Saturday, October 31, 2009


Some time ago I received an email from a Singapore journalist with a request to share my views on caring for the elderly. I ended up writing about my experience as sole caregiver of my 83-year old mother. Extracts from my article were published in the November issue of the Singapore Women's Weekly. I reproduce below the original article.

The top two challenges of taking care of my 83-year-old mother.
#1 ~ Anxiety about my mother’s safety and health

Is it safe to leave her alone at home? What if she trips or falls? My mother lives on the third floor in a block of walk-up apartments. She has slipped on the stairs twice. Fortunately, she just had some bruises. But what about the next time? She has a very stubborn streak common in most elderly people, and refuses to listen to any advice not to use the stairs as a daily after-meals exercise.

What if she forgets to lock the front door or turn off the gas? What if she faints or has a heart attack, and is unable to contact me? My mom is hard of hearing. Whenever I call home and there’s no answer, I worry if something has happened to her. Her short-term memory is also fading. I worry that if she steps out of the compound on her own for a walk, she might not remember how to find her way home.

#2 ~ Strained relationship

My mom and I have very different ways of thinking. Her habits are a result of the survivor mentality common to those who lived through the Japanese Occupation. Her extreme frugality and unnecessary self-imposed rationing of water, electricity and food has caused friction between us on many occasions. This is compounded by her obsession to collect used plastic bags, empty containers and boxes and store them in her room ‘in case they come in handy”.

If I complain or nag too much about her set ways, she gets upset and threatens to move to an old folks home. On the rare occasions when she feels a little depressed, she has mentioned ‘suicide’, but never in a manner serious enough to cause alarm. She is aware she is very fortunate compared to many of her elderly friends who do not enjoy the same level of independence and family support that she has.
My mom (left) with her younger sister and her spouse.

How I deal with these issues
As I have work and social commitments to fulfil, I can't be at home all the time. I’ve hired a part-time helper to clean, cook and be on standby in case my mother needs emergency help and I’m not around. I’ve also set up a support group of neighbours who drop by for a chat or buy provisions for her at the wet market. My mother visits them regularly as their apartments are either in the same block or just across in the adjoining block.

The security guards have been told not to let my mom wander outside the compound. If I am away for an extended period of time, my younger sister takes over as caregiver.

I’ve written a list of important phone numbers in giant print and placed it on a board propped up against the wall next to the phone for easy viewing and reference whenever my mother needs to call up a family member or friend. The calendar is a daily one, with the date on each page in huge bold print. The clocks have easy-to-read numbers and hands.

All meals are cooked for her. She only has to heat the food if I am out, so there is minimal need to turn on the gas stove. She uses an automatic electric water jug to boil water. There are no carpets or loose wires on the floor to trip her up. All mats are non-slip. The same goes for her slippers and shoes. Empty plastic bags and boxes are quickly cleared so she can’t hoard them.

I do my best to see that my mom is comfortable and has everything she needs. As she gets befuddled by modern gadgets, our household appliances are very simple with basic features and functions. The TV is set at her favourite channel. All she has to do is press the ON / OFF button on the remote control. The CD player already has her favourite CD inserted. Everything that she uses is placed within easy reach. The bathroom is just a few steps away from her bed. As she loves to follow the news, I make sure she gets her daily copy of "The China Press".

I’ve learned not to be overly protective. I let my mom do simple household chores as a form of physical activity. The doctor says it's good for her. She hangs out her laundry by herself, wipes the table after a meal and washes her own utensils. She does exercises and goes for a stroll in the garden twice a day.

She enjoys family get-togethers with her siblings, children and grandchildren, although most times she has no clue who is who. I cope by reminding myself that she’s my only mother, even if we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. I live a very busy life so that helps to lessen the moments of tension at home when there is disagreement. I can imagine it would be a different situation if she and I were to be in each other’s space 24/7.

