Saturday, February 26, 2011


One of the things I must do on my monthly trips to Singapore is catch a movie or two. Senior citizens get to see movies in their entirety, unlike in Malaysia where we have a scissors-happy censorship board. 'The Passion of Christ', 'Schindler's List' and 'Brokeback Mountain', for example, were banned from commercial screening. Too much gore and violence is also a no-no, the same with profanity and sexual scenes.

I recently saw 'Black Swan' and 'The King's Speech' in Singapore. I bet the lesbian scenes and all the profanities so central to both stories were removed in the Malaysian screenings.

Another joy of watching movies in Singapore is I get a seniors' discount. I pay only S$4 for a ticket. Right now Golden Village is offering free gifts and big prizes for senior movie goers. The company needs them to fill the seats for the day shows. The younger set prefers the evening shows when they get off work.

Museums, art galleries, and city attractions are jumping on the band wagon with attractive discounts for folks aged 60 and above. Tickets for Universal Studios Singapore, for example, start at $S32 for a one-day weekday pass, instead of the regular adult price of $S66. (Pic right: RapidKL 50% concession for senior citizens aged 60 and above.)

Dollars and sense at work here. And a win-win situation for all.
However, not everyone can see the money to be made in the seniors market. I recently inquired at an up-market restaurant whether grandmas get to eat for free. After all the place was named "Grandma's Restaurant". The head waiter looked at me with an air of disdain and shook his head. I suggested perhaps if grandma came along with the whole family, she might get to eat free? "Sorry, no," was the firm reply.

It was almost lunch-time, and the place looked quite deserted. Surely it made business sense to offer grandma a free meal if she brought along two or more full-paying adult diners? After all, most grandmas wouldn't want to eat alone. That's good marketing strategy.

What do senior citizens enjoy doing? They love to read, travel, shop, exercise, meet up with friends for a chat or a bite, be entertained, and more. MPH could offer seniors a discount on books, Starbucks on beverages, travel agencies on trips, IT companies on their products, supermarkets on groceries, and pharmacies on supplements.These are just a few examples.

One doesn't need to have an MBA to see all the golden business opportunities available to make money in the growing silver-haired market. All one needs is some common sense and the ability to put two and two together to make profits.
My discount card from Guardian Pharmacy. Too many terms and conditions, so not that popular with senior citizens.

Student discount cards have been around for a long time now. Similar cards for retirees and pensioners have yet to make an impact. Such cards would certainly go a long way towards stretching their limited savings.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I know it sounds morbid, but ever since the first of my high school mates passed away, I've taken to scanning the obituary columns in the papers. Death still seemed distant then. My sister's sudden demise in 2006 from a heart attack brought death literally to my doorstep. She was just two months shy of her 56th birthday. Two years ago, my cousin suffered a heart attack in Seoul where he was based. He was a young 42.

Yesterday I read in the papers of the passing of an old friend. It was another reminder that we are all mere mortals. Who knows when our number will be called. Even as we remember those who have departed, we should give thanks that we can wake up each morning to greet a new day and breathe the breath of life.

Too often we take people and things for granted. Only when they are taken away from us, do we realize we should have appreciated them more. But rather than waste time on regrets, let us spend it with the people we love, doing the things we enjoy, and helping others in whatever way we can. Isn't that what life is about?

A cousin sent me this video which is a reminder that we should live life to the fullest. If we have dreams, we should pursue them. Life is to be lived, not wasted.

The video is in Chinese, but the message is loud and clear, and transcends language.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Malaysia's superrich. Source: NST
There were few surprises in the recently-released list of Malaysia's top 20 billionaires. The same faces are there in the annual list. It used to be millionaires topping the list. Obviously these former millionaires have raised not only their net worth, but a few have also made the leap to Forbes' Top 100 billionaires list. They are Robert Kuok, 86, ranked 33 with a personal fortune of USD14.5 and Ananda Krishnan, 71, ranked 89 with a net worth of USD7.6.

What do billionaires do with all that wealth? Through the foundations they have set up, they have helped to provide scholarships to the needy, and donated funds to aid the poor. The main focus is always education, and the target group are the young.

What about the old?

Do companies view the old and elderly as not worth investing in as they are past their prime? Are they poor investment risks? Does it always have to be about ROI?

Source: NST
Old folks are usually remembered at festive seasons, when companies will try and outdo each other to fulfil their CSR agenda. They organize visits to old folk homes and inform the media so they can be assured of publicity for their good works.

What about the rest of the year?

