Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I once asked my mom's cardiologist which diseases doctors feared most for themselves. His immediate answer: stroke and dementia. I had expected him to say cancer.

Dementia is incurable, irreversible and terminal. At least that is what doctors and medical researchers claim. The disease doesn't concern us much until it strikes our elderly parents and they start showing signs of deteriorating mental health.

After my mom was diagnosed with dementia in March last year, I read anything I could lay my hands on about the disease. I now having a better understanding of what it can do to the patient, and can empathize with caregivers of dementia patients.

Prescription drugs only help to slow down the ravages of the disease. Do a search on Google and Youtube and you will be amazed at the myriad of miracle cures for dementia. The video below is one example.

Researchers say the ketones found in coconut oil have slowed the progression of Alzheimer's disease in some people and may actually prevent it. Do you know of anyone who has tried this cure with encouraging results?

A word of caution. This video is posted here for educational purposes only. What works for some people may not work for others. Consult a doctor before experimenting with any alleged remedies.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


My daughter forwarded me this article recently. It's worth sharing, so here it is, with credit to Bronnie Ware.

The article is an extract taken from her book 'The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing'. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for.
For more information, please visit Bronnie's official website at www.bronnieware.com or her blog at www.inspirationandchai.com.

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


You might have seen this Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development ad in the papers over the Chinese New Year. Sure, it's just an ad but it made me think. CNY or any festivals for that matter is a time for family reunion and celebration. Unfortunately, this tradition of family get-togethers to welcome the new year is fast fading into oblivion.

These days many young Chinese see the festive holidays as an opportunity to relax at home, meet up with friends, or go off on a holiday. Those who can afford it will opt for trips abroad to China, Hong Kong, Korea or Taiwan. To them, it's such a waste of holidays and also boring to sit around in their parents' home in some small town, watching TV all day long. If not for the festive decorations and the sounds of firecrackers and lion dances, CNY would be just like any other day.

Jams like this one are common during CNY and other festivals. How many people are returning
to their hometowns, and how many are off to a holiday resort?

With each passing year, fewer adult children are making the effort to 'balik kampung' to visit their elderly parents for the CNY. The thought of getting stuck in horrendous traffic jams is enough to put them off making the trip. So elderly parents wait at home for their children who may or may not show up.

Waiting for visitors (The Sun)
At old folks home, the story is the same. The elderly sit around waiting and wondering if their children will remember to visit them this year. For many, the only visits they get are from various corporations and NGOs. These kind strangers stay for a while till all the photos have been taken and gifts distributed, then they leave, pleased with their good deed and satisfied that they have achieved their CSR objectives for the year.

It is sad that the elderly are often the hapless victims of a society that is slowly losing touch with family traditions and values. But then again, they have to accept some responsibility too. Family cohesion has to be nurtured over the years, starting when the children are still young and eager to learn. It takes effort, patience and persistence to instil family values. And above all, it takes a whole lot of love, not just implicit, but openly expressed and demonstrated through little acts of caring and sharing throughout the children's growing up years. Once firmly established, family bonds are difficult to sever, and adult children will never dream of abandoning their elderly parents.

So young parents, take note. Don't wait till you are in your sunset years and then wonder why you don't see much of your adult children anymore. Perhaps you didn't see much of them when they were growing up, when you were too busy pursuing a career or building a business. When we are strangers to our children, how can we expect care and concern from them in our old age? The two generations are family in name only. When that happens, we have only ourselves to blame.

Tossing the traditional CNY dish of yee sang (raw fish salad) at a family get-together.

Monday, January 23, 2012


This is the year of the Dragon. Not just any dragon, but specifically the Water Dragon. From what I have read, the feng shui experts have warned of upheavals and changes that are not necessarily for the better. But isn't that what is predicted every new lunar year? Ultimately, it's up to each and every one of us to decide how we want the year to turn out on a personal level. It's in our hands whether to believe the doomsayers and be resigned to whatever lies ahead. Or to look at every setback as a lesson learned and an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser.(Pic: My grandson, Max, turns 12 this year, so that makes him our Golden Dragon Boy.)