I am fortunate that my mom is in relatively good health and is still physicaly able to take care of herself. But there will come a time when I can no longer leave her alone at home, even for a day or two. When that time comes, I’d have to put her in a good nursing home.

Being my mother’s sole caregiver has given me a deeper understanding of the elderly. It has also helped me prepare for my own golden years. Without her realizing it, she has taught me how I would want to grow old. I see in her certain traits I would want to emulate, and others I absolutely pray I would not!

Would my two girls look after me in my old age? You bet!

Related article:

Becoming 'parent of your parent' an emotionally wrenching process

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Managed to catch the 11.30am screening of MJ's "This Is It" docu-movie. I'll say it again - I'm not an MJ fan, but this man deserves to be garlanded with superlatives of the highest order. The choreography was jaw-dropping, the special effects mind-blowing, and the music foot-stomping. I was completely mesmerized watching this legend on the big screen.

MJ with the director Kenny Ortega
The movie puts together video footage taken at rehearsals from April to June of this year. The viewer is given selected glimpses of what went on at the rehearsals. From auditions to music direction - MJ saw to every detail. Despite looking thin and gaunt in some of the movie sequences, MJ sang and danced just like he did in his music videos.
Orianthi Panagaris, MJ's guitarist from Adelaide. She's unbelievable!

Watch the video clip below and you will have a sense of the enormity of the production and the gruelling hours that went into it. The rehearsals were energy-sapping even for the dancers who were half MJ's age (he was 50). Doing 50 concerts would have taken the life out of him.
If you plan to catch the movie, go for the 2D version - better sound and visuals.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Senior citizens are left out again in the 2010 Budget.

The PM has delivered his 2010 budget speech. No mention whatsoever was made of any allocation to meet the needs of the older people. On the other hand, the PM’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s Permata programme was given a boost of RM100 million allocation in recognition of the importance of early childcare and education in Malaysia. What about the importance of elderly care and the training of caregivers of the elderly?

"People First, Performance Now” says the PM. Well, the elderly are people too, aren’t they? For a start, he could have allocated RM500 million to making Kuala Lumpur (and PJ) an age-friendly city. The funds could be used to provide:

1. Well-run community centres which have social activities for older people. The community centres in Singapore can serve as good models.

An elderly-friendly shuttle bus with a ramp for easy wheel-chair access. Note the low step to board the bus.

2. Good public transport, including shuttles to take the elderly from their home to important destinations. Bus drivers should be trained to show some respect and courtesy to elderly commuters. The 50% off fares should also cover LRT and monorail, and not just RapidKL buses.

3. Adequate elder-friendly public housing with ramps, railings and non-slip flooring. Also an outdoor exercise gym. The government should make it mandatory for all housing developers to provide elderly-friendly facilities too.

4. Safe environment – well-lit streets, easily visible street directories and more police patrols. Uneven pavements and paths should be immediately resurfaced.

I wouldn't mind paying RM1 to use a public toilet like this one! Alas, they are harder to find than a lottery ticket with the winning number. 

5. More clean public toilets, with separate ones for the elderly. The long queues especially in the ladies toilet often mean an agonizing wait for the elderly.

6. More lifelong learning centres offering courses at a discount for senior citizens.

7. Special queues at service counters in hospitals, post offices and other government buildings. This costs next to nothing to implement. The private sector i.e. banks, supermarkets, cinemas, should follow suit.

Left: Sign at the Tsao Foundation, Singapore. Right: WHO's Guide to Age-Friendly Cities.

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated a Global Age-Friendly Cities Project in 33 cities in 22 countries. Pity Malaysia is not one of the participating countries.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


My taste in music is pretty eclectic. and runs from evergreens to new age meditation music with rock ballads, blues and reggae in between. For music lovers, Youtube is heaven-sent! I can spend hours listening to my favourite tunes and bands, and discovering new ones to add to my ever-growing playlist.

The only annoying thing about Youtube is the uploading. But once it is done, and you hit REPLAY, it's sheer bliss to relax and enjoy the audio-visual experience uninterrupted.

