Monday, August 14, 2017

ELVIS IS STILL IN THE BUILDING!

What an evening it was at the Elvis 40th Anniversary 'All Shook Up' tribute last Friday 11 August 2017. The ballroom at Serangoon Gardens Country Club shook, rattled and rolled to Jailhouse House Rock and Love Me Tender, and all the hits from an era beloved by the baby boomers all decked out for a rollicking good time. And that they certainly did, thanks to Jimmy Preslee Productions. They brought in four top Elvis Tribute Artistes (ETA) from Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines to entertain the audience, together with two ETAs from Singapore.

I first heard about the event from a good friend Dr Pok Tham Yien from Johor Baru. I have always been an Elvis fan. Of course I wouldn't want to miss the event but tickets were already sold out weeks in advance. Yes, Elvis still lives on in the hearts of his legions of devoted fans. I can't think of anyone in the music pantheon that has left behind such a global following, one that has remained undiminished long after their demise.

Preslee Productions' very first Elvis Tribute was a roaring
success, and paved the way for subsequent tribute concerts.
As luck would have it, Jimmy Lee, the organiser, turned out to be from my hometown Batu Pahat, and my cousin's ex-classmate at BP High School. He called me up with the good news that Judy, his lovely wife, had a ticket for me. One of her friends couldn't make it for the event. We met up at Sim Lim food court on 31 July.  It was over lunch that I discovered how Jimmy Preslee Productions (JPP) came into being.

It all started in 2009 with Jimmy's love of karaoke, especially singing Elvis songs. One thing soon led to another, and he was invited to perform alongside other Elvis performers in Hongkong, Manila and Penang. To cut a long fascinating story short, Jimmy saw the demand for such shows. So he became a show agent and in 2014 organised the inaugural tribute 'Elvis is Back in the Building' under Jimmy Preslee Productions (JPP). It drew such overwhelming response that it has become a JPP staple to feature two Elvis tribute events a year.

Here's a snapshot of the recent 'All Shook Up' Elvis 40th Anniversary Tribute:

A sold-out event. Can't go wrong with an Elvis tribute. Baby boomers love songs that bring back fond memories of the 1960s era.
(Left & right) NONIE ELVIS YAMBAO from Philippines and ELVICH PHATIHATAKORN from Thailand (centre). Below: TITUS CHEONG from Singapore


JIMMY PRESLEE from Singapore, JUDY CHONG LEE (yes, Jimmy's lovely wife emcees and sings too), and HANCHE PRESLEY from Indonesia 
Close-up of the three Elvis ETAs (Photo credit: Judy Chong Lee)
Judy and Jimmy Preslee
~ the driving force behind JPP
I asked Judy what is the difference between an Elvis impersonator and an Elvis artiste? Her quick reply: 'Elvis impersonators usually exaggerate and do some clowning around. ETAs don Elvis outfits and try to sing Elvis songs just like the King himself.' Ok. Got it. ETAs are serious professionals whose mission is to keep alive the legacy of Elvis Presley through songs and concerts. I have listened to many ETAs over the years, and I must say some of them are really incredible. They sound and look almost like the King himself.

Judging from the enthusiasm of the audience, especially the ladies, it was an evening to remember - a marathon singalong and dancethon. These baby boomers sure know how to have a fabulous time!

These ladies definitely have Happy Feet. They kept the energy and fun level high the entire evening. A tough act for the guys to follow!



(Jimmy's video above by Oei Seok Cheng. Thanks, Seok Cheng.) 

The ETAs were not the only ones on stage. The good-looking duo of ELVICH and KNIGHT PHATIHATAKORN from Thailand were a big hit with the ladies. They sang 'Let It Be Me' and 'Sound of Silence' and had the ladies literally swooning!


Special mention must be made of the band BABY BOOMERS, also called the Philippines Elvis Band. They provided excellent backup for all the singers and performed a couple of songs on their own too. On keyboard is band leader Lui Simbulan, with Gerry Yap on lead guitar, Bork De Leon on bass guitar and Tim Ponce on drums. Both Gerry and Bork sing in the band.


