Saturday, November 29, 2014

WE NEED TO BE SELFISH IN OUR RETIREMENT

Cover article in The Malay Mail 27 Nov 2014

Yet again we read about retirees who have depleted their EPF savings within a few years after withdrawing the entire sum upon reaching retirement age.

The reasons they give run the gamut of expenses from their children's wedding to house renovation. Many use the money to pay off debts, including those of their relatives who come knocking on the door for financial assistance.

Others lose large sums in risky investments or worse, in get-rich-quick scams. Some set up their own business hoping to generate income, but end up having to close their business after a couple of years when funds dry up.

EPF contributors must bear in mind that their savings are meant to see them through their retirement years, which could be anything from 10 to 20 years. Malaysia's EPF was set up in 1951. Back then the average life expectancy was 54, and the retirement age was 55. So there wasn't much need to save up a tidy pot of gold for the golden years.

Today the average Malaysian is expected to live to a ripe old age of 77 and this figure is set to rise even further. It may be too late to save when we have already retired, but we can learn to manage our savings and stretch the money so it will last till our final days. We need to live sensibly as befitting our new financial status.

For retirees who cannot trust themselves to control their spending, it might be a wise decision to opt for monthly payouts (as in pension payment) than a one lump sum withdrawal. This will compel them to live within their means, and ensure their savings see them through their old age.

It's easy to get into debt once we start borrowing money.

Money management, including budgeting, should be made a compulsory subject in school. Children should be taught the habit of saving so that it becomes a way of life when they enter adulthood. Once the habit is instilled, it can be extended to saving water, electricity and so on, all of which ultimately helps to stretch our retirement savings.

After paying off 90% of debts, what's there left
to retire on for the next 15-20 years?

The temptation to spend is great when we suddenly find our bank account fatter by a six-figure sum. Now we can enjoy that luxury cruise to exotic islands. Now we can buy that Lexus Hybrid. Now we can finally get new furniture and extend the kitchen.

We become instant potential clients for real estate agents, remisiers, multi-level marketing companies and direct selling sales recruiters. Scammers flock to us like bees to honey as they know how naive and easy-to-con retirees are, especially retirees who are eager to make more money quickly.

Rule of thumb for pre-retirees

And let's not forget long-lost relatives and friends who appear out of the blue to seek a loan. It is not easy to turn down someone with a hard-luck story, especially if we have been through the same experience at some point in our lives. We know what it is like.

BUT we need to be selfish and learn how to say 'No'. No to extravagance, No to non-essentials, and most of all, No to borrowers. BUT yes to small donations to charities and the less fortunate who truly need help. That's giving back to society.

Kudos to the EPF for providing complimentary Retirement Advisory Services. The next generation of retirees will have no excuse for making the same mistakes that many of the curent crop of retirees have made. Awareness of the pitfalls of having insufficient retirement savings should scare them into saving early, spending sensibly and living simply.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HOW AGE-FRIENDLY IS OUR CITY?

View of the city from the sky bridge at the Twin Towers
Sometimes one can't help but wonder whether our city fathers and policy-makers consider the special needs of older people when they make decisions on improving the city's infrastructure and public facilities. Do they study the demographics when they brainstorm at meetings?

Admittedly there have been some improvement over the past few years, but there is still much more that City Hall can do to make Kuala Lumpur an age-friendly city.

Here are some suggestions on how City Hall as well as the private sector (and also city dwellers in general) can make it easier for older people to move around in the city, and enjoy a day out on their own or with friends.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Thank goodness the days of the pink mini-buses and their wannabe F1 drivers are gone. It took years but public transport has improved tremendously with the introduction of air-conditioned buses and trains that run on schedule most of the time. There are now free shuttle buses serving Kuala Lumpur city centre and Petaling Jaya township. Senior citizens aged 60 and above enjoy 50% off all fares. Kudos to SPAD for these improvements. When we make enough noise, they listen. (Click here to read some of our previous complaints).