I've dug up a few of my favourite songs from the 1960s and 1970s to share. Isn't it fabulous that these guys - the Cascades, Cliff Richard, Brian Hyland, The Eagles and Pink Floyd are still performing? I would give an arm and a leg to catch Pink Floyd live.

Hope the songs bring you some happy memories of those days when we were young. ENJOY!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


A fortnight ago when I read that the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to three scientists for their research into ageing, I was elated. About time, I thought, for breakthroughs in gerontology to be given recognition. The trio, Carol Greider, Jack Szostak and Elizabeth Blackburn, were honoured for their discovery that chromosomes are protected by telomeres, and that an enzyme called telomerase was responsible for maintaining or eroding the telomere DNA. Cells age when telomeres become worn. I am sure the discovery will spark off further research into cell preservation and ultimately, longevity.

2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine: Greider, Szostak and Blackburn

A day later another related news item caught my interest. Last month (Sept 3-7), about 200 scientists gathered at Queens’ College Cambridge for the 4th SENS Conference. The main organizer was Dr Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of SENS Foundation, and a distinguished biomedical gerontologist at the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. These scientists spent five days discussing ways to extend human lifespan, and (get ready for this) even achieve immortality.

According to Dr de Grey, medical science is progressing so fast that “a child born today can expect to live to 120 to 150 years. With the right breakthroughs in the next 25 years, there is a 50:50 chance that people alive today could live to be 1,000 years old.” This is achievable if cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disorders are eradicated, and worn-out body parts can be replaced or regenerated through tissue engineering.

Dr Aubrey de Grey and his book "Ending Ageing"

Absolutely fascinating, and not all science fiction either. In Biblical times, it was the norm for people to live several hundred years. Methusalah was 969 years old when he died.

But seriously, would I want to live forever, or even to 1,000 years? No, thanks! How would I spend my days? How would I look? Imagine a world populated with far more supercentenarians and immortals than children and young people. Yikes!

Given a choice, I would rather die at 100 and come back in a brand new body, than to live forever in a constantly renewed body.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just got back from an awesome 5-day "Enlightened Warrior Training Camp" 13-18 October in Kuala Rompin. Still exhausted from having only 4-5 hours of sleep each night, and from the gruelling tasks we participants had to perform. These tasks were designed to test our mental and physical strength and endurance. We were literally pushed to the brink. There was one activity where I had to learn not to fear death, even when the life force was being choked out of me.

Members of my tribe with Pa our facilitator from the US in the background.

Just to give you an idea - there was an ambulance on stand-by all the time, and pails close by in case anyone felt like throwing up. They don't call this a "warrior training camp" for nothing. But I SURVIVED, albeit with bruises all over, and blisters to boot!

Here's what I've learned that is worth sharing:
  • How we do something reflects on how we do everything.
  • Never give up on our dreams or goals.
  • "Try" is wishy-washy. Either we do it or we don't.
  • We don't have to please everybody.
  • Practise integrity all the time.
  • Don't take anything personally.
  • Don't harbour ill feelings - they make us ill.
  • Do everything at 100%, or don't do it at all.
  • Be 100% accountable for our actions.
  • Our choices create our reality, so choose wisely.
  • If others can do it, so can I.
  • Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for support. Even warriors need help sometimes.
  • Never be afraid of challenges as they can be opportunities for growth.
  • Take one step at a time.
  • All of us possess inner strength and power - learn to draw upon it.

There will be folks who will say "I know all that!" But that's the problem - knowing something does not mean anything, unless we do something with that knowledge. Taking action is what counts. Smokers know the perils of smoking, but as long as they don't take action and be fully committed to that action, they will not succeed in giving up their ciggies. IF WE DON"T DO IT, WE DON'T KNOW IT.

Take me, for example, I know full well the benefits of exercise. I have been a regular at the gym for years. I have also done yoga and qigong. But after my liver operation last year, I got a little slack about my fitness regime. The result - I had to struggle with some of the more physically demanding activities. So I have recommitted to kick-starting my daily qigong exercises again beginning today - Monday 19 October 2009.

