Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SENIORSALOUD'S RAISON D'ETRE


Every now and then we get asked about how SeniorsAloud came about. How did a humble little blog that started in May 2008 grow to be the country's best-known go-to source for news and issues concerning older adults? Since 2010, US-based Seniors Homes has nominated SeniorsAloud for the annual Best Senior Living Awards in the category of Best Blogs by Organizations. It is an honor that we have kept silent about... till now.

SeniorsAloud has come a long way since its first media coverage in The Malay Mail in 2008 (see below). Much of what was written in the full-page article still holds true today. However, SeniorsAloud has expanded so much in the intervening years that an update is necessary at this point.

SeniorsAloud's first media interview in The Malay Mail published in Aug 2008. Click here to read the full article.

With countries worldwide expressing concern over the rise in their ageing population and the problems associated with it, SeniorsAloud saw a need to raise public awareness of the challenges faced by the older generation in the hope that the government would step in and help this often-neglected segment of the population.

(Left) This blog post written in 2008 was later published in the Asian Beacon. Click here to read. (Right) The Heat newsweekly carried the above interview with SeniorsAloud in 2013. You can read more here.

SeniorsAloud's raison de'etre is to help senior citizens be better prepared for their retirement years so that they can enjoy quality of life in their old age. We have to take charge of our own future, and not rely solely on the government or our adult children to provide for us in our old age. We see lifelong learning and social networking as two of the best ways to achieve this objective.

On radio: Presenting our views on the proposal to introduce the Maintenance of Parents Act

To this end, we regularly organize talks and workshops and invite well-known professionals and specialists to share their expertise on how to plan effectively for a happy retirement. Click here for a list of some past events we have organized. We place special focus on information technology for seniors so that they will not be left behind as the rest of the world advances. Indeed, the ability to use online resources is vital to keeping seniors mentally engaged and socially connected.

We work closely with U3A (KL & Selangor) to help promote livelong learning to older adults.

To date we have worked with academic institutions such as the Institute of Gerontology, UPM Serdang and with Universiti Malaya in their MElor Project. We have also been invited to participate in PEMANDU's Seniors Living / Aged Care Lab, and to conduct a session at the Nursing Workshop on Geriatric Care organized by KPJ.

SeniorsAloud founder speaking at the opening of PEMANDU's Senior Living /Aged Care Lab
Conducting a session at the nursing update workshop on geriatric care at KPJ Tawakkal Specialist Hospital

As staunch supporters of volunteerism, we believe firmly that as seniors, we have a duty to help other seniors in whatever way we can. If we can't donate money, we can contribute our time and energy to help raise funds for them. Within our SeniorsAloud community, we have members with vast working experience and skills that we can draw upon to train other seniors looking to set up a home-based business or learn about social media. We also have a wealth of life experiences that we can share with others going through similar experiences. Our credo is 'Seniors helping seniors to succeed'.

We have volunteered with various NGOs to support their cause, among them U3A (University of the Third Age), AUTORR, Kechara Soup Kitchen and ADFM (Alzheimer's Disease Foundation Malaysia). We encourage you to take up volunteerism too. You will be surprised at the health benefits of volunteerism. If you would like to know more about these NGOs, drop us a line at info@seniorsaloud.com




We have often spoken out on issues that affect older adults here in Malaysia, for example, the lack of well-run nursing homes and retirement homes for the elderly, the escalating cost of healthcare and medical treatment, and the need for better public transport facilities for senior citizens. SeniorsAloud was invited to participate in the National Forum on Public Transportation, and met with SPAD officers to present our views on behalf of the seniors community.

SeniorsAloud team - photo taken at the recent "Celebrating the 60s" dinner and dance on 31 May, 2014, to raise funds for the homeless elderly.

SeniorsAloud owes its rapid growth to strong support from the seniors community, and also to a small team of dedicated volunteers without whom none of our events would have seen the light of day. We are grateful too to the many kind seniors out there who have taken the trouble to send us articles, jokes, and videos to share on our blog.

We have started a monthly newsletter for members only, to keep them informed about upcoming activities. Membership remains free and is open to anyone aged 50 and above. To register, go to our members registration page. For daily updates, visit our SeniorsAloud Facebook page. 'LIKE' the page to receive the latest news and announcements directly.