As I made my way around the ballroom, what caught my roving camera eyes were the many gorgeous ladies of Singapore. Here are pictures of some of them, all taken with their knowledge and permission. It is invariably the ladies who determine the success (or failure) of a dinner and dance event. If the ladies don't dance because the music is terrible, the event is heading for one big yawn.

Some of the lovely ladies I spotted in the ballroom. Too many photos to post all here.
One of the guys that caught my attention...for the tee he was wearing :-)

The first of two tributes this year. This one was
in March 2017.
This is the second Elvis tribute this year, so that means Elvis fans in Singapore will have to wait till 2018 for the next one. I am sure JPP is up to the challenge of giving loyal Elvis fans another unforgettable tribute as successful as, or perhaps even more successful than 'All Shook Up', if that is possible. If you are a die-hard fan and can't wait, make your way up to Kuala Lumpur. I hear there are Elvis tribute shows this weekend. Check out our SeniorsAloud FB page for more details.

Ladies (and guys), if you are reading this and would like to learn line-dancing or join a line dance group in Singapore, I can put you in touch with Judy. Contact me at 012-3068291 (only whatsapp messages, please). For Kuala Lumpur/PJ, I can recommend my club that teaches line dancing and ballroom dancing as well. As my cousin Lawrence puts it, "At our age, we should be rocking around the clock!" Agree absolutely, Life is for living, not for existing.

And to Jimmy and Judy: don't keep us waiting too long for the next Elvis tribute, or he will have left the building!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WHEN COMPASSION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH

Some people are blessed with all the good things in life, while others struggle every day of their lives. Good luck is always in short supply. Take a walk in the inner city and you will encounter the poor, the sick and the homeless. The compassionate among us want to reach out and help, but do not know where to begin, or how to go about it. The sheer number of those in need is daunting.

But not all who need help are found on the streets and back lanes of the city. There are many middle class families living in suburban homes who are in dire straits. Who can tell what tales of misfortune lie behind the front door and within those walls? Having a car parked in the front porch does not always reflect the true financial situation of the families occupying those houses. The smiling faces we see in social settings may hide untold tragedies in their lives.

It was against this backdrop that Siew Lim and I from SeniorsAloud team visited Elaine Khaw last Friday afternoon (14 July). Two years ago I had read in an online article 'Malaysia's Forgotten Music Man' that well-known musician Datuk Ooi Eow Jin had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. His wife Elaine had been struggling to look after their elder son who had brain tumour. Now she had the added responsibility of caring for her husband as well. Moved by the story, I made attempts to contact Elaine to see how SeniorsAloud could help. But my efforts were in vain. All my calls went unanswered.

Lovely photo of Ooi and Elaine in happier times. (Photo credit: The Star: 'A Malaysian Musical Legend')
Then out of the blue, about a fortnight ago, Siew Lim said she had met Elaine recently at a teahouse, and had her contact number. We made plans to visit Elaine at her home in Petaling Jaya. Reaching out to Elaine was always on my mind. My mom has Alzheimer's so I knew what she must be going through as a caregiver looking after the two men in her family.

Prized photos. (Left)  Ooi with the legendary P. Ramlee, and (right) receiving his datukship from Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas in Penang in 2015.
For those not familiar with the story, or with Ooi Eow Jin, his name was synonymous with the RTM orchestra for 17 years in the 1960s and 70s. He gained fame as a songwriter and composer of some of the most popular Malay songs of that era. His checkered career also included 13 years with TV3 and a short stint as a lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara and International College of Music. His last job was with Majestic Hotel where he was the resident pianist for five years.

Ooi entertaining guests at a 2015 charity concert to raise funds for his family.
Those heydays of playing music and recording songs with some of Malaysia's top entertainers like Sudirman, P. Ramlee and Rafael Buang are long gone. The years have passed but Ooi never stopped playing music. It was his only means of supporting his family. Fate dealt him and Elaine a double blow when they lost their younger son, Leong Seng, to leukimia at age 23, and their elder son, Chin Seng, now 53, had brain tumour and required two surgeries. To add to their misfortune, Ooi was diagnosed with early Alzheimer's Disease. This put an end to his piano-playing days at Majestic Hotel in June 2015. He has been jobless since then. He turned 80 last month.

Although able to move about, father and son spend most of the day in bed watched over by Elaine and the maid.