Action always speaks louder than words. That also explains why so many people attend wealth creation seminars, take notes, buy the books or audio tapes but only a handful succeed in amassing wealth. They are the ones who are fully committed. They are the ones who put into practise what they have learned. The rest merely listen and know.

Many of us worry too much sometimes. We let doubts and fears cloud our minds, and stop us from moving forward. "What if this happens....?" Doesn't it make more sense to take action than to worry about it? Be a warrior not a worrier.

I am now an enlightened warrior. A warrior doesn't just make it to the finish line - he goes through it! I am ready to make a difference. My word is my honour. I am prepared to face anything. I have no fear.


A section of the tribal nation in their warrior T-shirts.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


At a recent tutorial, I was explaining to my students the importance of setting goals in life, and about effective goal-setting. Then it struck me. Goal-setting applies to the 50+ too. Just because we have passed the prime of our lives doesn't mean there's nothing left to achieve. There is a second prime in life, and we are just getting started.

Goal-setting for the 50+ is an euphemism for writing a bucket list. Let's be honest about it, there are many things we would like to accomplish before we kick the bucket. There's nothing like putting them down in writing to give it that quality of legitimacy. Having a bucket list adds meaning and purpose to our lives. It gives us a reason to get up in the morning and look forward to another new day.

We don't have to limit ourselves to one bucket list. We can have one every five years until we finally kick the bucket!

Here's my bucket list for the next five years, in no particular order.

  1. write a book and get it published
  2. be a guest on a radio or TV show
  3. attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics
  4. set up a 'Joy of Living' fun club for the 50+ in Malaysia
  5. visit the holy cities of the world
  6. learn belly dancing
  7. provide free English and computer classes for senior citizens
  8. start my own business
  9. have my own seniors column in the Star or the New Straits Times
  10. act in a play at Istana Budaya

Have fun creating your own bucket list. There should be an element of challenge and effort in achieving each item. Strike a balance between achieving things for yourself and for others. I have learned never to underestimate the power of the mind, so do remember to visualize and focus.

Now that I have shared my bucket list, I am committed to realizing it. Time to get cracking on the first item......

Can anyone tell me where I can get a DVD of the movie?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Simply mind-boggling. I am referring to the RM1.5b that represents frozen cash and assets left behind by folks who died without leaving a Will.

I can't even begin to tell you the headache and frustration that I went through when my beloved sister passed away intestate (without a Will) in 2006. It has been three years and we are still waiting for the land office to finalize the transfer of name on the title deed to my mother’s name. Believe me, the entire process can be very time-consuming, tedious and expensive.

Today, 10 October 2009, my mother turns 83. How long does she have to wait before she can claim her legal rights to my sister’s share of the property?

Many of us are aware of the benefits of making a Will, but we have a huge problem with procrastination. Well, it's time we set the wheel in motion. That advice applies to me too.

Here is some useful information, extracted from the book “All you need to know about Wills”, courtesy of the author Mr Saw Leong Aun, CEO of Rockwills Corporation Sdn Bhd.

· Anyone aged 18 and above is eligible to get a Will written.
· Information required: person’s assets, names of beneficiaries, details of executors /guardians (if any) and instructions on how the assets should be distributed.
· The Will can be hand-written, typed or printed, and in any language.
· Two witnesses must be present at the signing of the Will
· The Will takes effect only upon death.
· It is revocable before your death when:
a. You (re)marry.
b. You make a new Will
c. You convert to Islam
· Choose carefully who you want to be the executor(s) of your Will. The ideal number is two although you can have a maximum of four.
· If you are unable to find a suitable executor, you can name a trust corporation to act as executor.
· If you have young children, appoint a personal guardian for them, especially if you feel your spouse is incapable of looking after them.
· You may choose a different person to handle financial matters.
· Having joint property or joint bank accounts with your spouse does not mean that he or she will automatically inherit your half share if you die intestate.

