Thursday, February 26, 2009


A view of the uniquely-designed environmentally-friendly multi-function hall.

If you have never heard of AUTORR, you are probably not the only one. This is all set to change later this year when the centre opens its doors to the public. AUTORR will be on everyone's lips, especially those of the senior citizens. A rather unusual name, AUTORR stands for the Aged Unite To Organize Rest and Recreation. It is touted to be the first rest and recreation centre in Malaysia specifically for senior citizens AND their families.

Inside the naturally airy and cool multi-function hall.

Looking out from inside the spacious hall.

I had the opportunity to tour the site recently and came away overwhelmed by the passion and dedication of this small team of selfless individuals. They have literally poured their heart and soul into creating a haven for the older generation to enjoy their golden years. It's hard to think of a more noble cause.

The backbone of AUTORR - Simon Gan and Lin Chua.

More like a state-of-the-art clubhouse than an old folks’ home (which it is NOT), the AUTORR centre is a dream come true for Lin Chua, 64, founder and chairman of the AUTORR FOUNDATION, a non-profit, non-racial and non-religious organization. Lin is also the granddaughter of Yap Kwan Seng, the third and last Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur.

“Senior citizens are a neglected lot. Their children are often too busy to spend time with them. They need a place where they can network with others of their age group,” says Lin. To this end, she has donated a four-acre plot of prime land in Ampang to build a resort-style complex where senior citizens can meet with their peers and spend their time relaxing, sharing experiences or learning new skills.

“Old people easily get depressed when left alone at home,” adds Lin. “The centre can be their second home, where they can feel happy and comfortable. They can choose to simply relax at the centre or learn something useful. We plan to organize talks, classes and workshops on various subjects like health and wellness, hobbies, motivation, and parenting skills. We like to think of the centre as a place where family unity is fostered. The three generations can come together to enjoy the facilities and the activities.”

Imagine this training room when it is fully equipped.

One of many covered walkways leading to a tea corner.

The complex boasts a uniquely designed multi-function hall, eight training rooms, a guest lodge with five bedrooms, a cafeteria cum kitchen and, get ready for this, more than 30 toilets! “We want to make sure there’s a toilet within easy reach when the need arises,” explains Lin.

Quality finishings for the toilets and bathrooms.

“Everything here is designed to be elder-friendly. There are ramps and railings everywhere, and tea corners at every turn where the old people can sit and sip tea, chat or meditate. We have also put a lot of thought into the landscaping. There is plenty of open space for quiet relaxation. All the flowers, palms and bonsai plants are carefully chosen to enhance the tranquillity of the surroundings.”

The guest lodge (top) and the living room.

The centre sits atop the highest point within the valley, thus giving it a spectacular panoramic view. The air here is amazingly cool and invigorating. Notice the hills in the background. Superb feng shui!

Bonsai plants abound in the beautifully landscaped grounds.

Built at a cost of RM7 million, the centre is 95% completed, one year ahead of schedule. Most of the funds were raised from public donations and bank loans. The AUTORR Foundation still needs RM500,000 for the centre’s last stage of completion. It does not receive any annual government grant. Donations to the AUTORR Foundation are exempted from income tax. (LDHN.01/35/42/51/179-6.5672).

The foundation also welcomes donations in kind. For a wish list of the items that the centre requires, please contact:

Faith Lum
AUTORR Foundation (535857-D)
Jalan Dagang 12,
Taman Dagang Jaya,
68000 Ampang,
Selangor Darul Ehsan,
Phone & Fax: +603 4295 2261
Email address:
Website :

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The outdoor gym in Taman Sri Hartamas.

In my last blog post, I lamented the lack of a playground in Kuala Lumpur where the elderly could safely enjoy some physical exercise on equipment specially designed for them.

Doing the 'twist' with my grandchildren.

A few days ago I discovered, much to my delight, an outdoor gym in the new neighbourhood that my family had recently moved to. It's right next to the children's playground, which suits me fine. I can keep an eye on my grandchildren while getting my 30 minutes of exercise.