Giving Ooi a shave
The heavy burden of caring for her husband and her sons has left a toll on Elaine. The mental and physical stress is evident. Hanging on the wall of the living room is a portrait of Elaine, still beautiful at age 58. Now, at 78, she has lost much of that joie de vivre. As I spoke with her, I could see the bags under her eyes and the deep lines on her face. I am taking medicine for depression, she tells me.

Elaine has a maid to help her look after the two men during the day, so she could take a break or go out to run errands. But she is entirely on her own at night to watch over Ooi and Chin Seng. Ooi's Alzheimer's has worsened. Chin Seng has problems with his vision after a recent surgery, and has lost his sense of balance. The living room has been turned into a bedroom, and Elaine sleeps on the sofa nearby.

Me, Siew Lim and Elaine - seniors helping seniors whenever we can
Elaine's friends and neighbours as well as Ooi's former colleagues at RTM and TV3 organized two charity concerts in 2015 to raise funds for the family. Without a steady income and with rising monthly expenses for medicine, food and diapers, the funds raised are fast being depleted. Elaine has to fork out RM120 a day for the maid, an expense she can ill afford but necessary as having someone around to help allows her to take a break.

Elaine needs financial help and welcomes donations in kind, especially diapers. If you would like to reach out to Elaine in any way, you can contact Siew Lim at 012-657 3740 for more information

Friday, June 30, 2017

KEEPING THEIR LOVE OF MUSIC ALIVE THROUGH THE YEARS


Music played a huge role during our teenage years in the 1960s and 70s. We sang along to hit songs by Cliff Richard, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka, Johnny Tillotson, Bryan Hyland, and let's not forget their female counterparts like Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark and Helen Shapiro.

We did the jive, rock and roll, twist, ago-go and rumba to bands like Bill Haley and the Comets, The Shadows, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, The Cascades, The Monkees, the Beatles and so many more.



(Above) Who can ever forget 'Shanty' by The Quests? I was still in high school when it shot to the top of the hits charts and stayed there for months.

The 1960s music scene also saw the rise of local bands in Malaysia and Singapore doing cover versions of top hits. They had quite a following among university students, and regularly played at tea dances and concerts. Some of them like the Teenage Hunters, the Falcons, and the Quests (above) were good enough to sign contracts to play overseas in Germany, Hongkong and Vietnam. 



The recording studios were quick to sign up these bands and singers. Virtually every one of them released 45rpm records of their songs. There were Naomi and the Boys, Keith Locke (later replaced by Vernon Cornelius) and the Quests, the Ventures, the Stylers, the Blue Diamonds, Matthew and the Mandarins and others. There was also a proliferation of Malay and Chinese singers and their back-up bands like Jefrydin and Pop Yeh Yeh, and Rita Chao dubbed Queen of A Go-Go, the dance craze at the time.





(Above) Matthew and the Mandarins made famous their original country hit 'Singapore Cowboy'.

While some of the 60s era singers and musicians have passed on, those that have remained never gave up their passion for playing music. They continue to perform at fund-raising events, reunions, and corporate functions. Others like Jimmy Lee have been keeping the memory of Elvis Presley alive via the Elvis Presley Friendship Club of Singapore. Credit also goes to the Singapore government for promoting 1960s music with free concerts in October in conjunction with International Day of Older Persons.


Then there are those, both musicians and fans alike, who gather at each other's homes to jam and sing all those favorites of yesteryears. These get-togethers are always fun, and as research studies show, music is therapeutic and helps to reduce the risk of dementia.


D-Asiatics (above) playing a cover version of 'Midnight in Malaysia' made popular by Boy and His Rollin' Kids.


(Above) Mike Ho & Company: Chow on drums, Paul on rhythm, Jimmy Rampas on bass guitar playing The Shadows classic instrumental 'Apache'.



(Above) Alfred Ho was the winner of Malaysia's first national talentime contest in 1971. He continues to play music today. Do support him. You can catch him busking on most Thursday evenings 5pm to 7pm at Avenue K-KLCC lrt station.

Truly music keeps us feeling young, energetic and socially connected. If we can't play an instrument, we can sing, or dance to music. Music feeds the soul and nourishes it. We need music in our lives. Period.

