Thursday, October 31, 2019

HOW AGE-FRIENDLY IS OUR CITY?


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. Taiping has just been picked for the first stage of the Age-Friendly Pilot Project financed with a grant of RM1.1million from UNDP. The project will be based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Perhaps KL can take a cue from the project.

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

I gave up driving about 20 years ago, and have been relying mostly on public transport to get around. So my grouses here are mostly about the state of our public transport system. Thank goodness the days of the pink mini-buses and their wannabe F1 drivers are gone.

SeniorsAloud used to run a weekly facebook post on Fridays to highlight shoddy public works, poor maintenance culture and lack of age-friendly facilities. We took hundreds of photos and posted many of them as evidence. Glad that there has been much improvement since then. 
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 the Ministry of Transport for these improvements. When we make enough noise, they listen. (Click here to read some of our previous complaints).

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/MRT 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 to Ampang LRT station if not by this overhead bridge?

PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS AND KERBS


A challenge for the elderly to cross busy Jalan Ampang at KLCC. KL drivers and motorcyclists 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 at KLCC/AvenueK. Is a 23-second time gap sufficient for the elderly and parents with young children to reach the opposite side safely? The elderly will have to cross busy roads at their own risk.

Evidence of poor planning and poor maintenance. The narrow sidewalk does not allow strollers or wheelchair access.

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


No benches to rest tired feet for the elderly while waiting for their e-hailing cabs or while waiting for their family members to finish their shopping.
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.

Educating the public about respecting the elderly is also important. How many young people will give up their seats on the train for a senior citizen, an OKU or a pregnant woman? Would older people be given priority in boarding buses?

The rush to board the bus. Gets worse during peak evening hours. The elderly get crushed by eager young men who push their way through. 

Credit must be given to govt buildings and banks that have special lanes or counters to serve the warga emas. We are also seeing more outdoor gyms for senior citizens and safer walkways and lanes for pedestrians. Let's hope for more improvements to follow.

The award for the worst design for bus stops goes to KLCC! No bus information boards, and these 'seats' are meant for perching on or leaning against, not for sitting and waiting for the bus. Most age-unfriendly!

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?



Monday, September 30, 2019

WHEN THE SCALES RING A WARNING BELL...


The other day I dug up my favourite pair of jeans from the cupboard. It has been a number of years since I last wore them. To my horror, I had to struggle to zip up. What used to be a snug fit was now a tight fit. I knew I was in trouble when the bathroom scales read 56.4 kg.

My ideal weight is 50kg-52 kg. Anything beyond that means I haven't been physically active enough. Or overeating especially on carbs. Since the surgery to remove a lump in my right thigh, I have been guilty of easing off somewhat on my daily exercise regime. I am still nursing a swollen knee from fluid retention.


I do a lot of walking as I don't drive and rely mostly on public transport to get around. But when I am at home and sitting down at the computer, I tend to get carried away. I have to set the kitchen timer to buzz after an hour to remind myself it's time to get up, stretch and do something else before getting back to work at my computer.

We must admit that many of our daily activities involve sitting down, often for hours on end: working at the pc, reading, watching TV, listening to music, attending meetings/seminars, chatting with friends over tea or meals, sittting in buses, trains, even waiting...  Before we know it, we are several kilos heavier than we would like to be.


Thanks to years of going to the gym, running and yoga exercises back in the 1980s and 90s, I have managed to keep obesity at bay. I was a member of Fitness International in the 1980s before I switched to Fitness First. In total I was a gym regular for close to 15 years. I often put in hours on the treadmill and was crazy about aerobics. My daughter Belle even drew a caricature of me as a fitness fanatic on my t-shirt. I am glad I laid a foundation of regular exercise in my younger days. Never too early (or too late) to build up muscle strength, cardio fitness and joint flexibility. But it is a constant challenge to maintain a healthy weight.


I have always enjoyed running, but not competitive running, as I do not want to stress myself out too much with regular training, dieting and the constant need to improve on my best time. The runs I sign up for are usually short ones between 5km to 8km. As age starts creeping up on me, I have opted more for walkathons and jogging.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Nothing like brisk walking at our age to shed off those extra kilos, and give the heart a good workout at the same time. The good doctor says we should aim for 10,000 steps a day. Some days I fall short. But I tell myself a few thousand steps is better than a few hundred. Brisk walking is the simplest, cheapest and easiest exercise. Some women can spend hours walking the floors in the mall. However, that does not constitute brisk walking. It doesn't do anything for your heart. Nordic walking is arguably the best type of walking as it gives you a total body workout with the aid of the poles.
Ministry of Health, Malaysia
Exercising is one way to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and cancers that plague older people. If you loathe going to the gym, and don't fancy jogging, hiking or playing tennis, I highly recommend investing in a set of stretch bands that are colour-coded for different levels of resistance. A complete set costs around RM50 or more depending on the quality of the bands.


If you are the type that abhor the exercises mentioned above, you can do gardening, fixing things around the house, or helping with the housework. Just don't be sedentary. Move those muscles and flex those joints. Muscle loss leads to frailty in old age, and stiff joints limit movement. That is something all of us want to avoid.



(Above): A comparison of three healthy plates. They have a lot in common. Sensible advice about making healthy choices. But knowing is one thing, applying is another. A healthier choice of nasi lemak, for example, is to have brown rice instead of the traditional white rice cooked in coconut milk, and add more kangkong or more slices of cucumber. As far as I know, the Ministry of Health has yet to promote this.


What we eat is as important as exercise. There are 101 diets out there, from the vegan diet to the keto diet and intermittent fasting as well. I have not tried any of them, but based on what I have learned from reading up on the diet of centenarians, almost all share similarities in that they eat in moderation, are vegetarians, and favour whole foods to processed foods. Sounds simple, but could be a tough act for most to follow. By the way, none of these centenarians are obese or even overweight, and they are all still active. It's also very important to cut down on our salt and sugar intake, especially the latter. When I see the long queues of young people at bubble tea outlets, I wonder if they are aware that consuming such sweet drinks will ultimately affect their health, resulting in obesity and diabetes.


Like most mothers and grandmothers, I hate to see waste but I also hate to see my waist expanding. I have a bad habit of finishing off any leftovers on my grandchildren's plates or leftovers in the pantry and fridge.The kilos have started to pile up, and the unwanted flab here and there doesn't make for a pleasant sight. Trying on clothes in the fitting room and seeing the reflection in the mirror is a reality check and a wake-up call.

It's a constant struggle to maintain good health. But we owe it to ourselves and our families to take responsibility for our health, to be aware of what is good for us, and what is not. I am sure none of us want to spend our retirement years struggling with pain and hefty medical bills.