Not a single piece of information on bus routes and bus schedules at these bus-stops. 
All kinds of notices and advertisements, but no information on bus routes

However, information about bus routes is not easily available. Many senior commuters have no clue what buses to take to reach their destinations. They are not internet-savvy, so we can't expect them to go online to check for information. The design of buses leave much to be desired for the elderly who find the steps too high for them to board easily. Only a handful of buses offer wheelchair access. No wonder we hardly see any OKU out on their own in the city.

Facilities at LRT and monorail stations have improved, but stairs like the above can be challenging for the elderly. Not all stations have escalators and lifts, and not all are always in working condition.
Just looking at the stairs is exhausting to an elderly. But how
else to cross the busy road if not by this overhead bridge?

PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS AND KERBS

A challenge for the elderly to cross busy Jalan Ampang at KLCC. KL drivers are not known for their patience.
The timing device at pedestrian crossings covering more than three lanes should be calibrated to give enough time for the elderly to make it safely across. An example is the Jalan Ampang crossing for KLCC/AvenueK. There used to be a 23-second time gap for pedestrians to make it across the road. The elderly and parents with young children would barely have enough time to reach the opposite side safely. Now that the timed crossing has been replaced with ordinary lights, there is no knowing when the green light will turn amber then red. The elderly will have to cross busy roads at their own risk.

Evidence of poor planning and poor maintenance. No need to say more.

PUBLIC RESTROOMS 


Only squat toilets at this premier department store, and no grab bars. A challenge for older women with knee problems to use these restrooms.

Incontinence is a common problem for most senior citizens. Is it any wonder that they prefer to stay at home than go out to crowded places where the public toilets are either in short supply or in a filthy state? There is also the problem of long lines at the ladies restrooms. There is no priority queuing for elderly ladies. And while on the subject of public loos, how is it possible that one of the biggest departmental stores in the country does NOT have seated toilets in their restrooms? Don't they know that the elderly can't squat because of knee problems?

SHOPPING MALLS


Taking mom out to the mall can be a daunting experience for both of us. Not a single bench to rest weary feet.

Seniors enjoy walking around in shopping malls. The sights and sounds are a source of wonder and amazement to them, especially if they are visiting from the smaller towns. Unfortunately, the lack of facilities for wheelchair access, long lines at washrooms, and few rest areas make an outing to the mall an ordeal for the less abled elderly.

For those interested in knowing what constitutes an age-friendly city, here is WHO's checklist of what an age-friendly city should be and should have. How does Kuala Lumpur fare? To download the checklist, go to
http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Age_friendly_cities_checklist.pdf



Saturday, November 15, 2014

SENIORS IN REMAKE OF CLASSIC MOVIE SCENES

Two more months to go, and it'll be time to retire this 2014 calendar. Pity. I am referring to the calendar produced by the Contilia Retirement Group (CRG) in Essen, Germany, featuring some of the residents of the nursing home re-creating famous scenes from movie classics. The oldest 'actor' is 98 years old, and he has the coolest role of all!

What an absolutely fabulous idea for a calendar. CRG printed 5000 of these calendars and gave them away to the residents of the homes and their families, as well as to staff members.

Here are the twelve scenes for the twelve months of the year. Can you name the movies and lead actors and actresses? Scroll down for the answers.

1. Wilhelm Buiting, 89
2. Marianne Brunsbach, 86
3. Erna Rütt, 86, and Alfred Kelbch, 81
4. Erwin J. von der Heiden, 80
5. Erna Schenk, 78
6. Ingeborg Giolbass, 84, and Erich Endlein, 88
7. Lothar Wischnewski (left), 76, and Margarete Schmidt, 77
8. Martha Bajohr, 77
9. Joanna Trachenberg, 81, and Horst Krischat, 78
10. Irmgard Alt, 79, and Siegfried Gallasch, 87
11. Johann Liedtke, 92 and Marianne Pape, 79
12. Walter Loeser (left), 98, and Kurt Neuhaus, 90

Check your answers below for the movie titles and the lead actors and actresses. What was your score?

