relieve himself comfortably. Enough said about our public toilets.

Elderly shoppers with poor vision have difficulty making out the small print on price tags. They also can't bend to select items on the bottom shelves or reach for heavy items on the top shelves. When there are long queues at the sales counter or at the ladies' washrooms, it makes sense to have a special queue for senior citizens, like is done at some banks. It doesn't cost extra to provide such conveniences for elderly customers.


This wheelchair lift at KLCC seems to be permanently under
repair which is unacceptable for a world-class shopping mall.

It is good to know that the better shopping malls have ramps for shoppers in wheelchairs, wheelchairs on loan to shoppers who require them, and toilets for the handicapped (should make these toilets available to the elderly too),

I always believe that when public places provide age-friendly or people-friendly facilities, everyone's needs are addressed, including those of the elderly. For young couples, taking their elderly parents or grandparents out on a shopping trip becomes an enjoyable family experience. There is more business for the stores, so it's a win-win situation for both customers and retailers.

Only one more comment to make. StarMetro has reported that there would be a shortage of turkeys for the traditional Christmas and New Year dinner this year. Reason - except for Brazil, all other countries, including the US and Australia, have failed to meet the stringent requirements for the import of non-halal frozen turkeys.

StarMetro's feature article on Friday 13 December, 2013. You won't find the link to it.

It's strange that the article can't be found online. StarMetro must have pulled it from its online edition. A result perhaps of the unhappiness expressed by many Malaysians over the stringent halal regulations? The question that has been circulating on social media is "Since when have turkeys to be certified halal???" 

Related article:

Making shopping pleasant for older adults

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

LEARNING TO ACCEPT AGEING GRACEFULLY

Botox jab to remove lines for a more youthful look.
I was recently asked if I would like to volunteer for a non-invasive anti-ageing procedure. Some doctors were doing a short training course in this field and needed volunteers to practice on. The idea of looking years younger than my chronological age was tempting, especially as it wouldn't cost me a cent.

But I declined. I was nursing a bad cough at the time. That was the excuse I gave, but the real reason was my aversion to anything that is labeled 'anti-ageing', whether it's anti-ageing procedures, supplements or cosmetics.
My grey hair then was mainly stress-related.

The only exception for me is getting my hair colored black. It had turned almost all grey within a short span of six months, brought on mainly by the stress of caring for my mom after her hip surgery in March 2011. She was also diagnosed with dementia at the same time. I was her sole caregiver.

I would have happily left my hair that shade of grey had it not been for well-meaning young people offering me their seats on trains, or helping me with my bags. It made me feel frail, tired and decrepit when the reality was I probably had more energy than those nice young people.

Anyway, I have vowed that once I reach my 70s, that's it. No more coloring my hair black. Maybe brown or silver or blonde!

I mean why go against nature? Physical ageing is inevitable, although some are born blessed with great genes that slow down the ageing process. They look terrific for their age, whatever it is. We have all met such blessed individuals and secretly admire or envy them.

Less is more when it comes to make-up. Besides, think of the money you will save. Your skin needs to breathe.

Less is always more when it comes to make-up for older women. Unless you know how to apply make-up to look younger and more natural, you will end up looking like a painted Chinese opera performer. Branded cosmetics are expensive. And wearing make-up is addictive. Once you are used to having your face all made up whenever you go out, or when you have company, you will feel naked to be seen sans make-up.

Confident older women are not afraid to be seen in public with minimal make-up or without make-up.

Confident women don't mind being seen in public without a trace of make-up on their face. They know outer beauty is only skin-deep. It is what's inside that makes them glow - inner strength of character and a positive attitude towards life.

Confident older men are comfortable with their balding patch or with going completely bald

Men are lucky - they don't need make-up to cover the wrinkles or color their hair to pass off as younger than they are. However, a word of advice - if you are balding on top, please don't drag some strands of hair to cover up the shiny pate. It's a huge turn-off for the ladies. Better to go a la Sean Connery, or go completely bald a la Bruce Willis or Yul Brynner. Some women do find bald men sexy!

Source: Daily Mail
From face lifts to breast implants, tummy tucks and more, older women are resorting to whatever means they can afford to reverse the ageing process. More men are now chasing that elixir of youth too, as evident from the rising demand for anti-ageing products for men in the market.

Alicia Douvall is the world's most surgically enhanced woman. At only 33, she already has 71 operations and 260 cosmetic procedures, with her first one done when she was only 17. At this rate, by the time she turns 50, her entire body would have been re-molded. She readily admits to being an enhancement addict. Surely this can't be considered effectively turning back the clock?

If going under the knife to look good makes you feel confident about yourself, or if you are doing it for functional reasons rather than aesthetic like dental implants, for instance, by all means go for it. Just don't over do it or you might end up looking really plastic with all that plastic surgery. Make sure you get an experienced doctor. And if you are prepared to spend on costly anti-ageing products, make sure you do the research and find out if the products are genuine and effective.

With the world's population ageing at an alarming rate, the anti-ageing industry can only go from strength to strength in terms of revenue generated. Cosmetic surgeons will likely be the most sought after of all medical professionals, as there will always be men and women who refuse to grow old gracefully.

For the rest of us who prefer to let nature take its course, just remember that growing older isn't all that dreadful if we still enjoy good health, have plenty of good friends and a family that loves us and cares about us. Think of wrinkles as lines that reflect our wealth of life experiences.

Baby boomers all. With my cousin Henry (centre) and Antares after a dip in the river at Kampung Pertak. Staying forever young-at-heart and only slightly older in other places :-)