Brisk-walking with Reiya, 3, while Max, 8, monkeys around in the background.

Although anyone can use the outdoor gym, I doubt it will be popular with the younger residents. as the equipment is meant for a low impact and low intensity workout.

Great for the shoulders and upper body.

An outdoor gym in every park - that's what our city planners should aim for, and what housing developers should provide. The move will definitely score points for them and help to promote a healthy lifestyle in the community.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Grandmas having a swinging time in the playground.

Imagine a playground in Kuala Lumpur filled with silver-haired pensioners and retirees exercising on specially designed equipment. You can’t? That’s not surprising. We are so used to associating playgrounds with children that the image doesn’t sit comfortably with us.

The idea is not new. In 2004 Japan introduced nursing care prevention parks, designed to help keep its rapidly ageing population fit and healthy. In early 2006, research studies in Finland found that after three months of using the exercise equipment in the park, a group of 40 elderly people showed marked improvement in balance, speed and co-ordination.

Demonstrating how to stretch your upper body.

Exercise equipment for the elderly.

Encouraged by the research findings, Germany opened the first playground for the over-60s in 2007. Britain followed suit in early 2008. Instead of swings and slides, there is a variety of exercise equipment designed to provide a low impact workout for different parts of the body.

Exercising has never been so much fun!

How long will it take our town planners and housing developers to incorporate playgrounds for the elderly into their master plans? If that's too much to hope for, they could consider cross-generation playgrounds which cater to both adults and children. These playgrounds would have slides and swings that are wider and sturdier, and exercise frames of different heights. Instead of sitting on the park benches watching our grandchildren play, we can join them on the slides or hand-bars. What a fun way to bond with the little ones in the playground, and get a little exercise at the same time.

Letting the child in us come out to play.

The question remains: when will the elderly in Malaysia get to enjoy their own custom-built playground?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Happy Valentine’s Day to all senior couples celebrating this day. I think the happiest people today are probably those who make a bundle catering to couples who believe that love can be measured by how much they are willing to splurge on each other.

Prices have skyrocketed for roses and chocolate. Restaurants charge grossly inflated prices from RM328++ to as much as RM1000++ for a romantic candlelight dinner for two. I read of a hotel offering its most luxurious suite for RM23,000 for a night’s stay, complete with 100 stalks of roses and a violinist. In financially lean times like these, such indulgence would definitely be viewed as bad taste. In some countries, Anti-Valentine's Day protests are not uncommon.

On a lighter note, last Monday (February 9) was Chap Goh Mei aka the fifteenth and final night of the Lunar New Year. It was also the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. In Malaysia, this special night is celebrated with a fun-filled tradition. Single Chinese ladies would write their contact number on mandarin oranges before throwing them into the lake or sea in the hope of finding a partner.

Finding true love in a banana - or an orange!

The men would do the same, but with bananas. They would then scramble into the water to pick up the oranges in the hope that one of the oranges would lead them to their dream girl. However, not many girls would want to be seen fishing out bananas from the water. That would mean they were desperate for a man. Ah, the games that people play!

Love oranges for the picking.

Pardon me if I sound a tad cynical. To me, love should be expressed every day, not just on one special day of the year. Love can be demonstrated in so many ways, not necessarily with a price tag attached. And love is for all, not just for the young as often portrayed in the media.

This is what love is all about. It took this woman 20 minutes to move a short distance with the aid of her husband of 41 years. Young lovers take note. (Nava - Starpic)

For all the seniors out there who are single and available, don't lose hope of finding that special someone. Love comes softly when you least expect it. Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear that someone say these words:

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.
~Robert Browning~

Loving each other every day for the rest of our lives.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Of late I’ve noticed that my 82-year old mother has become increasingly forgetful. She can’t remember what day it is and where she put her things. She can’t remember the names of the younger family members, and how they are related to her.