SeniorsAloud will continue to speak out aloud on issues that affect older adults. The louder our voice, the better our chances of being heard by the relevant authorities, and for them to implement measures to improve the quality of life for all senior citizens in the country.

'LIKE' us on Facebook to receive our daily postings. To view our FB page, click here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

LET'S PUT AN END TO ELDER ABUSE!

How many of us are guilty of elder abuse? If the truth be told, all of us would admit to some degree of guilt. We shudder with horror and disbelief when we read in the papers about caregivers in nursing homes physically abusing the elderly residents in their care.

We cannot fathom how anyone could cause pain and injury to frail and defenseless old people. We would never do anything like that to hurt the very people we are supposed to look after and care for.

But elder abuse is not just physical. It encompasses financial and psychological abuse as well. Guess who are guilty of such abuse? Who are the usual suspects? The answer - the adult children.

When adult children exploit their elderly parents for their own financial gains, that's abuse too. Examples include compelling their parents to prematurely sign over ownership of the family property to them, or transferring shares to their names.


For whatever reasons, these children can't wait to inherit from their parents. That would take too long. I know of cases where elderly parents have been evicted from their own home by their children. Money over-rules blood ties.

Perhaps the most common abuse is emotional/psychological. Most of the time we are not even aware that we have hurt the feelings of the elderly. In moments of stress, anger or frustration , we lose our patience with them. We chide them, belittle them, even threaten them with the possibility of packing them off to an old folks home.

If we do not want our children to treat us this way, then we should not treat our aged parents this way. Let us set a good example by according our parents and all elderly the respect they deserve. We exist because of them. We are who we are today because of them. We owe them a lifetime of gratitude and love.

Last Sunday, 15 June, we celebrated Father's Day. It was also Elder Abuse Awareness Day - a timely reminder that while we celebrate with joy Father's Day, we should also remember to honor our parents in their old age, and treat them with respect and dignity.

One day, it will be our turn to experience old age. Will we fall victim to elder abuse? Not if we raise awareness of this despicable social disease, not if we raise our children to respect our elders.



Sunday, June 15, 2014

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PENSIONS & RETIREMENT FUNDS - A LOOMING CRISIS?

Poster calling attention to four
demands
I have just listened to Roy Ngerng's speech delivered at Hong Lim Park, Singapore, on 7 June, 2014. All 46 minutes of it. For those interested, there is a transcript plus a Chinese translation posted on his blog at The Heart Truths.

This CPF (Central Provident Fund) minimum sum (MS) issue has become such a hot potato of late. While I can understand where Ngerng is coming from, I can also see why the issue is not that straightforward.

The mandatory minimum CPF contribution has been rising steadily over the years to keep up with inflation. According to figures on the CPF Board website, when a CPF contributor reaches the age of 55, say, by 1 July 2014, he should have the minimum sum of S$155,000 in his CPF.

If he doesn't, any property he owns, bought with his CPF savings, will be automatically pledged for up to half of his MS. The Singapore government sees this as making sure Singaporeans have enough in their CPF to support them in their old age.

Protesting against Singapore's CPF Pension Scheme (Photo: Wall Street Journal)

Source: Central Provident Fund Board
If a contributor is nowhere close to having the MS in his CPF, he will be looking at the real possibility of working for as long as his health permits, perhaps till he drops dead.

Many of the elderly in Singapore, the 'pioneer generation', fall outside the CPF scheme. That is why silver-haired cleaners and dishwashers in their 70s and 80s are a common sight in this rich island republic. They have to take whatever jobs are available to survive.

CPF contributors have been earning 2.5% interest on their savings since 1999 (see chart). In Malaysia, the interest EPF (Employees Provident Fund) pays varies depending on how well (or not) their investments have performed. This year, the interest was a relatively high 6.35% (see chart). It is easy to see why Singaporeans are not too happy with the low interest rate of 2.5% on their CPF savings.

While Malaysian EPF contributors are delighted with the high interest of 6.35%, it is doubtful whether this can be sustained in the years ahead. Countries the world over are facing problems with underfunded pension schemes and retirement funds. It is a looming retirement crisis that has already led to street protests across Europe, the US and Asia.