1. James Bond "For Your Eyes Only" - Sean Connery
2. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - Audrey Hepburn
3. "Titanic" - Kate Winslet and Leonardo de Caprio
4. "Rocky" - Sylvestor Stallone
5. "Mary Poppins" - Julie Andrews
6. "The Seven-Year Itch" - Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell
7. "Blues Brothers" - John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
8. "Cabaret" - Liza Minelli
9. "Giant" - Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean
10. "Saturday Night Fever" - John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney
11. "Dirty Dancing" - Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze
12. "Easy Rider" - Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper

Now that you have seen all the recreations, who says the Germans don't have a sense of fun and humour? For the story behind the calendar, read the original article that was first published in Der Spiegel.

The calendar inspired another senior centre to come up with an 18-month calendar of vintage movies scenes re-enacted by members of the seniors living communities. Below are two of them. No prizes for the correct answers. To view the rest, go to Seniors Living Communities. All proceeds go to local charities.



Wonder if any company here would be interested in sponsoring a calendar based on a similar concept? We know plenty of seniors who fit the bill for models and who would be thrilled to be featured in the calendar. Proceeds to go to charity, of course.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

WANNA LEARN TO PLAY THE UKULELE?

If you are a senior, and have never taken music lessons before or learned to play a musical instrument, and would like to start now, a good choice would be the ukulele. It is a humble little instrument that can provide hours of entertainment and joy for those playing it and those listening to it.

Here's how learning to play a musical instrument can benefit older folks like us:
  • It stimulates brain activity, and helps in reducing the risks of depression and dementia. 
  • It is a great stress-reliever. Playing the ukulele and singing along makes you feel happy.
  • It improves coordination of your finger movement, and helps with exercising the muscles of your fingers and wrists.
A popular ukulele class for seniors at the University of the Third Age (U3A), Malaysia with instructor Kelly Teh.

And here's why the ukulele is our preferred choice:
  • The ukulele is simple to learn. Only four strings, and a small number of chords to learn.
  • It is versatile. After a few lessons and constant practice,  you can play hundreds of tunes from Old MacDonald's Farm (to sing along with your grandchildren) to evergreens like Somewhere Over The Rainbow (to sing along with your friends), and all the genres in between (e.g. hymns, classics and chart-toppers).
  • It is light and small, and therefore portable. You can travel with it anywhere you want.
  • Finally, and what is music to our ears - the price. It is easily affordable.

If you enjoyed this simple tune played by Adam Sandler on the ukulele, click here for a tutorial on how to play it.

SeniorsAloud was at The Cathay Ukulele Party yesterday evening (Sat 8 Nov, 2014). The highlight of the evening's program was when well-known ukulele virtuoso from Hawaii, Kalei Gamiao, took the stage. He was totally awesome, and his playing was literally electrifying. Check out his many videos on Youtube, and you will see why the crowd loved him.

Kalei Gamiao mesmerized the crowd with his incredible jaw-dropping ukulele skills. With his eyes closed and a smile on his face, he truly seemed to be in bliss while playing. No wonder he says the ukulele is an instrument to spread peace and joy. He was also in Kuala Lumpur in June to give some concerts. Click here to read.
Tom Low, 75, and his group Uke Jammers had fun playing a cover of Cliff Richard's 'The Young Ones'. Note his special ukulele. "Only 100 such ukuleles in the world," he tells SeniorsAloud. (Below) The crowd at the event jamming and singing along.


There is a huge revival of the ukulele as more and more people from 8-year olds to 80-year olds take to the instrument. Ukulele sales have soared, and music studios are now offering ukulele classes aside from the usual piano and guitar classes. Did you know that Warren Buffett plays the ukulele too? He started playing it during his college days. 


For the beginner, there are plenty of ukulele tutorials you can view on Youtube. Here's one that we have subscribed to. You can search for others that suit your particular music taste.


