Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, addressing the crowd at the opening of 50+ Expo.

I recently spent two days (10-11 January) checking out Singapore's first 50+ Expo. Touted as the island nation's biggest exposition for baby boomers, it was expected to draw 70,000 visitors. Admission was free, hence the huge turnout. A total of 150 exhibitors took up the entire 4th floor of the Suntec Convention Centre. They were categorized into five zones: Health & Fitness, Living, Innovation & Learning, Travel & Holidays and Personal Finance, each with a central pavilion and a colour code for easy identification.

The early birds on the first day.

Activities aplenty to enlighten and entertain the visitors.

The organizers, Council for Third Age, had obviously done their homework. They were spot-on when it came to identifying the interests of the seniors. Aside from the exhibitors' booths offering products and services at discounted prices, there were activities to engage the visitors, hourly lucky draws, talks on health, finance, travel and lifestyle, free health screenings and stage performances, including one from the local Elvis Fan Club.

At the dental health talk given by Dr Cheng from Specialist Dental Group.

Learning how to blog at the Innovation and Learning pavilion.

Some of the exhibitors at the Personal Finance zone.

At the JP International Travel booth minutes before the doors open.

Kudos to the organizers for being mindful of the needs of the elderly crowd. Not only was there a first-aid booth, but also rest areas where visitors could sit down and take a break, or enjoy a foot massage. The toilets were clean and easily accessible - a definite plus point.

Dancing to music from the silver crooners on their ukuleles.

So many happy feet!

I'd never seen so many seniors gathered in one place. If the younger folks were avoiding the expo like the plague, thinking the whole hall must be filled with decrepit, senile human specimens reeking of mothballs and mildew, they should think again. Everywhere I looked, I saw feisty seniors - all eager to try the interactive games, join the line-dancing or find out more about the products on sale. I was more interested in the talks. At the eye screening after the talk on "Take a close look at your eyes", I was relieved to find out from ophthamologist Dr Au Eong that I do not have cataract or glaucoma.

Trail blazer and adventurer extraordinaire, Daniel Koh, 72, sharing a presentation of his travels to Patagonia and the Antarctic. Daniel was the winner of the Active Ager-Prudential Prime Award 2008.

When it was time to leave, my 50+ Expo tote bag was bursting at the seams with an assortment of health supplements, nutritious snacks, seniors magazines and discount vouchers of every description and denomination.

Apparently, expos targeting the mature consumers are held in many other countries. The largest is Holland’s 50 Plus Beurs. Last year, it attracted 600 exhibitors and close to 100,000 visitors. The silver market is proving to be a gold mine for businesses catering to the needs of the baby boomers.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian business community is standing on the sidelines watching the silver bullet train about to take off and wondering whether to jump on or not. By the time they have made up their mind, they would have missed the train. So what's new?

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