The overwhelming majority of the super-rich on the list are in their 70s or 80s. One would expect them to channel some of their spare change into providing financial aid and healthcare for the less fortunate who are in the same age group as they.

If the old won't help their own, it's even less likely that the young would do so.

One organization that would welcome some seed money to kickstart their programs is the Foundation for Sustainable Retirement. It hasn't been able to achieve much since its launch in August 2010 because of financial constraints. Another is AUTORR. Its launch has been delayed indefinitely due to insufficient funds to continue with their building plans.

The centrepiece of AUTORR in Ampang.
A generous cheque from any of our billionaires would enable these organizations to turn their vision into reality for the benefit of the elderly in our society.

The Malaysian chapter of the international Make a Wish charity for children was launched recently. Now if someone would donate just 0.00001% of his billions to Seniorsaloud, we could set up a Make a Wish Foundation for the elderly.

I know of some people in their 80s who would love to visit the village in China or India where they were born. They just don't have the funds to make the trip. There are others who want nothing more than a wheelchair to move around in. Some only want to enjoy an all-expense paid day out with their peers.

Their wishes are not out of the ordinary. Just simple wishes that, if granted, would bring much joy to these seniors living out their final years.

Related article: "Making Wishes Come True For The Aged".

Monday, February 21, 2011


If you have always wanted to start your own business, but feel you might be too old to take on the challenge, you might want to read the Sunday Times interview with Mr William Yong, 84. Three years ago when he was 81, Mr Yong set up ODC Healthcare, a company that distributes health supplements like sheep placenta capsules and garlic capsules. The average turnover of the firm is $1 million.

Mr Yong has two other successful businesses. He started ODC Technologies in 1958 to supply office equipment, and ODC Investments in 2000. The latter serves as a holding company for his property investments.

It is an inspiring rags-to-riches story of a young man who worked his way up from accounts clerk to millionaire property investor and entrepreneur.

Here are excerpts from the interview. You need to be a subscriber to read the full interview.

Q: Are you a spender or saver?

I am largely a saver. I could save 60 per cent of my pay when I was saving very hard to start my business. Branded goods do not appeal to me. While I do eat at restaurants occasionally, especially when entertaining business guests, I am equally comfortable with hawker food and home-cooked meals.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

I charge about $3,000 monthly to my three credit cards and my cash withdrawal is about $2,500 monthly.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

My investments are in shares, commodities and properties. I have invested $500,000 in shares, $1.2 million in commodities (gold and silver), and my office properties are worth about $4.8 million.
For stock picks, I read broker reports and talk to my remisier friends from DBS Vickers. I monitor about seven counters regularly and will sell the counter if the share price rises more than 20 per cent. The shares include OCBC Bank, Ezra, SembMarine and Swiber. In 2006, I read from the newspapers that gold is a good investment. I bought gold and silver certificates at United Overseas Bank for $450,000. Now they are worth about $1.2 million. I plan to keep them for the long term.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

My parents were Chinese Hakka immigrants who came to Singapore in the 1920s. I had a dozen siblings and I was the fifth child. We lived in a rented three-storey shophouse in Cross Street in the Chinatown area. My father was a tailor and my mother, a housewife.
Times were hard during those days, and I had to quit school after Secondary 1 to start working. My father became depressed and drank heavily after the Japanese Occupation because his shop was looted and he lost everything he had worked for. He died at the age of 56 in 1946. Those early growing-up years taught me to appreciate the value of money and to be frugal. Back then, our meals were mainly porridge with tapioca and sweet potato. My siblings and I shared books and clothes.

Q: What property do you own?

I own a residential property and an office-cum-factory. I bought a freehold 2,000 sq ft condominium in Lower Delta Road in 1985 for $520,000 and it is now worth about $2.8 million. My 12,000 sq ft freehold office-cum-factory premises at Tong Lee Building in Kallang Pudding Road, which comprises four units, was bought in 1990 for $1.8 million. It is now worth about $4.8 million. Of the four units, I am using two and renting out the other two at an annual yield of 8 per cent. At one time, I owned 10 office-cum-factory units in the building, but have since sold six of them.

Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?

In the 1980s, I bought four Rolex gold- and diamond-studded watches for about $25,000 each, and one Vacheron Constantin diamond watch for $40,000 from Great Eastern Watch in Singapore. The watches are now worth about $50,000 each. They are good investments. I change watches daily during the work week.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

I have no retirement plans. I am still strong and fit, and intend to continue working for as long as I can. It is not so much for financial reasons as I have sufficient assets and cash. But working keeps me going, both mentally and physically. I contribute to the National Kidney Foundation and the Children's Society on an ad hoc basis and will continue to do so.