Applicable only to West Malaysia and Sarawak
What happens if a person dies intestate?

As mentioned earlier, the testator’s estate is frozen and listed at the Registrar of Unclaimed Monies until a family member comes forward to make a claim. He is required to obtain a grant of probate, letter of administration, court order and other legal documents. There will be delays in sorting out all the legal complications. There may be family disputes to deal with.

If you are interested in getting a Will written or just want more information, please refer to Mr Cheah Ho San, a professional estate planner with Rockwills Corporation. His contact number is 019-211 9980. Remember to mention SeniorsAloud for extra special service!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Are you planning to start a small business in your retirement?Wondering how to promote your products or services without spending a bomb on advertising in the media?

Check out this video and get ready to embrace the new social media. Marketing your business through online social networks is the way to go.

If you are unfamiliar with social networks, you can start with the basics - create a blog for your business, get a Facebook account and sign up for Twitter. The two YouTube videos below show you how.

Some of you have said you feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the new technologies. So do I! But I take it as a challenge. Remember, learning new things keeps the mind well-oiled and functioning smoothly.

The world is not going to slow down for us. Either we play catch-up or be branded digital dinosaurs. If you are an entrepreneur, you know which to choose.


I have received emails from many of you about why I started SeniorsAloud. And there are others who are interested to start their own blog but don't know how.

Well, this video here will show you HOW you too can create your own blog. One word of advice. Get ready several names for your blog before you sign up. Estimates say there are at least two blogs created every second, so you really need to come up with unique names for your blog.

As to WHY I started SeniorsAloud, that shall be answered in another post.

I have also embedded a video clip on what TWITTER is all about, and why millions of people are twittering or tweeting.

Email SeniorsAloud if you have queries about blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter in Plain English

For those who would like to know what TWITTER is all about, and why it's the current big thing with both celebrities and ordinary folks like you and me.

You can follow SeniorsAloud on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The WSJ article that drove me green with envy! Click on the image to enlarge.

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through the Wall Street Journal when I came across an article that filled me with absolute envy for a certain Ms Li Guilian, 63, of Dalian, China. Well, it wasn't so much that she got a warm hug from the world's richest man - Warren Buffet, but the free publicity and the billions of yuan that hug would generate for her clothing company Dayang Group.

Left: Buffet and Ms Li (Photo: China Daily).

Apparently Buffet has fallen in love with Trands suits since he first wore them in 2007. He was quoted as saying "They're comfortable and people tell me they look good. I went 78 years before I got a compliment on my appearance."

Buffet says he has no stake in Dayang which owns the Trands label, but with Dayang stocks soaring 70%, who knows he may have second thoughts. He had his business partner, Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates wearing Trands too at the Berkshire Hathaway 2009 shareholders meeting in Nebraska in May.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in their Trands suit. (Photo: Daily Mail)

Now if only someone with huge name power would give me a hug, my blog traffic would go up 70%. That would translate into....hmmm....millions of ringgit of sponsorship for the programmes I have in mind for senior citizens. And SeniorsAloud would be a superbrand name.....
Well, a woman can dream and hope, can't she?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The front page of the Star on 5 Oct 2009. Click on the image to enlarge.

I'm glad the Star exposed the Live Blood Analysis (LBA) scam on the front page yesterday. I know many people (yours truly among them) who have been duped into buying expensive supplements based on the results of their LBA.

Apparently, thousands of gullible folks have fallen victim to this scam for the past TEN years!

I remember three years ago, I was offered a free LBA by a wellness centre at an up-market shopping mall. They took a drop of my blood for analysis. Within minutes the results showed that I had what seemed to me like 1001 health problems! I was made to feel like my body was going to die on me soon unless I took their miracle supplements.