For those who would like to know more about dragons and what they symbolize, here's a Youtube video to watch.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


At one time it was the home computer that was taking up much of our leisure time. We would spend hours surfing the internet, playing online games or watching videos on Youtube. It was bad enough then, but now mobile devices are replacing the computer as the biggest thief of our time.

The iPhone and iPad have made it so easy for us to get online and get connected that we have lost touch with the real world. Face to face communication or even voice to voice communication is in danger of becoming obsolete. When family members text each other from different rooms or floors of the house rather than make the effort to walk there and talk face to face, you know quality family time is at risk in this household.

The older generation of mobile phones had limited applications, but with smart phones, there are more than enough applications to keep users happily occupied 24/7. Add the iPad, and we have a lethal combination of mobile devices guaranteed to drain the life out of the users. It is not uncommon for people to own at least two smart phones and an iPad, and carry these devices with them everywhere they go. Indeed, the iPad2 has become a status symbol of IT-chic.

The Star 20 January 2012
With wider broadband coverage, we can access the internet and log on to social media sites from almost anywhere. It's so easy to create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Skype, Blogs, and LinkedIn, and so affordable to subscribe to online papers and magazines. Small wonder that we spend so much of our free time online.

In the urban areas, the percentages are likely to be much higher.

The worst addicts are Facebook addicts. They come from all ages. Yesterday's edition of The Star quoted a woman in her 50s who said she no longer had normal conversations with her family. She would plan her daily activities around the FB games of 'Farmville' and 'Baking Life'. "I haven't had a good night's sleep in ages as I can't log off till the wee hours of the morning."

Another addict said, "I log on to Facebook every half an hour. If I can't go on FB, I feel uneasy and can't concentrate on my work." He added that it was never that bad till he bought a smart phone.

Admit it - most of us can't live without our mobile devices. Try going for a day or two without turning on your mobile phone or computer. You'll have withdrawal symptoms, and sink into deep depression or utter boredom.

So what's the solution?

Have the will-power to set limits to your online time. Or switch back to older generic mobile devices. Or give away your iPhone and iPad, and go cold turkey.

Otherwise, say goodbye to family time, to relationships and to a life that used to be filled with real friends, activities and laughter, not virtual smiles and pokes.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew, gives his views. From Straits Times

"Right pay will help ensure quality leaders in future," says PM Lee Hsien Loong.

In the Youtube video below, he puts forward his case in the debate on ministerial pay in Parliament two days ago. Worth listening to if you have an hour to spare. Well-reasoned and presented, and without any need to resort to threats and rhetoric.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Consider these facts:

Fact 1: Everyone ages. This is indisputable.
Fact 2: Both the birth rate and the elderly mortality rate are slowing down, resulting in a net gain of older people. For the first time in history, adults aged 60 and above outnumber the young.
Conclusion: The world is ageing, and the trend is likely to be irreversable.

So what does this mean? It depends on whom you pose this question to.

To the individual, it means you must be prepared to have the financial means and good health to live an extra 20 years after you retire.

To the government, it means policies must be implemented and action taken to make the towns and cities age-friendly.

To welfare organizations and charities, it means they must expect to look after large numbers of elderly folks who may need shelter, food and counselling among others. This would be a tremendous drain on their resources.

To the corporate sector, it means they must be ready to absorb older workers as the pool of young workers may be in short supply.

The above is only a small fraction of what needs to be done to be ready for the silver tsunami.

But there's also this other side of the coin. Not all is doom and gloom as the above letter from a Straits Times reader suggests.

If you are an entrepreneur who is quick to see the huge potential in the emerging silver-haired market, you stand to reap huge profits by catering to the needs and demands of this growing segment of the population. Apply the blue ocean strategy.

According to United Nations figures, Malaysia will be an ageing country by 2035 when 15% of the population is aged 60 and above. Singapore is now the fastest ageing country in Asia, and the percentage of people above 65 will increase from the present 7% to 19% in 2030.

How prepared are we to face the challenges of an ageing population?