Sound advice from one who has proven that success in life can come at any age, and to anyone who works hard.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


High Cholesterol

A friend forwarded this e-MedTV website that has video channels covering health-related topics ranging from high cholesterol to knee arthritis. No medical jargon, and no promotion of health supplements.

Definitely a must-add to your favourites or bookmarks if you are looking for information on health topics.

Here are two more that would interest older adults:

Heart Disease

High Blood Pressure

These medical video presentations are posted here to provide useful information on health problems. If you have a specific health problem, it is advisable that you consult your family doctor.

For more medical and health information, scroll down to HEALTH/WELLNESS LINKS in the column on the right.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The headline says it all. (Source: ST 14 Feb)
Most children don't like old people, with the exception of their grandparents, of course. Neither do banks, and they show it by discriminating against retirees and pensioners who have problems applying for credit cards and housing loans.

Insurance companies also fall under the same category. They are reluctant to accept or renew policies for those above 60, unless the latter are prepared to pay higher premiums.

The latest group of people shunning the elderly are - maids! The current shortage of maids from Indonesia means that Filipino maids, especially those in Singapore, are able to dictate their terms of employment. And looking after frail old folks is certainly not something that appeals to them. (Pic: Not all elderly couples are as fortunate as this couple, both 86, who have maids to look after them. Source: ST)

Sad, isn't it, to be discriminated against because of old age.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


RapidKL's Bas Wanita - a boon for women commuters.
RapidKL has special buses for women only. Shopping malls provide free bus rides to and from LRT stations, school buses pick up children and drop them off at school, and community shuttle buses offer residents a convenient means of transport around the neighbourhood.

This free shuttle bus service is popular with Mont Kiara residents. There's also a mini-van service that plys the 1 Utama-Mont Kiara route at affordable fares.
These are just a few examples of transport services that cater to specific groups of people.
The free shuttle bus that I usually take from Bangsar LRT station to MidValley Mall.
Isn't it about time the Ministry of Transport or some private company come up with a transport service that caters to the needs of seniors? Not all seniors drive, especially those aged 70+. But they do need to go out and run errands, do some marketing, go for medical check-ups or simply enjoy a fun day out with friends.

An elderly-friendly bus that provides seniors with the means to ride safely and cheaply.
The answer lies in providing a door-to-door transport service for seniors who otherwise would have to remain home-bound. If the government has no interest, NGOs should step in to provide such services, with funds from big corporations under their CSR program. Mobility empowers the elderly, and encourages active ageing.

Check out Independent Transportation Network (ITN) America's innovative solution to the mobility problems of elderly seniors. They are more than happy for other organizations to copy their model. Any takers?

Monday, February 14, 2011


True love of the 'Till Death Do Us Part' genre is getting extremely difficult to find these days. Which is ironic given the freedom we now enjoy to mix and mingle socially and marry whoever we want. Which is why I go all misty-eyed whenever I read stories of love and marriages that have stood the test of time.

For those of us not so lucky in love or marriage, is there still hope when we have already gone past the 60-year milestone of our lives?

"Never too late," Madam Tan Khin Lan, 70, will probably say. She married Mr Lim Hoo Ching, 81, a year ago at the AWWA Community Home for Senior Citizens where they first met in 2004. Click here to read more.

Marriage at this age is more for companionship than for anything else, although thanks to a little blue pill and a bit of lube, sex is no longer considered a mission impossible.

There are many issues to consider that often deter an older couple from re-marrying. Adult children on both sides may not favour such a union. They may view their parent's new love interest as a threat to their inheritance and an affront to the memory of their departed mother or father.

Never too old for romance!
On a personal note, since my ex and I went our separate ways in 1976, I have been in a few relationships, the longest lasted five years. Obviously, none have worked out. Perhaps I am just too independent, and too lacking in the 'good-wife' attributes, whatever they may be.

I've long ago given up on finding someone who shares my interests AND who is available. I'm sure there's someone out there somewhere who feels the same way. Whether the two of us will ever link up is for God or Destiny to decide. I won't be losing sleep over it.
The message is loud and clear from those who have been through a bad marriage and are enjoying their new status as a single.
Related article:

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Source: Straits Times 10 Feb 2011
If there is any mainstream newspaper that I read on a daily basis, it's the Singapore Straits Times. I read it for two reasons: for news about Malaysia that no Malaysian mainstream media (MSM) would print, and for news about Singapore's active ageing programmes.