A bit of background history may help to shed some light on how pension / retirement / funds have reached this critical stage of crisis. Back in the 1940s and 50s, governments set up social security schemes to encourage workers to save for their old age. The retirement age was set at 55, based on the assumption at the time that most people wouldn't live beyond 65. While the intention was good, they did not foresee the rapid socio-economic changes that would impact demographics and adversely affect retirement savings, namely:
Source: How a declining birth rate affects you
  • longer life expectancy (retirement savings would not be adequate to support a longer period of old age)
  • falling birth rate (this means a smaller work force to support a growing older population). In Singapore, for example, the fertility rate has dropped to an all-time low of 1.2
  • smaller family size (there are fewer siblings to share medical expenses and financial support for their aged parents)
Most governments facing this dilemma have resorted to raising the retirement age. While some have welcomed this stop-gap measure as it allows them to remain employed longer to support themselves, there have been demonstrations worldwide to protest the rise in retirement age.


In Singapore, for example, the retirement age has crept up from 55 to 60, 65, 67 and now to a proposed 70. Raising the retirement age lessens the government's burden of providing welfare for a rapidly growing older population.

However, CPF contributors are understandably unhappy. They have been waiting to retire and withdraw all their CPF savings. After all, it is their hard-earned money, and they have made plans for what they want to do with the lump sum. 

Source: The Star
A word of caution here. Retirement savings are meant to support you in your old age. It is not intended to help you pay for home renovations, your children's weddings, or holiday trips abroad., unless you have enough set aside for these expenses. Before you know it, all the CPF/EPF money is gone, and you will have no choice but to seek re-employment to support your remaining years.

Source: The Online Citizen
With the silver tsunami set to hit countries across the globe, governments will have to come up with innovative measures to ensure they have enough in their employees provident funds or social security funds to pay out to contributors.

A case in point - will the Malaysian government be able to continue forking out massive sums in monthly pensions to retired civil servants? At 1.4 million, it has the largest civil service in the world relative to its population, and it is still hiring in large numbers. The country has a population of 28 million and there are approximately 12 million people in the workforce, but only 1.7 million pay taxes. (The Star). Ponder on that.

Source: Bloomberg

Ngerng is right in demanding transparency and accountability from the government. Workers want to know how their government is investing their retirement contributions. What are the ROIs?

(See update below.)

Source: The Star 12 June, 2014

All governments have a moral responsibility to provide for their citizens, especially the elderly. But are they able to? That is the burning question that begs an answer. FAST.

Do watch this series of videos below to get a better understanding of why we might have to say Goodbye to Retirement as we know it.



Monday, June 2, 2014

CELEBRATING THE 60S - WHAT A NIGHT IT WAS!


SeniorsAloud's major social event of the year "Celebrating the 60s" on 31 May, 2014, turned out way beyond our expectations. The ballroom at the Royal Selangor Club was filled to capacity with seniors (and juniors) all eager to enjoy a fun-filled evening of good food, good music and good company. Awesome might be a better word.


Everyone received a generous goody bag filled with 15 packets of Indocafe coffee mix, plus a red coffee mug, also samples of Oat B22 and a complimentary copy of the latest edition of The Heat newsmagazine.


Some came dressed in the fashion trends of the 60s, complete with A-Go-Go boots and beehive hair styles. Others were more formally attired in coats and ties. We had an on-the-spot contest for the best 60s look. The two eventual winners won bouquets of flowers donated by Kats Florist.


Dinner was a feast of 25 dishes, including one table for vegetarians. Live music was provided by Alfred Ho and The Small Stones. Alfred also took song requests for charity. His music was so infectious he had the dance floor packed to capacity with happy feet and happy voices singing along to hit songs from our teenage years.




Everyone waited eagerly for the lucky draw to see who would win one of the 40 attractive prizes. The top three prizes were two return tickets to Bali, a beautifully hand-crafted didgeridoo flown in all the way from Melbourne, and a ukulele that some folks were hoping to win for their ukulele class.

General Manager of Regal Marketing & Trading Sdn Bhd presenting an Indocafe hamper to a lucky winner. The company sponsored 350 Indocafe goody bags plus five hampers.

Only one regret for me - I was too busy to take photos. So if you have captured happy moments of the event, please send them to me for sharing on SeniorsAloud website and Facebook page. You can email me at seniorsaloud@gmail.com. Thanks.

We have more exciting events coming up, but for members only. Details will be announced soon. Do register for membership at our registration page. It is free and open to anyone aged 50 and above.