Watching her, I often wonder when I’ll be just like her and forget even simple everyday things. We all dread AD or Alzheimer's Disease. Is it the inevitable follow-up to memory loss? Yet there are people older than my mother who have retained their sharpness of mind like Singapore Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, 85, Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz, 87, and supercentenarian, Teresa Hsu, 110.

Naturally I was very excited when I came across Tony Buzan’s Age-Proof Your Brain”. According to him, “It’s a misconception that your brain automatically deteriorates with age, and there is science to prove it. What is true is that you need to look after your keep it performing well for you.”

His book is packed with plenty of intellectually stimulating exercises designed to sharpen our mind and boost our memory. Part One of the book introduces the reader to The 7-Day Get Sharp Plan, while Part Two focuses on The 7-Week Stay Sharp Plan.

If you are not into reading, there are other things you can do for brain fitness.

Add brain-food to your diet. Antioxidents, omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fats, fruits, vegatables, and moderate alcohol consumption are all linked to a healthy brain.

Exercise regularly. You don't have to join a gym. Try walking more, using the stairs, doing housework and babysitting toddlers! Better still, take up qigong or tai-chi which combines both physical exercise and mental relaxation /meditation.

Doing qigong in Lake Gardens.

Learn new skills - photography, calligraphy, line-dancing (even lion-dancing!). I find blogging, including doing research for the articles, mentally and intellectually stimulating.

Line-dancing can be both fun and good for health.

Do something different for a change. If you have always avoided taking public transport, try it. Take the bus or train to town. Participate in a competition. Give a speech. Climb a mountain.

Giving a public talk.

Challenge your mental agility by doing crossword puzzles and sudoku. In China, mahjong is very popular with the seniors as it encourages thinking as well as keeps the fingers flexible. Electronic games are fast gaining popularity too. A 30-minute game of tennis on my grandson's Wii can leave me sweating and panting for breath!

Seniors enjoying a game of mahjong.

Sweating it out in a game of Wii.

Sudoku can be mentally challenging.

Exercise the brain by doing crossword puzzles.

Our brain cells are like muscles - use them or lose them!

Friday, February 6, 2009


It was recently reported in the papers that over 50 people lost more than RM12,000 each when they invested in Mat Kiosk, a ‘one-stop’ machine that accepted payments for utilities, air fares, cinema tickets, mobile phone top-ups and other services.

Investors were promised up to RM4000 monthly in commission from the machine payments. Among the victims were retirees who were hoodwinked into thinking that this would be an easy source of passive income for them.

Last week in Japan, police arrested Kazutsugi Nami, 75, for allegedly swindling 37,000 investors, mostly elderly people, of a total of US$1.4 billion.

This begs the question – why are retirees such easy targets for con men (and women)? What makes the elderly so vulnerable that they would readily fall for sob stories and too-good-to-be-true get-rich scams? Is it because they are too trusting, or is it avarice that has clouded their better judgment? Some of these scams have been around for a while, yet there is no shortage of victims.

When I think of all the products that my 82-year old mother has bought from slick-talking sales people who call on her, I think of money going down the drain. Over the years, she has probably spent thousands of ringgit on anti-ageing creams, wonder tonics, sleep-guaranteed pillows and mattresses, and health bracelets. None of them have produced the promised results.

There are cases of lonely older women falling under the charm of Romeos who sweet-talk them into giving away their savings, and of sugar daddies who squander away fortunes on their honey pies young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters.

Cybercrime is also on the rise in Malaysia – by 619% over the past year alone. Of late I’ve been receiving emails carrying tales of woe from hapless strangers begging for financial assistance, emails that congratulate me on winning a million dollars in a contest that I’ve never heard of, and emails informing me that I’ve inherited a fortune from a distant relative. All these unsolicited emails have one thing in common - to get me to part with my money.

Beware too of phishing. When you receive emails from your bank asking you to divulge your personal identification number (PIN) and passwords in order to ‘update’ your account to serve you better, chances are the emails are fraudulent. Never ever disclose your personal details to anyone who ask for them without first checking their bona fide status.