For instance, the article above by John Mallot, former US ambassador to Malaysia, has been circulating online for several days now since it first appeared under the title "The Price of Malaysia's Racism" in the Wall Street Journal Asia on 8 Feb. To date, there has been no direct mention of the article in any of the Malaysian MSM. If you haven't read it yet, click on the link to read the full article. Worth reading.

And below is Mahathir's response to some of the comments raised by Lee Kuan Yew in his book "Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going". Click here to read the article.

Source: Straits Times (11 Feb 2011)
As for news on active ageing and retirement, below are some snippets. Malaysians probably won't see news articles like these below as there are hardly any policies in place to assist older workers seeking re-employment. Except for raising the retirement age for civil servants to 58, the Malaysian government has done little to re-train older workers or offer some form of aid for those seeking a second career in their later years. For the private sector, the retirement age remains at 55 - an age many see as the new 40!

Source: Straits Times 11 Feb 2011
Come January 2012 the new Retirement and Re-employment Act will take effect in Singapore. Under this law, it is mandatory for companies to offer eligible employees an option to continue working beyond 62 - first to 65 and later to 67.

The operative word here is 'eligible', meaning the workers must be medically fit and have shown satisfactory work performance. Employers can offer them either 3-year contract or one-year renewable contracts until they reach 65.

For those who cannot or will not be re-hired, employers must give them a one-time payment of between S$4500 and S$10,000. Not all employers are happy with this.

Click here to read more about the Retirement and Re-employment Act and the tripartite guidelines.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I am aware many Malaysians are boycotting the local papers because of the alleged biased reporting. I don't read the local papers on a regular basis. Reason: I get heartburn from news indigestion. Know what I mean?

Here's a sample dose:

But the PM had earlier warned Malaysians: "Don't think that what is happening there must also happen in Malaysia. We will not allow it to happen here." Obviously the lesson has not been learned. It's ultimately the people who decide if they want to change the government, and how they want to do so.

RM1bil for each ship? Highly-marked up figures? This is 26%-870% above the cost of international-class vessels, claims DAP publicity chief Tony Pua.

Costs are justified. These are state-of-the-art littoral combat ships, says Naval Chief. Click here to read more of his 'justifications'.

Who is Malaysia combating on the high seas to warrant the purchase of these ships? Somali pirates in their weather-beaten boats?

RM268m will get us 7 offshore support vessels, 3 tugboats and 2 oil barges. Nothing state-of-the-art here, but perhaps more suited to our modest needs? 

Muslim couples be forewarned. Better play safe and eat at home on Valentine's Day even though you may be married with children. But Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad of PAS has since clarified that there will be no crackdown on Muslims celebrating Valentine’s Day. So, what about the 2005 fatwa???? No wonder Muslims are constantly 'confused'! (Source: The Sun)

A rare piece of good news. But it didn't last long. Already it has received mixed reactions. Click here to read more.

Ok, enough. Time to down some indigestion pills.

Monday, February 7, 2011


My 85-year old mother is in relatively good health and able to move around with the aid of a walking stick. But her memory is fading. There will come a time when she will need more care.

With my siblings all busy with their own lives, I know I will end up as my mom's sole caregiver by default. It is a role I have taken on for the past 15 years. So I won't be in unfamiliar territory. The only difference is my stress level will probably shoot up, and I will have to make changes in my lifestyle. Will I be up to the task?

Dr Lee Wei Ling's article "Who cares for the caregivers?" published recently in The Straits Times must have resonated with many women who have to look after an ailing elderly parent.

Source: Straits Times 30 Jan, 2011

I quote an excerpt from a letter a reader wrote in response to Dr Lee's article. Dr Lee heads the National Neuroscience Institute of Singapore, and is the daughter of Lee Kuan Yew, former Singapore PM.

"The emotional and psychological stress of the caregiver takes its toll and very quickly the caregiver becomes very tired and drained. There are no support groups, as far as I know, where caregivers can share common experiences and frustrations so the caregiver in Singapore has to rely on the listening ear of good friends and relatives who have the time to spare.

I live this frustration every day despite having a dedicated maid to take care of all my 91-year-old mother's needs. I worry when my mother doesn't eat right. I worry when she complains of aches and pains. I worry when she becomes sullen and depressed, which is most of the time.

I tell myself I shouldn't care if she eats her meals or not, but I do. I don't get any smiles or thank yous from her and most times I feel she is unappreciative of whatever I do. All I get are scowls and frowns and complaints that the food I cook (I do all the cooking) is not done right.

So how do you stay motivated to do this every day? How does the caregiver block all negative thoughts?"