Click on the link for more details of the upcoming 3rd Ageing Asia Investment Forum.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


If you are single, lonely, depressed and yearning for companionship, this video below is for you. Beware of whom you befriend online when you visit online dating or friendship sites.

Older adults, especially women in their 40s and above, please take heed. You are the main target of online scammers who will charm ('worm' is a better word) their way into your heart, and then tell you a sob story to fleece you of your money.

Don't even think about accepting requests to befriend strangers on Facebook and Skype. Getting your heart broken is one thing, but when you are also swindled of your life savings, that's a double whammy that may take you years to recover from.

So take note, and protect yourself and your money.

Related article:


Wednesday, January 11, 2012



I first visited the AUTORR centre in February 2009 after reading about it in The Star. Now three years down the road, what is the latest progress on Asia's first rest and recreation centre for senior citizens?

Lin Chua (Photo: AUTORR)
A small group of us decided to make a trip there yesterday to see for ourselves. We were given a guided tour by the ever so gracious and humble Lin Chua (Yap Swee Lin), founder and chairman of the AUTORR foundation. This grand-daughter of Malaysia's last kapitan, Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng, donated four acres of prime land in Ampang to build a centre where senior citizens could come and enjoy activities specially planned for them.

AUTORR's pamphlets now carry the new logo of a pentagon representing the five elements of feng shui: metal, water, wood, fire and earth that together symbolizes balance, harmony and success in life.

What inspired this bold vision to build the Rm8m AUTORR centre?

Explains Lin, "With their children all busy with work, old folks are often left at home with nothing much to do except watch television. They feel lonely, neglected and unappreciated. This centre provides an opportunity for them to come together during the day to enjoy activities with their peers.

One of the lecture halls. Once furnished and equipped, it can be rented out for seminars and other functions.
A classroom where the elderly can learn arts and crafts and other skills.

Some of these activities include workshops and classes where the elderly can pick up new skills and knowledge. Or they can choose to simply relax and enjoy the company of their friends.

We will also be inviting young people, including orphans, to visit and spend time with the elderly here. One of our objectives is to work towards bridging the gap between the two generations by encouraging core values like filial piety and respect for the elderly."

As Lin showed us around the different buildings, I could see the many changes that have taken place since my last visit, from the beautiful landscaping of the grounds to the tasteful furnishing of the centre.

For the many friends who have been enquiring about AUTORR, and for all the kind people who have donated towards making the AUTORR centre a reality, here is a pictorial account of the centre as of 10 January 2012.

At Happy Cafe, visitors can enjoy a cup of tea as well as a panoramic view of the hills surrounding the centre.
The kitchen - equipped at a cost of RM50k, thanks to generous donors.
A cosy tea corner. The wooden benches made by the orang asli (natives) are donated. Many benches like these line the corriders providing a place for the elderly to sit and rest their feet.
The reception area.
Volunteer Tracy Wan helps to run the air-conditioned office. Note the use of the stand fan. The volunteer staff know they have to work under tight budget constraints.
The meditation cave where the elderly can retreat to for some quiet moments and solitude.
Whether it's the willows, water fountains or little figurines dotting the garden, it's all about generating serenity and positive qi. The care given to details to ensure comfort and safety truly reflects the depth and breadth of Lin's concern and love for the elderly. There are ramps everywhere for easy wheelchair access, and more than 45 toilets for the convenience of the elderly.

Top: The Lotus Lodge provides accommodation for invited guest speakers. Above: the living cum dining room at the lodge. Every single piece of furniture here, and elsewhere in the centre, is either donated or sponsored.

Top: The centrepiece of AUTORR. The silver and golden pillars (not in photo) outside the hall symbolize the elderly enjoying their golden years. Above: The cavenous hall. AUTORR is hoping for generous donors to sponsor the construction of a movable stage.

The Year of the Dragon will see the opening of the AUTORR centre to senior citizens in the Klang Valley. Once in operation, the centre will accept registration from senior citizens irrespective of their age, race or religious background. Do note, however, that AUTORR is not a daycare centre.

In the meantime, the AUTORR foundation is continuing with its efforts to raise funds for various projects. Top on the list of priorities is the urgent need to clear the clump of trees adjoining the main entrance to make way for a much-needed car park for visitors. Any volunteers or sponsors for this?

