Friday, July 31, 2009


The population of Singapore is ageing rapidly. Today one in 12 Singaporeans is aged 65 and older. This figure is projected to rise to one in five in 2030. In absolute terms, this means an increase from 300,000 people today who are aged 65+ to 900,000 by 2030. The government is well aware of the opportunities that this 'silver tsunami' will bring, but at the same time it also recognizes the strain an ageing society will have on the country’s economic and social infrastructure.
It is a challenge that the Singapore government is well-prepared to handle. To quote Mr Lim Boon Heng (see pic), the minister in charge of ageing issues in the Prime Minister’s office, “We will develop Singapore as a thriving business and research centre on ageing.”

Here is a brief outline on how the Ministerial Committee on Ageing plans to tackle issues on ageing.

~ The Ministry of Manpower will push for legislation in 2012 to encourage companies to hire or retain their older workers.

~ The Ministry of Health will add more than 2000 nursing home beds over the next five years, a second heart and cancer centre, a new general hospital in Yishun and in Jurong and the expansion of the National University Health System’s dental centre.

~ From 2013 the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Life Scheme will be set up to provide contributors a regular income for the rest of their lives.

~ The Housing Development Board (HDB) will increase efforts to raise awareness of their new Lease Buyback Scheme which allows elderly owners of smaller flats to sell to the HDB the tail-end of their lease at market rate. Proceeds will be used to buy an annuity from the CPF Board.

~ All HDB precincts will be barrier-free by 2011.

~ More day-care centres for seniors will be set up in the next five years.

~ Caregivers, including maids who look after the elderly at home, will be given basic training in nursing skills.

Distributing food essentials to the elderly.

~ Within the next 15 to 20 years Singapore will have a fully developed system of 3Es.
1. Elderfund helps the elderly poor pay their hospital bills.
2. Eldershield is insurance for severe disability.
3. Eldersave encourages the young to set aside enough CPF funds to provide for their healthcare needs in their old age.

~ To improve elder care, Singapore will expand its current pool of 200 medical workers and provide them with clinical attachments and postgraduate training.

(The above news snippets were sourced from The Straits Times. Based on the government’s past track record, the future of Singapore’s senior citizens certainly looks promising.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Managed to get a shot of the plane before boarding at Subang Airport.

Last Tuesday I flew to Singapore on Firefly. It was my first time flying on a twin-turbopro plane (not sure if that’s the correct name). It turned out to be a very pleasant experience. The aircraft was new, the crew was courteous and the service was efficient. Passengers were allocated seats, and served light refreshments – a muffin and an orange juice for the 60-minute flight. No need to scramble for choice seats or pay for pricey in-flight snacks. What a welcome difference compared to the service on other budget airlines where passengers have to pay for anything they consume or use.

Another plus point is all departures are from Subang Airport – so much nearer and cheaper than going all the way to KLIA. I paid less than RM100 one way for the fare to Singapore. The next time you are planning a trip south to Singapore, you might want to check out Firefly. It’s definitely easier on the pocket and more hassle-free for senior citizens. Oh, one more thing - the Subang airport terminal building has been given a major face-lift befitting an airport of the 21st century.

Subang Airport check-in counters.

Speaking as a senior citizen, every trip I make to Singapore is an enriching experience. I usually stay a week or so. There’s always something going on for senior citizens. Browse The Straits Times and you will find news reports on the latest initiatives or projects undertaken by the government. Check the events page, and you are bound to come across some talks or workshops specifically targeted at the seniors.

Here’s a sampling:

A snapshot of the news report on VISA in the Straits Times

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have teamed up to set up the Virtual Institute for the Study of Ageing (VISA). Any group working on projects related to helping the elderly can apply for funding from MCYS and have the expertise of 300 researchers from NUS at their disposal to fine-tune their projects. These researchers come from a diverse multi-disciplinary group comprising doctors, engineers, architects and social scientists.

A news write-up in The Straits Times about the Wellness Programme.

The Wellness Programme is a 2-year pilot project launched by the government at the end of 2007 to promote healthy ageing by encouraging seniors to be physically, mentally and socially active. To date, about 6,000 Singaporean seniors have signed up. The target is to get 12,000 on board. Besides regular free health screenings, there are activities like Nintendo Wii sports sessions, classes on singing, exercise, dancing, drum and percussion. One seniors centre has started a herb and vegetable garden. These are only a few of the many and varied activities enjoyed by the members.