File photo
If caregiving can extract a high physical, mental and emotional toll on a filial daughter, it must be 10 times more so for a son. Click here to read Matthew N's scathing article about how looking after his 64-year old mother is driving him nuts. He calls her a 'drama queen', a 'sympathy junkie' and much worse - too profane to quote here.

I am glad none of these labels fit my mom. She may be difficult at times, but she's the only mother I have.

For my personal tips on caregiving, do click here to read my article "Caring For An Elderly Parent" which was published in the Singapore Women's Weekly, Nov 2009 edition.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Source: Star 31 Jan, 2011

Going through some back copies of  The Star, I came across the above headlines. My initial reaction was one of delighted amazement. Finally the local mainstream media (MSM) is drawing attention to what only the online alternative media has dared to print - illegal movement of funds out of the country. On reading further, my initial elation was replaced by utter disappointment.  The report was about India, not Malaysia.

Considering the figures were taken from the same Global Financial Integrity Report 2000-2009 published on January 18, 2011, it is pertinent to question why India, which occupies 15th spot in the Top 20 list of countries with illicit outflow of funds, should be mentioned in the MSM, whilst Malaysia in 5th spot with USD291 billion of black money stashed overseas during the same period escapes mention. We are talking about almost RM888 BILLION being taken out of the country illegally.

Top 20 Countries’ Cumulative Illicit Outflows from 2000 to 2008 (in billion U.S. dollars). Source: Global Financial Integrity Report

A Malaysiakini article quoted figures from the GFI Report of RM67.7 billion illicit outflow of funds in 2000. Eight years later, this has tripled to a massive RM208 billion. What are the sources of these funds? Who are these people or companies illegally transferring funds out of the country? Where have they stashed the money?

Similar reports have appeared in The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Today and Free Malaysia Today and other alternative news media websites. But the MSM has yet to highlight this staggering financial loss to the people of Malaysia.

The Top 10 - Malaysia is ranked #5. Nothing to be proud of, everything to be ashamed of.  (Source: GFI report)

DAP and PKR have called on Barisan National for a full explanation. In response, International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Mukriz Mahathir said at a recent press conference that the government did not see the need to look into claims that the RM888 billion channeled to secret banks abroad was due to corruption and mismanagement under his father's premiership.

It's just a matter of time before the truth will out. Already a former Swiss bank employee has handed over to Julian Assange of Wikileaks details of 2000 high net-worth accounts. I am sure Malaysians would be curious to know if any of their fellow countrymen are on the list.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


If you haven't seen this year's Petronas CNY video clip, here it is - just right for posting on Seniorsaloud!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The Tenang candidates. Let's hope eventual winner Mohd Azahar Ibrahim (right) has been certified medically fit to carry out his duties for the full term. (Pic: NST)
So BN has won the Tenang by-elections. Not unexpected. Johor is traditionally a BN state. Voters there probably went with the familiar BN symbol rather than vote for the better candidate. Understandable. After all, who has heard of Mohd Azahar Ibrahim or Normala Sudirman? But everyone recognizes the BN and PAS logos.

Voters in Malaysia are clueless when it comes to choosing the best representative for their constituency. That's why people end up electing frogs who are in the habit of leaping from one party to another for their personal gain. This year being the year of the bunny rabbit, will Malaysians be seeing more party-hopping from their representatives?

There have been 14 by-elections since March 8, 2008. The 15th one is coming up in Merlimau, Malacca. The Election Commision has declared Feb 26 for nomination day, and March 6 for polling day. That gives voters a grand total of 8 days to get to know the candidates. It's that enough time? NO!

(Left): MCLM Chairman Raja Petra Kamarudin, (Right): MCLM President Haris Ibrahim

That's where the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) comes in. MCLM plans to offer 30 candidates by March this year to opposition parties looking for suitable candidates to field in the coming elections. So far, it has named four candidates: Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (National Human Rights Society president), Sreekant Pillai (human rights lawyer), Haslinah Yacob (former president of AWAM), and Dr Nedunchelian Vengu (private dental surgeon).

These people have solid credentials. Regardless of when the PM calls for general elections, these candidates will have months to prepare themselves. More importantly, voters will have more time to get to know the candidates and vote for the one they can trust to best represent them at state or federal level.

If you see yourself as a potential candidate, approach MCLM. Just be sure you have the right qualities: the passion to serve the people, a seeker of truth, a man of principles and integrity. Their loyalty must be to the people who elected them. And of course, they must have an aversion to party-hopping.

For more on why MCLM's objectives resonate with many Malaysians, read the Sunday Star interview with Haris Ibrahim, MCLM president, or visit the website.