Related posts:

http://www.seniorsaloud.com/2014/04/flashback-to-swinging-60s.html

http://www.seniorsaloud.com/2014/03/finding-joy-solace-and-therapy-in-music.html

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SENIORSALOUD ON BFM89.9 - 'NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN'


Thanks, BFM89.9 for broadcasting the interview today. Most appropriate as it's Teacher's Day. To listen to the podcast, click on this link below:

http://www.bfm.my/lily-fu-seniorsaloud-never-too-old-to-learn.html

Happy listening, and Happy Teacher's Day, especially to all retired teachers. I am one too.

Friday, April 28, 2017

NO AGE LIMIT TO BECOMING GOOGLE-SAVVY


Kudos to Google Malaysia for organizing Google Cafe for Seniors held today (28 April 2017) at YMCA, Brickfields. Very timely too, as of late I have been bringing up the issue of seniors being left behind in the Digital Age, not just in my recent talk at Petrosains, but also in a letter to The Star, and only yesterday on BFM89.9.

Head of Communications at Google Malaysia, Zeffri Yusof, giving the seniors an overview of what they will be learning.
So what did the seniors learn today? Plenty. With their copy of Google Passport and their smart phones, the seniors went to each of the four stations to learn how to use various apps in Google Search, Google Plan, Google Travel and Google Photo. Although I have been a blogger and administrator of several social media platforms for over a decade, there were new things for me to learn. Always.

The four Google Cafe stations / booths
Many of the seniors had their first experience of virtual reality. Armed with their VR cardboard goggles, they went on Google Expeditions, exploring exciting destinations via 360 degrees virtual reality. So much fun!

Going on an immersive virtual trip via Google Expeditions


To be sure, there was a lot of hand-holding from the facilitators who were only too happy to explain, guide and demonstrate how the apps work. It takes a lot of patience to teach seniors technology, but the Google team were definitely up to the challenge.

Emcee Sabina Wong handling the trivia quiz session 
So much excitement as the groups vied to be the first with the correct answers.
Group representatives in the final challenge on stage.

The last item was a trivia quiz to test their understanding of what they had learned. There was so much excitement and laughter as the four groups tried their best to beat the timer with their answers. The winning team with the highest score received their well-earned prizes from Zeffri.


To conclude the event, the seniors were treated to a delicious buffet lunch, courtesy of Google Malaysia. Final words from Zeffri: "Today's event shows you're never too old to learn about useful technology, and it's never too late to acquaint oneself with the apps and tools on your smart devices to make your day smoother, more productive and fun."

We couldn't agree with you more, Zeffri! Syabas to Google Malaysia for organising a very successful Google Cafe for Seniors.

From SeniorsAloud: Catherine, Choke Ling and Lily with Rene (in Google tee-shirt).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

SENIORSALOUD'S RAISON D'ETRE - AN INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER


"Two keywords have always governed my life - passion and compassion," says Lily Fu, 69. That, in a nutshell, explains the former teacher's attitude towards not just life, but also her work in being an advocate for active ageing.

Fu is the founder of Seniors Aloud, a community platform for senior citizens to learn more about issues that concern them, as well as connect with like-minded souls. While primarily based online, the group regularly carries out activities and events that focus on lifelong learning and community work.

Fu explains that Seniors Aloud started with her first blog post in May 2008. "I became a senior and saw first-hand the issues and gaps faced by people my age," she says. "I decided to start a community, and do what I can to help - the motivation was to start something and slowly spread the word about it."

Among the main issues Seniors Aloud wants to address is getting senior citizens into the digital age and encouraging more avenues for older adults to pick up new skills. With the latter cause, Fu points out that many older adults are increasingly unable to retire. "We may need to dig into our savings for our own parents, or even our children - and things are getting more expensive as well. I think entrepreneurship is a great skill to teach senior citizens; but many retraining opportunities are closed to us. We want to take care of ourselves, so help us do that," she says.