The "Active Neighbours" initiative - article in the Business Times Weekend.

"Active Neighbours” is an initiative between Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) and Council for Third Age (C3A) to help seniors with basic banking transactions like how to use Internet banking facilities and ATM machines. There are 60 vacancies to be filled. Applicants must be aged 45+ and be prepared to put in five hours on the job two days a week. Successful applicants will be paid S$8 an hour. This gives seniors an opportunity to earn some money as well as provide assistance to their peers. POSB has found that older people feel more comfortable being guided by someone their own age than someone much younger.

Senior participants having fun at a dance workshop.

The National Arts Council (NAC) has in place a Community Participation Grant (CPG) whereby a successful grant recipient is eligible for up to S$50,000 worth of funding support a year. The grant is to encourage arts groups, NGOs or individuals to enrich the community through arts projects. One of the 10 groups awarded the grant is Arts Fission which conducts contemporary dance classes in elder care centres through their workshop called ‘The Peony Season’. Once a week for eight weeks, elderly participants follow the movements of three professional dancers. The participants can either stand or be seated, and they go through movements that are inspired by everyday actions. The workshop is therapeutic for the seniors and encourages the more timid ones to open up and make friends.

I shall be blogging from Singapore over the next few days, and sharing my observations on the latest developments for senior citizens here.

Monday, July 27, 2009


This is for Yasmin Ahmad, one of Malaysia's most beloved daughters. You were taken from us too soon. Through your heart-warming films and commercials you have left us a legacy of hope that 1Malaysia is not a mere slogan, but an attainable reality.
Rest in peace, sister.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


It is a fact that many retirees are struggling to cope with their living expenses. A survey carried out by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF)in 2004 showed that 99.9% of contributors withdraw all their savings in one lump sum after they retire at 55. 70% of them deplete their EPF savings within three years of withdrawing the money. Given the average life expectancy of 75, how are these retirees going to support themselves for the next 20-30 years?

A recent article in The Star suggests that Malaysians need to have at least a million ringgit in cash reserves upon retirement to enjoy the lifestyle they are accustomed to before they retired. RM1,000,000 is a lot of money. How many of us have that kind of money saved?

Source: The Star. Click here to read more.

We can’t expect our adult children to support us indefinitely. They have their own financial commitments to deal with. The best way to help them is to be able to support ourselves. So can we afford to retire? Absolutely NO. But do we have a choice when the mandatory retirement age is 58, even though this has been raised from 55? How many companies will hire us at 58 even if we are able to work and contribute?

So the daily struggle continues. The fortunate ones are those who have planned well ahead for their retirement, have money to invest in shares or have generous children to fall back on. For the rest of us, it’s a case of no money coming in, but much money going out.

Retirees need to spend on food, dietary supplements, medicine, transport, utilities, mortgage payments and insurance premiums. The situation is compounded if they have elderly parents to care for, or children to see through college or university.

Depending on the lifestyle a retiree would want to maintain, whether he has any dependents to support, and whether he lives in the city or small town, he would need anything from RM500 to RM2000 a month to survive on. The numbers are a conservative estimate.

The bottom line is this: Retirees just can't afford to retire. They can’t even afford to get sick, considering the hefty costs of health care and hospitalization. Those on government pension may have access to free medical and dental benefits, but there are millions more who are left in the cold to fend for themselves.

Singapore plans to raise the retirement age to 65 in 2012, and eventually to 67. Britain is considering scrapping the compulsory retirement age. Elsewhere the trend is towards extending the retirement age to enable older workers to continue supporting themselves, and not be a financial burden to their children.

Of course, if you are a billionaire in Asia, you can choose to retire and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Or continue working and make more money faster than you can spend it. Now that would be every retiree's pipe dream.

