Saturday, December 31, 2016

SENIORSALOUD 2016 YEAR IN REVIEW


2016 - what a year it was! A great year for some, an 'annus horribilis' for others. But everyone would agree that it ended with more deaths than we cared to read about. A timely reminder that we should pay more attention to our health in the coming new year and beyond. We would rather read about birthdays and wedding anniversaries than obituaries.

For SeniorsAloud, 2016 was another eventful year, with further growth in membership, more events organized and wider reach on social media.

Here's a look back at the year that was for SeniorsAloud.

We started the year with a get-together for members at Penchala Hills. It was a pleasant evening spent chatting and playing Math Magic, an engrossing board game created by Jimmy Yeoh.

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In April, our members attended a free workshop organised by IEEE, TEMS, Gerontechnology Lab of Monash University and SeniorsAloud to learn more about the features and uses of smartphones. It was followed by a very interesting and informative tour of the lab, the first in Malaysia. Thank you, Associate Prof Dr Teh Pei Lee and your team of very knowledgeable facilitators.

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The highlight of the year has to be our 3D-2N Belum trip in June. We had such a great time in the outdoors. The trip was certainly a welcomed getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, and an excellent opportunity for members to get to know one another better amidst the pristine backdrop of the Belum Valley. A video of the trip, courtesy of Alex Chin, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTj16ShUufY

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SeniorsAloud and AUTORR Foundation co-organized a workshop in July to raise awareness of the prevalence of scams targeting seniors. Speaker Andrew Chia shared his list of the top 10 scams that we should be on the alert for.

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Our third visit to Kg Hakka was to join Victor Chin and Rakan Mantin group in celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival in September. We paid Grandma Kong a visit and watched as she offered prayers outside her house. It was a throwback to the old days when we held feasts, ate mooncakes and carried lanterns in the parade around the kampung.

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SeniorsAloud held its 3rd annual fund-raising 'Reunion Party' dinner and dance on 1 October which was also United Nations International Day of Older Persons. As in previous years, we had an excellent turnout. All tables were taken. Thanks to generous sponsors and donors, we were able to invite 19 guests from several NGOs, and give away more than 60 attractive prizes to lucky draw winners.

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While SeniorsAloud continues to remain non-political and non-religious, we do support human rights and calls for justice and transparency. For these reasons we participated in Bersih5 on 19 Nov as well as 'Walk 4 Maria' on 23 Nov. We are glad to have added our voice for these causes.

Community Service
Thanks to funds raised from our annual dinners, SeniorsAloud is able to help senior citizens and the elderly in need under our 'Grant a Wish for the Elderly' project. In January we covered the cost of cataract surgery for Mr Liow Cheng Loon, 69. As a red IC holder, he was not eligible for govt welfare aid. His plight was brought to us by Justin Cheah of Kechara Soup Kitchen. The surgery was carried out in January. We are glad that Mr Liew is now enjoying clear vision.

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We were happy to oblige when Keats Makandu, founder of Mums Sew With Love (MSWL) approached us for help to purchase an electric sewing machine so that the single mothers could sew more and earn more to support their children. On 12 May, SeniorsAloud team members Choke Ling, Kim and Lily were present at MSWL to hand over the machine. We hope it will make a difference and enable the moms to cope with the increase in orders for their high quality home-sewn products.


It was our pleasure to invite five of the single mothers out to celebrate Mothers Day with a concert and a buffet at VSQ @ PJ City Centre. It was a real treat for them and for us too to see their smiling faces.

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We ended the year with distribution of rubber gloves and face masks to two NGOs and a nursing home. The items were donated by Cranberry. Do contact us if you know of any NGOs or old folks homes that will welcome these items. 
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11 March marked the launch of our Friday Room for Improvement Day. Smartphones have made it so easy for us to snap photos of anything we see around us that should be improved. We can all be vigilant and help make our city clean and safe for all, regardless of age. Send the photos to SeniorsAloud for posting on our FB page. Please provide info of the date and place where the photos were taken. We have seen corrective action taken by the relevant authorities in response to some of the hazards that we have highlighted. 
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SeniorsAloud Newsletter
As not all members check their email regularly, we have made it a point to announce on our FB page when our monthly newsletter is out. To date we have not missed a single issue since June 2014 when we started sending out monthly newsletters. It is a challenge to organize events and activities that will appeal to seniors as they have such diverse interests. But we hope we have succeeded to some extent. To receive our free newsletters, just click on the link and submit: 
http://www.seniorsaloud.com/p/members-registration.html


Apart from the above list of events and activities, SeniorsAloud has also helped to promote (and participate) in many events organized by NGOs, and other organizations such as:
  1. Alzheimer's Foundation of Malaysia (ADFM)
  2. AUTORR Foundation
  3. University of the Third Age (U3A), KL and Selangor
  4. Kechara Soup Kitchen
  5. Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS)
  6. Science for Healthy Living (S4H)
We look forward to doing more in 2017 to promote active ageing, lifelong learning and reach out to more seniors through our blog and FB page. Do help us to spread the word. 