Lifelong learning and community involvement
Another factor Fu credits the beginnings of Seniors Aloud to is her love for lifelong learning. A testament to this is her active involvement with Universiti Putra Malaysia's University of the Third Age (U3A), an institution dedicated to lifelong learning amongst older adults. Based within the university's premises in Serdang, U3A regularly holds non-degree courses on subjects ranging from computing to cooking to even entrepreneurship. She is also currently considering going back to school for a second master's degree.

"I guess it's the same excitement as children feel, when they discover the world around them," says Fu, when explaining her curiosity and desire to learn. "Please get rid of that phrase 'too old' - otherwise you become a dinosaur! If I can get a few seniors to change their mindset (to try new things) - that's what keeps me going."

Seniors Aloud also does its part in giving back to the community through its Grant A Wish for the Elderly fund. The fund is specially allocated for older adults who need some extra support with necessities, such as medical treatment or even tools to help them with their work. Fu offers an example of the sort of beneficiary the fund seeks to help.

"We were introduced to a hawker who had terminal cancer. Since she could no longer work, she was worried about her three sons. Her eldest son was in university on a scholarship, with one more semester left to complete. So we stepped in to pay their rental for 10 months; that gave the son time to graduate and find a job to continue supporting the family," says Fu.

While potential beneficiaries of the fund will be vetted to determine how genuine their needs are, Fu adds that the fund will help in whatever way possible. "If say a senior needs to start a business, and has no money for a computer - let us know. Or if they need a wheelchair, or even if they are thinking of taking a course to learn new skills to find work, we're willing to help," she says.


Living by example
Despite her work on active ageing and being a hands-on grandmother of five, Fu has a constant buzz of energy about her at all times. This zest for life is not just reflected in her passion of exploring the world and constant quest to learn new things, but also in the way she keeps physically fit.

It is a simple regime - walking and relying on public transportation instead of driving for the past 16 years. "My strength training is carrying groceries," she says with a laugh. "I live on the third floor of a low-rise apartment with no lift, so I go up and down the stairs several times a day - that's my exercise. I don't take any supplements, and try to be as natural as possible - lots of walking, fresh air, and sunlight."

Fu believes that there are several main pillars for successful ageing: health, finances, volunteerism, lifelong learning, and relationships. "All of these need to be balanced for a good life," she says. "In fact, I'd add one more pillar - having an 'anchor' or belief system. This could be a religion for some people, or a values system for others. This belief system is important, because without it, there will be no integrity in what you do."

She adds that maintaining healthy emotions is also crucial for living a fulfilling life. Having raised two children as a single parent, and then acting as a caregiver for her own mother, her own bright disposition was something hard earned. "I learnt to not take too many things to heart," she says. "If you hold bitterness in your heart, the only person who suffers is you; it was an epiphany when I realised this. Bitterness is toxic; and it was a huge load off my shoulder when I let go of these bad feelings."


(The above article, written by Priya Kulasagaran, was first published in the April 2017 issue of Urban Health magazine. Worth getting a copy of this month's issue as it comes with a free 49-page booklet on ECO-friendly eating, with lots of yummy, healthy recipes. Available at major bookstores and MyNews outlets at RM5.50 a copy.)

If you wish to participate in any of Seniors Aloud activities, sign up for free membership and monthly e-newsletter at http://www.seniorsaloud.com/p/members-registration.html. To get in touch with Seniors Aloud, send an email to info@seniorsaloud.com.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

17 GOING ON 70


On Chap Goh Meh the last day of the celebration of the Rooster Chinese New Year, 40 golden girls from Holy Infant Jesus Convent, Johore Bahru got together. In 1964 they sat for the Malaysian Certificate of Education. They were only 17 years old then and after that they pursued their dreams, embarked on a career, and raised a family. This year 2017, they are now 70 years old - definitely a milestone to celebrate and hold a big reunion at  a local hotel in Johor Baru.

It was indeed a grand reunion as the ladies walked down memory lane together. Thanks to the organisers who were based in JB and the wonders of the internet, emails were sent to set the day and venue.

Many of the ladies had mixed feelings. Would we be able to recognise each other? Would our memory fail us as we recall our classmates' names? But the minute we set eyes on each other, our fears were allayed. Also name tags helped make remembering so much easier. And so there were shrieks of laughter as we renewed friendships.