The current economic downturn affects almost everyone. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Whether driven by greed or need, there are people desperate and creative enough to come up with all kinds of scams to con naive folks into parting with their money. And there are always gullible folks who are eager to plonk their hard-earned money into get-rich schemes in the hope of becoming instant millionaires.

So be on the alert. Be wary of dubious, even ingenious schemes that sound too good to be true. Think twice, a dozen times if need be, before you part with your hard-saved money.

Click here for the top five types of scams and how to dodge them. Thousands in Malaysia have fallen prey to scams like these. Don't be the next victim.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Braving the cold at a Christmas fair in Cologne.

My first visit to Germany was in December 1998. Last month, I returned for a more leisurely visit. During my one week in Cologne, I had the opportunity to talk to some senior citizens about how they viewed retirement. One can learn a lot from such exchanges with seniors from other countries. Hmm.. maybe it's time we had a World Seniors Summit, just like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but minus all the finger-pointing and blaming.

Christmas eve dinner

Over a Christmas eve dinner at his home, I asked Dr Erhard Schelzke, 73, how he views his retirement. A professor at one of the public universities until he retired some years ago, he says, "A lot depends on how well-prepared you are, how much you managed to save during your working years."

Dr Schelzke providing some Christmas cheer on his violin.

Dr Schelzke is enjoying his semi-retirement years as a part-time entrepreneur consultant at the university. When not at work, Dr Schelzke spends his time reading and playing his violin. The latter is a passion that has been with him since he was 10. He hopes to raise enough funds to start a violin school for children.

Unlike Dr Schelzke, Manfred Luer, 70, works six days a week running his family jewelry business together with his partner, Ursula, 66. Both have accepted their impending retirement, but are not looking forward to it. "The business has been such a big part of our lives. With the global economic downturn, it's getting harder for small businesses like ours to survive. But we will carry on as long as we can."

Manfred and Marcus Luer

Then there is 83-year old Marga Linden. She is seldom seen without her trusty bicycle, which takes her wherever she needs to go in the suburbs where she lives. "My knees are starting to act up," she complains. Life has been much quieter since her husband passed away in 1975. Not one to stay home and mope, she meets with her girl friends regularly, and does grocery shopping for those less mobile than she. She takes retirement in her stride, and is determined to remain physically and financially independent.

With long-standing low birth rates and increasing life expectancy, compounded by the high rate of unemployment in recent years, Germany's pension system is under much pressure. Simply put, there just aren't enough young working adults to contribute towards the old age pension system for the burgeoning number of workers who retire.

Some reforms introduced by Chancellor Angela Merkel to give the government more time to work out solutions include raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, and extending the minimum years of work service from 40 to 45 to be eligible for pension benefits. Not everyone is happy with these reforms.

In Malaysia, similar 'reforms' have been implemented. The retirement age for civil servants has gone up from 55 to 57, and the years of service from 25 to 30 to be eligible for pension benefits.

Here in Malaysia, workers earning less than RM3000 must contribute to SOCSO (Social Security Organization). Their employers also contribute to SOCSO. Benefits include coverage for work-related injuries and medical insurance. SOCSO contribution is optional for those earning more than RM3000, but the consent of the employer is required.

Those earning above RM2500 have to pay income tax and contribute to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). Their employers also contribute to the fund. There is currently no mandatory contribution to medical insurance. Whether this will change in the near future is anyone's guess.

Compare this with workers in Germany who pay not only income tax, but also contribute to health insurance, long-term care insurance and unemployment insurance. Workers and their employers each pay equal amounts into the old-age pension system. This works out to about 19.9% of an employee's gross earnings.

The level of pension to which people are entitled is based on what they have earned over the whole of their working life and is currently at the level of about 68% of their last drawn salary. So the more a worker contributes during his working years, the more pension benefits he enjoys in his retirement.

Click here to find out the different approaches taken by other countries to deal with the pensions crisis. There might be lessons Malaysia can learn.