Finally we would like to thank all our members, FB friends and sponsors who have supported us through another successful year. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! And deepest appreciation to SeniorsAloud team members who have been most generous with their time and energy in helping to organize the many events and activities held throughout 2016. Here's to a happy, healthy NEW YOU (and NEW US) in 2017!


Friday, November 4, 2016

SETTING THE STANDARD FOR OLD FOLKS HOMES

Coming up the driveway to Little Sisters of the Poor / St Francis Xavier Home for the Elderly in Cheras, KL

It was back in the 1970s that I first heard of Little Sisters of the Poor (LSP). I had imagined it to be a place where the elderly poor would spend their final years looked after by caring nuns who had dedicated their lives to God and to charity work. Being young then, I had little interest and absolutely no reason at all to visit the place.

Near impossible to find an aged care facility in the city centre with so much greenery and open spaces.

Decades later and now the founder of a seniors community, I had good reasons to pay a visit. Over the years LSP had gained a solid reputation as the 'gold standard' for aged care facilities. It has become the yardstick to measure other similar facilities.

So when the opportunity came last August to visit LSP with a group of academicians from UPM, I grabbed it. The visit was certainly an eye-opener. To say I was impressed by what I saw is putting it mildly. I was awestruck!

Let me take you on a virtual tour of LSP.

The dining hall. Great idea to use cut-out tennis balls to protect against scratching the floor.
The reading room.
The hair salon. Notice the gleaming floors at LSP. Unbelievable!

The physiotherapy room.
The sewing room. Note also the natural lighting in all the rooms.
The shop where items made by the residents and volunteers are sold.
Lounges are everywhere for residents and visitors to rest their tired feet or simply to sit down and relax.
The tea room.
The kitchen - spick and span and spotlessly clean.
The laundry room. Adjacent to it is where clothes are sorted and folded.
There are hand rails all along the corridors, and in the lifts. Note too the wall phones on every level.
A peek into one of the rooms with attached bathroom and toilet.
Benches on every level. Facilities at LSP are without doubt elderly-centred.
At the cafeteria listening to Sister share about LSP.
The main hall where the residents were enjoying some performances when we dropped in.
Colour drawings by the residents.
Fun activities to keep the residents happily occupied.
Daily programme of activities for the month.
Group photo in the garden at the end of our visit.
It would be a challenge for most existing aged care centres to come close to LSP in terms of size, facilities and dedicated staff. Throw in cleanliness, efficiency and integrity, and you can understand why there is a long waiting list for admission to LSP.

Little Sisters of the Poor celebrated its golden anniversary last Deccember 2015. What a remarkable achievement! Pope Francis sent a special apostolic blessing to mark the auspicious occasion.

With the proposed Aged Healthcare Act to be introduced next year, the elderly in old folks home and nursing homes in Malaysia can look forward to better care and better facilities. Aged care centres that fail to meet the stipulated standards will face stiff penalties. They will also have to be licensed and registered.

I can almost see the elderly clapping their hands with glee and jumping for joy! It's been a long time coming.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TAKE A STAND AGAINST AGEISM

Negative stereotyping of older adults often leads to discrimination against them. 
If you are 60 and above, you are likely to have encountered instances of ageism at one time or another. Not only are older people discriminated against by banks and other financial institutions, but also at the work-place and in the job market. Indeed, older people face age discrimination on a daily basis. Bus drivers yell at them, shop assistants ignore them, medical professionals don't take their pains and aches seriously, EPF stops giving you interest on your retirement funds when you reach 75, ...the list goes on. Even at home, elderly parents find that no one listens to them. Their advice is often not sought for family decisions. They are head of the family only in name.

All this is based on negative perceptions and stereotyping of older people as frail, senile and unproductive, and a drain on the nation's welfare resources.

The New 80s - still active and certainly still able to contribute to society. What more those in their 60s and 70s?! Don't write off older adults as useless and past their productive shelf life.

And this is despite the fact that people are now living longer and healthier, thanks to advances made in medicine, science and technology. 60 is the new 40, and 80 is the new 60. They may have reached retirement age, but are still capable of contributing to society if given the opportunity to work or serve.

POWER and MONEY speak louder than age. Older people in positions of influence and authority, and have vast financial resources at their disposal can still command respect everywhere they go. These are the blessed ones. They can take care of themselves in their old age. It's the rest of the ageing populace that we should make a stand for. They are the voiceless ones, the silent majority who feel disadvantaged and powerless to fight against ageism.

But change is inevitable. The number of older persons is growing and this silver wave can't be stopped. (I am loath to use the word 'tsunami' as it gives a negative connotation to the rise in the elderly population.)


By 2035, the number of people aged 60 and above will have accounted for 15% of the total population in Malaysia. The country is heading towards ageing country status. The government is aware of what needs to be done to meet the demands and challenges of an ageing population, but implementation is painfully slow. The private sector has yet to fully acknowledge the impact this shift in demographics will have on the work force and on the economy.