For those wishing to donate money or items, please contact Faith Lum for more details at +603 4295 2261. Email address : autorrfoundationcentre@gmail.com. Website: http://autorrfoundation.com/

Crossed cheques should be made payable to: AUTORR FOUNDATION. For direct credit, it's AUTORR FOUNDATION, CIMB Bank A/C No. 1427-0007982-05-8. All donations are tax-exempted.

As evident from the photos above, every ringgit donated is accounted for and put to good use. AUTORR practises strict accountability and transparency. Let us give whatever we can, whether it's our time, energy or money, to such a noble and deserving cause as AUTORR.

Click on the link below to view more photos of AUTORR.


Friday, January 6, 2012


Figures in S$. (Source: Straits Times)
Figures in USD
Based on their salaries alone, Singapore's top civil servants are millionaires. The ministers are among the highest paid in the world. Even with the 36% cut, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong's paycheck is four times more than that of US President Obama.

The pay review was announced last May shortly after the General Elections that saw the governing PAP party retaining power but with the lowest majority since independence in 1965.

An 8-member committee was appointed to review ministerial salaries. After seven months of deliberation, committee chairman Gerald Ee revealed the recommendations at a press conference. According to the Straits Times report, and I quote here, "The committee kept three principles in mind in determining political salaries: competitive salaries to attract people of good calibre; the ethos of public service which entails sacrifice; and a clean wage with no hidden perks."

It recommended that political salaries still be pegged to top private-sector pay, but that there be a new benchmark based on a larger pool of top earners who are Singapore citizens.

Source: Straits Times
The new salary scale will be backdated from 21 May 2011 when the new government took office. There is no official comment yet from former PM Goh Chock Tong who had called for a ministerial pay rise in 1993.

These are massive pay cuts. Would it mean a drastic drop in the lifestyle of Singapore's ministers? But aren't civil servants supposed to live frugally as a good example to the people they serve? Shouldn't they be in politics in the first place because of a desire to serve the country, and not because of high salaries and perks?

It would be interesting to see whether the new salary scale would see a smaller pool of talented leaders who are prepared to make personal and financial sacrifices for the good of the nation.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I have never been a fan of Jane Fonda (she just turned 74), but what she says in this recent TEDtalk video resonates with me. Life should not be viewed as an arch where "you are born, you peak at mid-life and decline into decrepitude". That's just the physical aspect.

As we approach our third age (some of us are already there), it's time for a new metaphor and a more inspiring one at that.

Life (or age) is a staircase. Each passing year is a step up that staircase. Along the ascent, we pick up experiences that make us wiser, stronger and more at peace with ourselves.

What lies at the top of the staircase? That would depend very much on what each of us is hoping to find, wouldn't it? And whether we have been preparing ourselves for it.

What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


A new year means a new beginning, although as someone has pointed out, the only difference between an old year and a new one is a mere second when the clock is about to strike midnight on 31 December. So what is all this gloom and depression about getting one year older, and one step closer to kicking the bucket? We are only as old as we feel.

If we look at ourselves in the mirror when we wake up on 1 January each year, and see only sagging skin and greying hair, you can bet we will be seeing more of that before the year is out. The secret is to switch our focus, to look beyond, or deep inside that reflection in the mirror. We will see that youthful, playful spirit still dwelling within all of us. Try it. I have, and I can tell you it works!

Begin each day with a SMILE at yourself in the mirror. Say 'Hi!' to that person smiling back at you. Not only does smiling make you look younger, it also brightens up the day. Then share that smile with the people you come into contact with during the day. Start with your family, then your neighbours, your colleagues, your clients, the waiter who serves you your lunch, the cashier who gives you your change, the security guard at the gate. And that nice stranger who smiles at you first.

Or would you rather wake up grouchy and whining about your aches and pains, and complaining about how the world owes you your happiness? Do you want to spend the whole day spreading misery to those around you, and looking for people to wallow in self-pity with? What an utter waste of precious time!

It's really all up to us, isn't it, how we want to live each day, each year.