Not wanting to die a premature death, I paid RM400 for two tins of a nutritional beverage. After a week drinking the powder stuff, I was constipated! When I complained, I was told that it was my body reacting to the side effects, and that it was 'normal'. After another week of no-show from my bowels, I threw away the rest of the stuff and swore never again to be swayed by anyone promoting wonder drugs.

But don't believe what I say. This is only my personal experience. We all react differently to health supplements as our body and state of health are different. I am sure there are genuine supplements out there that do what they are supposed to do. You'll need all the luck to find them. To each his own, or as they say, one man's poison is another man's cure.

Related Articles:

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Did you know that October 1 is designated International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) by the United Nations? Well, as in previous years, that day came and went without anyone here being the wiser for it. The theme for 2009 is: "Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of Older Persons: Towards a Society for All Ages".

Instead of the usual round of forums, talks and exhibitions to mark the occasion, the City Council of Manchester, UK, launched a 47-page illustrated booklet targeted at the 50+ offering advice on how to spice up their marriage life or look for new love after divorce.

There are chapters devoted to issues like dealing with the changes our bodies undergo with age, the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and how to get back in the dating game. There are also tips on how to use a condom, discover our erotic side and combat impotency problems.

The expressed objective of the booklet is to address the problem of increasing numbers of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) amongst the over-50s. I don't think this is the case in Malaysia or Singapore where middle-aged couples are quite conservative when it comes to their sex life, that is, if they have one!

Well, if those hormones are still raging within, have fun! Just be careful you don't pull a muscle, break a bone or overstrain your heart!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

negaraku? terang bulan

Rudy van Daim and his band came out with this number in 1963. I was in Form 4 then. I remember singing "Negara Ku" at every school assembly. Nothing like this upbeat version, I can tell you!


No wonder Indonesia is claiming the tune for our national anthem as theirs! Listen to "Terang Bulan" and you be the judge.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Two nights ago I was at a Toastmasters meeting where the theme was “Fountain of Youth”. It got me reflecting on how obsessed people are about looking young and beautiful. This unhealthy obsession has driven celebrities and ordinary folk alike into spending huge sums of money on anti-ageing products, and surgery.

Today, the anti-ageing industry is a multibillion-dollar business. Step into any pharmacy or departmental store, and you will see a confusing array of age-defying supplements, creams and what-have-yous. But really, do any of these actually work?

Most of the surveys done on this subject have turned up little evidence to prove the effectiveness of anti-ageing products. Indeed, Anita Roddick, the late founder of The Body Shop famously said the cosmetics industry was peddling "a scandalous lie" in claiming that anti-ageing creams can stop wrinkles.

Sometimes all it takes to look great is a bit of grooming, make-up and a warm smile.

At the end of the day, anti ageing products tend to only work on the earliest and mildest signs of ageing. They may prevent and erase fine lines but they can't turn back the clock and make you look 20 if you are 50.

Furthermore, all dermatologists agree that our rate of ageing depends mostly on our lifestyle. So, rather than look for miracle creams, adopt the following regime:
1. Eat a balanced, healthy diet,
2. Stay out of the sun and use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15,
3. Drink plenty of water.
4. Don’t smoke and keep away from smoky places and
5. Exercise regularly.

Boring…but effective!

Ageing is a natural process that everyone goes through, even a former Mr Universe. Guys are more concerned about youthful manhood than youthful looks, right?

Don’t be taken in by pictures of youthful looking ‘older’ women or men in glossy magazines. These pictures have been cleverly air-brushed to make the models look fabulous. Either that or the models are actually in their early 30s! The litmus test is to pick a model who is 60+ but looks 30+, and is a regular user of the brand of anti-ageing cream advertised.

Twiggy, 60. What a difference air-brushing makes! (Photo: Daily Mail)

I’d rather put my money and my faith in moisturizers. They are cheap, easily available and guaranteed effective. Want to get rid of wrinkles? Just learn to relax and smile more often. Worries and stress add lines to your face. That’s the simple truth.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

~ Sophia Loren