The emcee had difficulty in calming the excited ladies as they went round to mingle and get their life stories updated. Finally we were all seated ready for the programme.

We started by singing the national anthem Negara Ku, followed by a minute of silence for five teachers and six classmates who had passed  away. We then sang our school song. One verse of the school song was a tribute to the late Sultan Ibrahim who gave the school a statue of Mary which still stands in front of the school to this day. Before lunch was served, the emcee requested a thanksgiving prayer by a Malay classmate followed by a Christian classmate who said grace. The lunch was sponsored by one of the golden girls.

While eating the ladies moved from one table to another to mingle, take photos and reminisce. There was so much merriment and mirth as they exchanged notes on careers and family. Meanwhile the organisers had prepared a video presentation of the photos of yesteryears and again there were guffaws of laughter as we looked at the younger version of our good selves. Oh to be young again was the wistful look on many faces. Other comments were how did we balloon to our present size? In the same breath we were more than thankful that we were all there to celebrate the 7th decade of our lives.

The emcee had a small competition. First we wanted to know which golden girl had the most grandchildren. Our classmate from Perth hah a son who had eight children, their ages ranging from one to fifteen. So she won. The next prize went to the one who had the oldest grandchild. This was won by another classmate who proudly told us that she had received an ang pow from her 26-year old grandson before she came for this reunion! The last prize went to the classmate who travelled the furthest for the reunion. She had come for the reunion all the way from Washington!

Photos of family members were whipped out from the iphones and, believe it or not, there were some anxious mamas who were heard advertising the availability of their unmarried children .....yes match-making in full swing! I can imagine the response from their children if they knew what their mothers were up to. There were also invites to visit from those living abroad.

Next up was the cake-cutting ceremony for those who celebrated their birthdays in February. To get rid of our calories after the sumptuous lunch three golden girls led the others to a session of line dancing. It was really fun and hilarious as they listened to the instructions and tried their best to follow the steps and dance.

The ladies were not going  home empty handed. There were door gifts of smart balance oil given by one classmate, a handicraft from the organisers and a magnetic bookmark given to everyone. This bookmark came from an autistic centre where one of the golden girls was a volunteer.

Sweet 17 in 1964
Yes it was really a joyous reunion .....40 ladies in their 70s and not a white-haired woman around, thanks to the art of dying one's hair! Nobody was in a wheel chair and I noted no one needed a walking stick. The conversations ranged from useful exchanges of homemade remedies, how to get rid of arthritis, frozen shoulder, trigger finger, pigmentation, weight loss, to tips on how to look younger and many more.

But all good things had to come to an end. When it was time to say goodbye, there were more hugs, also more promises to see each other soon, to keep in touch with visits to each other's hometowns. We decided that by the time we reach 75, there should be another big do.

When we reached home there were dozens of photos and messages on our Whatsapp chat, lots of thank-you notes to the organisers who had gone to great lengths to organise this awesome reunion.

Yes, convent girls from the class of 1964, you were sweet 17 then and now in 2017, you are 70 years old but you have all aged well. We look foward to another reunion soon, God willing.

(Article contributed by Linda Lim. In the reunion group photo, she is in the back row, extreme left.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

TIME TO GIVE A LEG UP TO RETIREES WHO WANT TO STUDY


I wrote a letter to the papers a week ago. If it didn't get published, here is the original below. About time to give a thought if not a boost to retirees who want to get back to school. Not all of us, especially from the middle income group, can afford the fees. A scholarship even a partial one would certainly be a nice gesture of appreciation for all the years we spent working and serving the nation, the community.

TIME TO GIVE A LEG UP TO RETIREES WHO WANT TO STUDY

With the recent release of SPM results, universities and other institutions of higher education are going all out to promote their degree courses. The print media is filled with their ads, and lists of scholarships available to the top scorers. Indeed, school leavers are spoilt for choice at education fairs that are held several times a year.

On the flip side, there is a growing number of people who are left out in the cold when it comes to further education and career opportunities. I am referring to older adults who would like to learn new skills or enrol for a course of study to improve their chances of returning to the work force. What options are available to them? Almost none.