Financial education should start in school, as an integral part of the Living Skills curriculum. To go one step further, the government, in collaboration with the private sector, should consider issuing a senior citizen card for those who are eligible. This card would enable them to enjoy free or discounted fares, healthcare, basic food essentials, pharmaceuticals, and other elderly-related services and products.
I know of a pharmacy and a food chain that issue a special discount card for seniors. Kudos to them. However, there shouldn't be too many terms and conditions attached for card-holders. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of helping them. Also, it makes more sense to have a all-in-one privilege card. It can be quite cumbersome to carry a dozen discount cards in my wallet each time I go out.

It’s high time the welfare of our senior citizens be given priority, and not just token attention every now and then. We have been an overlooked and neglected lot for much too long.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It was with shock that I read about fellow blogger, Captain Yusof Ahmad's sudden demise in the July 20 blog post titled "Fare thee well, ye Ancient Mariner". It was written by his eldest daughter, Nurasyikin bt. Muhammad Yusof. (See side bar under My Blog List: The Ancient Mariner).

I've never met Capt Yusof. It was while browsing Malaysian blogs that I came across his blog, the Ancient Mariner. Much of what he wrote about resonated with me. I immediately added a link on Seniorsaloud so I could follow his blog posts and share them with my blog visitors.

Capt Yusof had a flair for writing and a good grasp of the issues of the day to blog about. Unlike many socio-political bloggers whose writings are often full of hot air, hearsay and almost totally devoid of hard facts, Capt Yusof came across as someone whose views you could listen to with respect, even if you did not always agree with them.

Blog posts timeline: The last issue that the captain wrote about in his blog on July 7 was the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. A week later on July 13, he apologized for being tardy about his blog updates. He explained he had been busy with daily visits to the Seremban hospital to see his ailing mother. On July 15 it was with much grief that he announced the passing of his beloved mother.

That was his last blog entry. Four days later, on July 19, Capt Yusof Ahmad passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was a young 64.

My heart-felt condolences to Capt Yusof's family. The bloggers fraternity has lost an outspoken member who had the courage to stand up for integrity, justice and the truth. Rest in peace, Ancient Mariner.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Enslaved by credit card debts. (Photo: howstuffworks)

Warren Buffett did a one-hour interview with CNBC in December 2006. His advice still holds true for young people today. Our society is one where credit cards rule our spending. Instant gratification and deferred payment have ruined many young lives.
As parents, we are concerned about how our children manage (or mismanage?) their finances. Quite often children don't heed parental advice. Perhaps they might listen if it came from one of the world's richest men. Click here to read more.

(All slides from )

It's a shame that our school curriculum does not cover financial education. Children should be taught from young how to save, budget and spend their pocket money wisely. When they start earning their own money, they would be in a better position to manage their finances efficiently, and live within their means.
Thrift and prudence are virtues that will tide us over tough times. Having millions in your bank account doesn't justify flaunting your wealth, unless it's to help the less fortunate.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Magazines from A - Z, but none for seniors and retirees

Step into the magazine section of any local bookstore, and you will find a wide assortment of magazines catering to women, men, parents, teenagers and children but NONE to grandparents. Photography, fashion, fishing, motor racing, health, computers, landscaping, travel, finance, lifestyle, even cosmetic surgery – you name it, and you’ll find not one, but whole shelves of magazines devoted to the topic. Yet, not a single magazine covering retirement.

GRAND - the magazine for grandparents

Magazines for the 50+: AARP and Retirement Lifestyles

Magazines aside, to my knowledge, none of the English dailies have come out with a supplement on retirement. The same goes for government publications targeted at pensioners and retirees - I've yet to see one.

Nothing like free magazines for seniors! Today's Senior and Northwest Retirement

No shortage of topics that interest retirees - CARP and RETIREE

What does this say about senior citizens in this country? Are we not important or large enough a group to interest publishers? Is a magazine for seniors not commercially viable? Publishers should take note that there is a huge untapped market in the 50+ age group.

How about special pull-outs in the dailies for retirees?

Singapore is a small island nation, but the government-backed Council for Third Age has published several booklets with useful information for those 50+. There are at least two magazines specifically aimed at the 45+ age group.

Singapore magazines for the 50+ : PRIME and SILVER LINING

I say it's about time we seniors had a magazine to call our own. The problem is how to get publishers interested. Any takers?

Friday, July 17, 2009


Devoted: Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan (Daily Mail)

At what age does one begin to think of one’s mortality? 50? 70? 90? As we celebrate each birthday, we pray for many more to come. But what if old age brings with it a slew of illnesses and pain? Would we still want to cling on to life?