The time will come when all of us will have to wake up to the reality that global ageing is here to stay. It is in the interest of everyone, especially the younger generation, to ensure that discriminatory practices against older people be removed. Any policies that uphold the rights of older people will ultimately benefit the young of today as they too will grow old one day. To take this one step further, when a country takes good care of its elderly population, everyone benefits.


The government wants to encourage active, independent and healthy ageing. So do all older people. For this to be successful, any form of discrimination against older people must be removed, and every bit of help be given to enable them to continue working and supporting themselves for as long as possible.

So kudos to the United Nations for taking a stand against ageism and making it the theme for International Day of Older Persons 2016.

For more voices against ageism, go to HelpAge International

Friday, September 9, 2016

THE NEW 'OLD' AND THE NEW 'ELDERLY'


I find it quite grating that our local journalists and reporters often use the terms 'old' and 'elderly' to refer to people who are still vey much alive and kicking, and far from approaching the end-of-life phase. I suppose to these young media folks, anyone aged above 40 is definitely old and elderly.

The above newspaper clippings remind me of one of the earliest letters I sent to The Star in October 2012 on the topic of new labels for 'old' people. The Star had changed the original title to "The World At Our Feet". Frankly, I don't think it's appropriate. The online version has a different title "When Does Old Age Begin?" You can read the original version below.

When I started my community blog in May 2008, I had come up with several tentative names for the blog. Unfortunately all of them were rejected when I signed up for an account with Blogger. Every single one of the names I keyed in had already been taken. I must have tried at least 20 names. In frustration I gave it one final go with 'Seniorsaloud'. The name had popped into my mind at that last minute. To my surprise, it was available!

Both my daughters didn't like the name at all. They felt that with a name like Seniorsaloud, the blog would attract only old people. Of course, I went on the defensive. What did they mean by 'old'? I was about to turn 60 at the time, and didn't feel at all a day over 40. Neither was I frail, and definitely nowhere close to being senile and decrepit.


The new 'old' - Prof Emeritus, Dr Khairuddin Yusof, 76, 
enjoys extreme sports. He spoke at our Seniorsaloud 
event on "Retire Healthy" in July 2012.
Let me ask my readers, does the word 'senior' have a negative connotation? What sort of image comes to mind at the mention of 'senior citizen'? I have good friends who would cringe with horror at being referred to as one, even though they are 60+ and retired. To them, that's as good as sounding the death knell.

The problem with labels is they are generic. 'Old' people are painted with the same brush, and in the same grey colour. But there are so many different shades of grey. Author E.L.James will give you 50! If the 50+ and 60+ are not quite ready to be called old, how would you address them? The 'young old'? That doesn't work either. And are the 70+ the 'old old'? What other terms of reference do we have? The pre-war and post war generations? Equally cumbersome and inadequate.


Dr Yusof's book on active ageing
Quite often the media is guilty of mislabelling. "Elderly man falls victim to snatch thief", says one headline. You read the news report and find that the victim is only 60! I turned 68 in June this year. I can deal with being called a senior citizen as that is what I am. But 'elderly'? Not by a mile. The problem is, young reporters are incapable of making that age distinction. To people in their 20s, 64 is practically ancient, if not pre-historic!

So until we come up with age appropriate labels, I suppose baby boomers like us will have to forgive the young for addressing us as 'old' and 'elderly'. 

If numbers don't matter, and chronological age is not an accurate indicator of physiological age, what are we left with? How would you like to be referred to? 'Older people' seems to be the least disparaging and most neutral. With people now living much longer, there is a need to come up with new labels for the old (pun intended) that do not smack of ageism, and that is acceptable to all.


Photo taken in 2014 when my mom was 88, and I was 66. A generation apart but young reporters would lump us together as 'the elderly'.

If the 60s is the new 40s, you can understand why labels like 'old', 'elderly', 'frail' no longer describe the active, independent and fun-loving baby boomers of today. By the time we reach our 70s, 80s and 90s, we will be re-defining the face of ageing.

There is a world of difference between growing old and growing older. And it's a lot to do with how we look at ageing - positively or negatively, with anticipation or dread. To take it one step further, by changing how we view ourselves, we can change how society look at us.

Adnan Osman, 70, cycled all the way to London for the 2012 Olympics. Inspiring role models like him show us that growing older doesn't have to mean the end of fun and adventure. The world is still there for us to explore. There are new things to learn, and new friends to make. Indeed, growing older can be an exciting new chapter of life.



Postscript: I have always wanted to have a column in the newspaper to write about topics and issues of interest and relevance to senior citizens. If that ever happened, it would be a dream come true for me. Maybe I would call it 'Silver Threads'. It would also be a channel to share information and personal insights on matters that involve this demographic. Our numbers are growing. Other than writing letters to the newspapers, we don't have an avenue to voice our concerns about a host of issues that affect us, including healthcare, cost of living, public transport, affordable housing, re-employment, age-friendly public facilities, retirement planning and end-of-life issues.

It's about time to speak out and be heard. And that's why I have a new tag line for SeniorsAloud's FB profile picture: 'A Voice for Seniors'.