The government has raised the retirement age to 60 to encourage workers to remain working longer and save more for their retirement. But once older employees have left the work place, getting back to it is a huge challenge. Almost all doors are closed to them, no thanks to agesim being alive and well in both the public and corporate sectors. Not many institutions of further education conduct re-training in skills for older adults. Where can they go to upgrade their IT skills, for example? Or learn about digital marketing and entrepreneurship? When it comes to enrolling for a degree course, there are no scholarships available for them. Their chances of getting a bank loan to further their education is practically nil.

One wonders whether conventional thinking has much to do with this practice of agesim - that it is a waste of resources to invest in older people. After all, they do not have many productive years left. But statistics show that people are now living longer and better. In Malaysia, life expectancy has risen to 76, and set to rise even further. In Singapore, it is 85. When we retire at 65, we still have many more productive years ahead to contribute to the economy and nation-building.

With the rising cost of living and the depreciation of the ringgit, few among us can afford to stay retired. Our retirement savings will not be enough to provide financial security for those of us who retire at 55 or even 60. The new credo is to work for as long as we are able, and not depend on our adult children to support us. They have their own financial commitments to deal with.

It is incumbent on the government to provide free or subsidized skills training for older people to enable them to support themselves and to build a bigger retirement nest. With young people getting married at a later age, and delaying raising a family, there will be fewer young people in future to support a growing older population. Unless there are programmes to help older people get back to work, the government will have to face the burden of providing welfare aid for the elderly.

In countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore, ageing in poverty has become a reality. Let's not wait for this to happen in Malaysia.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

IS LIFE PASSING US BY?


In response to requests from friends who had missed the recent launch of The Senior magazine at Petronas KLCC (21 Feb, 2017), I am sharng the slides from my talk on 'Active Ageing'. Here's the first slide (above), and a question for the audience - Do you agree retirement is the best time to enjoy life?

The response would depend very much on whether we have laid the foundation for a successful retirement. If the roots of a sapling do not get enough of the right nutrients, the sapling will not grow into a strong and sturdy tree that will withstand the vagaries of the weather.


Likewise, for our retirement years to be truly golden, we must ensure these six pillars (roots) are firm enough to buttress us against the challenges of our later years. The six pillars: good health, financial security, strong relationships with our family and friends, community service, a belief system to keep us grounded, and lifelong learning to help us grow and improve.


If we do not have all six pillars in place, or if some of these pillars are weak, we need to shore them up. Insufficient savings? Work on a plan to generate some income or cut back on spending. Too old to do the things we have always wanted to do? Says who? Age is just a number that Time has given us. It does not define who we are, or what we want to be. We are the drivers controling the steering wheel of our lives.


Retire from work, but do not retire from life. Live life to the fullest or see it pass us by. The march of time seems merciless as we enter our later years. It is as if the countdown has begun as soon as we hit our 70s, never mind the research studies that show a sharp rise in the number of centenarians worldwide. Do we want to make each moment count, and fill it with happy experiences? Or do we want to withdraw from family, friends and the world outside, and fill our days with regret and remorse, and all the bitterness of a life that could have been. What a sheer waste of precious moments as the clock ticks away.


So get rid of the doldrums and go out. Feel the sunshine and the breeze on your skin. Take time to smell the roses, play with your grandchildren. Recharge. Be grateful that you can get up in the morning to greet another new day. Growing old is a privilege denied to many.


Have fun, travel, explore, discover. This is the time to spend on yourself. Be selfish. The above photo is one of my all-time favorites taken at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore in May 2015. A total of 40 members from SeniorsAloud and U3A (KL and Sgor) went on this 3D2N trip. There was so much to see, do and learn. A truly diverse group of Malaysian seniors spending a fun weekend together.


No need for us to look across the oceans for an inspiring role model of graceful ageing. Right here on our shores we have our former PM's wife, YB Toh Puan Dr Siti Hasmah, 91, to show us how we should live life in our retirement years. We are never too old to pick up new skills. All it takes is a change of mindset and attitude. The world is our oyster if we let it be.