If you prefer to learn from an experienced and certified instructor, you can check out the following:

For Singapore, contact The Ukulele Movement at 178 Race Course Road, Singapore 218608 (nearest MRT Farrer Park, Exit F).

For Malaysia, contact Persatuan Pencinta Muzik Ukulele Malaysia at ppmum2013@gmail.com.

Or just email us and we will put you in touch with the right folks. Our email: info@seniorsaloud.com

Here are some articles that might interest you:


Monday, November 3, 2014

KUAN AI NURSING HOME FOR THE ELDERLY


With the rapid rise in the number of older persons looking for assisted living facilities, it is always heartening to hear about the opening of a new nursing home or a retirement home. Last Saturday (1 Nov, 2014) SeniorsAloud was invited to attend the opening of the Kuan Ai Nursing Home in Serdang Jaya, Seri Kembangan, Kuala Lumpur.


Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, was the guest-of-honour. In her speech, she spoke about the urgent need for more nursing homes as Malaysia is fast moving towards becoming an ageing nation by the year 2030. Socio-economic changes have resulted in an increase in the number of elderly people living alone. They often feel lonely and depressed. Perhaps, more importantly, who is there to help should anything happen to them?

Open concept of the office, and (right) nurse manager Ms Angela Lee.

Adult children who are unable to look after their elderly parents for one reaon or another should not feel guilty about putting their loved one in a home, provided it is a home that is well managed and run by qualified staff who are dedicated and committed to providing the best care. The traditional view of filial piety needs to be revamped in keeping with the changing times.

The Kuan Ai Nursing Home is fully licensed with eight qualified and experienced staff members, led by nurse manager Angela Lee, who has an Honours degree in Nursing Science. It was started by a small group of businessmen and academicians who saw the urgent need for a homecare establishment with full facilities for the elderly. Do visit the home and check out the facilities yourself before you decide if you would recommend it to anyone.

(Above): Rooms are bright and well-ventilated. Clients have a choice of 2-bed, 3-bed and 5-bed rooms. Current rates are RM2500, RM2000 and RM1600 respectively. All 21 beds are fully occupied at the moment. There are plans to open the adjacent wing soon to take in more clients.

(Top): The airy and spacious dining area with seats at the side for visitors. (Above): The kitchen. All meals are halal and menus are planned with the nutritional needs of the elderly in mind. Laundry is taken care of and there are weekly visits by a doctor.

(Above): Hand rails and grip bars are installed in all the bathrooms and toilets, as well as along corridors. What is also needed are non-slip tiles and mats, which will probably be added later on.

(Above): Reclining chairs where the elderly can rest or catch a nap during the day. Note the purple curtains which can be drawn to provide some privacy or to convert space into wards. The home is fully air-conditioned for the comfort of the clients.

(Above): An outdoor wash area. A cascading fountain and hanging flower pots. Little touches like these add to the pleasant surroundings of the home. There is a children's playground and garden adjacent to the home where the elderly can enjoy morning strolls.

(Above): The home has a schedule of daily activities for the clients. There are plans to hold celebrations for birthdays, festivals and Parents Day. The home encourages visits by NGOs and private companies.

(Above): Group photo with the Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun (in red). Seated: Board of Directors; Back row: Staff nurses with nurse manager Angela Lee (centre).

The oldest client is Mr Teo Kim Ser, a super centenarian. I had the privilege of chatting with him over lunch. Apart from being a little hard of hearing, he could converse easily in English and had clear memories of his early days attending school at St Paul's Institution in his hometown of Seremban. He told me with much pride that he was born in 1913, and worked with OCBC before he retired. One thing I have learned about the elderly is they love to chat. They also enjoy physical contact like hugging and holding hands.

To attend the open day, I took the KTM commuter train to Serdang, and from the station it was a short taxi ride to the nursing home. If you are driving, the home is easy to locate as it is situated in a quiet residential area close to the township of Serdang Jaya.

Opening hours are from 10.00am to 8.00pm daily. Give Angela a call before you drop by. She will be happy to show you around the premises.