These questions came up after I read about Sir Edward and Lady Joan Downes’ assisted joint suicide on 14 July 2009. He was 85 and she was 74. The names are unfamiliar to me but what they did was heroic.
Sir Edward Downes, 84, was a celebrated conductor with the BBC Philharmonic. When his wife of 54 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer with only a few weeks to live, he decided that he didn’t want to live a solitary existence without her.

Although not terminally ill, Sir Edward was almost blind and nearly deaf. Not being able to read music scores or hear music was devastating to him. It was a joint decision to end their lives together. As assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in Britain, the couple sought the help of Dignitas, a centre for assisted dying in Zurich, Switzerland.

A flat in Zurich, belonging to Dignitas where assisted suicides take place. (Photo:TimesOnline)

Son Caractacus, 41, and daughter Boudicca, 39, were with their parents during their final moments. “They drank a small quantity of clear liquid, and then lay down on the beds next to each other. They wanted to be next to each other when they died. They held hands across the beds. Within a couple of minutes, they were asleep and they died within 10 minutes."

Suicide is often viewed as copping out when the going gets tough. But in the Downes’ case, not only is it a beautiful love story (together in life and death) it is also a story of courage and dignity. That’s my view anyway.

When one's body is racked with terminal disease and unbearable pain, with virtually no quality of life left, one should be allowed the option to terminate one’s life. Family members and doctors should respect the decision.

We want to be optimistic (what if the doctors were wrong? what if there's a cure? what if prayers can work miracles?) But we also have to be pragmatic (why prolong the agony? how much longer can we keep up with the medical expenses?)

It is a tough decision for the family, but a relatively easy one for the terminally ill. Ultimately, who has the right to make that final decision between life and death?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


What is it with fine print that raises the hackles in me? I tend to view with suspicion anything that is in small print. You know what I mean. What's the point of announcing a fantastic bargain in 3-storey high font size, and then at the bottom add, in minuscule print, the words "Terms and conditions apply"? Suddenly the product advertised doesn't look that attractive after all.

Great offers usually come with strings or conditions attached - in fine print.

When there's good news to share, one would expect it to be announced in eye-popping big letters, especially if the good news is meant for senior citizens. You don't need to be an expert in gerontology to know that this demographic group does not have 20/20 vision - far from it.

Bottom right - 75% tuition fee reduction, and in fine print below that "For senior citizens born on or before 31 August 1957". And below that in even finer print - "Subject to terms and conditions". Think they can see that?

My grouse with fine print actually started some months ago when our subscriber's copy of the International Herald Tribune (IHT) shrank to two-thirds the original size, and the printed words to microscopic size. Reading the news items in the IHT has become an exercise in squinting.

The new and smaller IHT - a sign of bad times or a move towards saving trees?

The same goes for nutrition facts on food labels. Making out the calories or percentage of fat per serving, for example, is like deciphering hieroglyphics. And it's time-consuming too.

Not surprising most shoppers don't read the nutrition facts on food labels - too much work!

Fortunately online marketers have begun to realize that to sell to the 50+, their website has got to be elderly-friendly. Web content must be easy to read, and links sufficiently large enough for them to click on at one go.

Gmail has inserted a tab that allows you to choose your preferred font size: small, normal, large or huge. My mobile has font size options too. For that I'm eternally grateful.

Now let's hope publishers will take the cue and come up with more books, magazines and dictionaries with large print. Either that or pray that, like wine, our eyesight gets better with age.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Have you ever noticed that most jokes about the sexes tend to poke fun at women, especially wives, mothers-in-law and grandmas? Most of them are in pretty poor taste. Well, it's time for the spotlight to turn on the men for a change. Ladies, have a hearty laugh at their expense. All in good fun and good humour, of course!

Good thing this blog doesn't attract visitors under 18 or even under 35. The word 'seniors' is enough to scare away young folks! More so when it's "Seniors Aloud"! So no need for censorship, PG or R ratings.

How to be cruel to old men!

How men use Post-It Notes.

My cousin in Melbourne sent me this hilarious ditty about the old pecker. It's a howler! Enjoy!