One of the biggest fears of growing old is loneliness and abandonment. This comes from the perception that older people are useless and unproductive. Harbouring such thoughts and feelings can lead to depression, and in some cases, to suicidal tendencies in the elderly. The best way to dispel such negative thoughts and pessimism is to be active. An idle mind is the devil's workshop, right? Join a seniors club or volunteer with an NGO that resonates with you. For a start, why not sign up for courses with University of the Third Age (U3A)? Not only will you widen your circle of friends, you will also enjoy the fun of learning new skills with your peers in a non-threatening environment, without the stress of exams and homework!


The ladies above signed up for U3A acrylic painting course as beginners. They soon discovered they had a flair for painting. The result - an acrylic art exhibition of their masterpieces held in Putrajaya. Goes to show that we are never too old to learn new skills, never too late to unearth our potential. Think of the sense of pride and achievement these ladies must have felt. We can all be like them. Take the initiative to explore new horizons. Be fearless. Never let our age stop us from trying new things that interest us.


When we spend our retirement years living a sedentary lifestyle, our muscles will soon atrophy. We will start complaining of aches and pains all over. And before we even reach our 70s, we become dependent on all kinds of aids, from walking aids to hearing aids and every other aid in between. It's time to get up from our favourite lazy chair and exercise. Don't fancy exercising on your own? Round up some friends for a qigong session, or join a group like Mrs Jagjeet's Nordic Walkers.


There are also groups that organize hiking-camping-cycling trips. Take your pick. Go google, or search Facebook to find out where these groups meet and how you can join them. Making resolutions to lose weight, eat well and exercise regularly produces no results. Translate your resolutions and good intentions into the right action to see results.


Nothing like spending time outdoors in the early mornings or late evenings doing exercises to keep fit. Here are some members of Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) brisk walking in Taman Jaya park a few Sundays ago. In another section of the park was a group of old friends enjoying a quiet board game. Good friends provide a strong support system in our old age. Cherish their friendship.


Don't fancy the physical demands of hiking or cycling? Take up gardening. Mowing the grass, raking dry leaves, carrying flower pots and weeding all help to strengthen our muscles and improve our flexibility. There's also the added joy of eating the fruits of your hard work if you have a garden of fruits, herbs or vegetables. Urban farming is gaining popularity among city residents. U3A also offers short courses on hydroponics, kitchen garden and mushroom cultivation.


Not only should we take care of our physical health, but also our mental health. Use it or lose it applies to our brain as well. Board games are great as mental exercises, so are doing crossword puzzles, sudoku and playing mahjong. All these help us to maintain our mental acuity and hopefully keep Alzheimer's at bay. Here are members of SeniorsAloud enjoying a mentally-stimulating game of Math Magic. The board game was invented by Malaysian Jimmy Yeoh.


The ladies of senior citizens clubs love to dance. We just wish the guys shared the same interest. No matter, as long as the ladies are having fun, the guys are content to sit and watch. Dancing is an enjoyable way to exercise the body. It is liberating as well. The above photo was taken at SeniorsAloud 'Golden Memories' dinner and dance in 2015.


Passion and Compassion - these two values have been at the core of SeniorsAloud's existence from its very beginning in May 2008. Working hard to extend SeniorsAloud's reach and promote an active lifestyle for seniors has become my passion. I am blessed to have a dedicated team of volunteers to support me for our events and projects. Our passion spills over into compassion for others that need a helping hand. We believe firmly that volunteerism adds meaning and purpose to life. There are so many ways we can contribute to community service. Just find the one you are comfortable with, and that works best for you.


For SeniorsAloud we have chosen to help by setting up a small initiative to look into appeals for assistance from the elderly or from NGOs that serve the elderly. Here are some of our past community service efforts made possible with funds raised at our annual dinners.


Given the platform to speak on active ageing to an audience of senior citizens, I could not pass up the opportunity to promote SeniorsAloud and U3A at the launch. I have been told these are the most active senior citizens groups on social media in Malaysia, and possibly in the region. So it should be easy for anyone interested to get in touch with SeniorsAloud or U3A to join their activities. Just google.

These are the 20 slides from my 30-min talk, with some added notes. If you qould like to know more about any of the groups mentioned here, contact SeniorsAloud. We are committed to promoting active living for senior citizens, and will put you in touch with the respective groups.

Delivering my slide presentation on 'Active Ageing' at the launch of The Senior magazine at Petrosains KLCC on 21 Feb 2017.