Sunday, April 29, 2012


I still haven't got over the events of yesterday. It will take some time to digest. How could something that began in a festive-like atmosphere descend into scenes of violence and chaos?

Anyway, there are plenty of reports in the newspapers, and enough Youtube videos to keep you glued to your pc screen for hours, also thousands of pictures have been posted on Facebook.

Do your own analysis. Draw your own conclusions. Read between the lines and talk to people who were there, the eye-witnesses. As for me, I am too tired to write about what I saw and experienced yesterday. So I'll just share some 1960s music videos that the older folks among us might remember and enjoy.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Fact or fiction? True or false? Who knows. These figures were revealed in the 2010 National Population and Housing census. Of these centenarians, 16,438 are Malays, 7,155 Chinese, 2,109 Indians and 1,576 others. The current average life expectancy of a Malaysian is 75 years. Both the Star and the New Straits Times carried reports on this in January this year.

Does this mean that Japan has lost top spot to Malaysia as the country with the world's fastest ageing population? Japan with a population of 128 million people has more than 47,000 centenarians.

Malaysia with a population of 28.7 million people has 27,278 centenarians. Do the math and compare the percentage of centenarians in both countries, and you begin to feel a sense of pride in the longevity of Malaysians, that is, if the figures are to be believed.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai was reported to have attributed this to the government's efforts in providing medical services to the people and subsidising public healthcare. This had contributed to improvements in health and life expectancy.

Simply amazing. Incredulous is more like it.

Click here to find out which are the top eight countries with the highest number of centenarians. Strange that Malaysia is missing from the list.

Perhaps the National Registration Department can verify the numbers? Or the Election Commission can check the electoral roll?

What do you think?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


From Straits Times 25 April

In yesterday's Straits Times report titled "Population will shrink from 2025 without new citizens", the government argues that the island nation needs 20,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year to arrest the decline in the population. Singapore's fertility rate of 1.2% is one of the lowest in the world.

What does a shrinking population mean? At one end, the fertility rate is going down, but at the other end, the mortality rate is also declining. The net result is an increasingly smaller pool of working adults having to support a growing number of older people.

The scenario in 2030 - a ratio of two working adults to one elderly citizen. A heavy burden indeed. Think of this as  two adult children shouldering the responsibility of supporting their elderly parent, instead of five or more sharing the costs.

This is one of the reasons why the government has been encouraging the intake of permanent residents over the years. It is from this pool that new citizens will emerge. The number of Singapore permanent residents almost doubled from 287,500 in 2000 to 541,000 in 2010.

In recent years, Singaporeans have been more vocal about their unhappiness over the large influx of foreign workers and expats, and the relative ease of obtaining PR status and benefits. In response, the government has made it tougher for foreigners to obtain PR status.

Malaysians account for the largest number of PRs.

However, the government continues to express concern over the growing ageing population. According to the report, from now to 2030, over 900,000 baby boomers will retire from the workforce. Hence, the need to push for at least 20,000 new citizens each year to sustain labour force productivity. But many Singaporeans remain unconvinced that the solution lies in raising the number of PRs in their country.

Note: For more information on population data, go to 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Retailers are incorporating more elder-friendly features in their shops and supermarkets to win over older customers.

As age advances on us, shopping becomes increasingly a dreaded chore. Retailers here have little clue as to what constitutes happy shopping for those aged 60 and above. Based on my own experience and my observations, I have come up with a list of older shoppers' grouses.

  • items on shelves too high for our arms to reach
  • items on shelves too low for our knees to bend
  • labels with fine print that is too small for us to read
  • aisles that are too narrow for our wheelchairs or walking frames
  • relatively few products catering to our needs
  • lack of benches to rest our weary feet (so true in bookstores!)
  • poor lighting at some sections of supermarkets and at some family restaurants
  • wet and slippery floors especially in the restrooms of shopping malls
  • loud jarring pop music - noise is more like it
  • sales assistants who have no idea what we are looking for. Try asking the young sales staff if they have CDs by The Rolling Stones or The Three Tenors. They will give you blank looks.

Do watch this video below. This supermarket in Germany certainly knows how to make their older customers happy to shop there. Our grocery chains here can learn a thing or two from this video.

The number of older shoppers is set to soar in the coming years. It makes good business sense for retailers to make shopping a pleasant experience for older people. Furthermore, any feature or design that is elder-friendly benefits other age groups as well. I might add that the sales staff should comprise workers of all ages, and not only those in the 20s as is the case in most retail shops and supermarkets here in Malaysia and Singapore.

From Elders in Action

Wouldn't it be great one day to see similar signs like this one above in our shops here in Malaysia and Singapore?

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Straits Times April 21

PM Lee Hsien Loong has finally joined the global Facebook community. I checked out his FB page, and thought I might as well do the same with our PM Najib's FB page. The two men are only a year apart in age, but interestingly enough, what their FB page says or doesn't say about them is in itself revealing.

First, let us compare the timeline cover photos.

Colours add vibrancy. PM Lee stands out in the crowd with his red shirt and holding a red tablet. He is not posing for the photo although he is aware there are scores of photographers around.
Black and white photo? The handwriting on the two posters look similar - probably done by the same person for distribution to the crowd to hold up during the photo shoot. The photo also doesn't reflect a PM of all races. A rather contrived photo, right down to the 1Malaysia finger!

Najib's first post on Sept 16, 2008 was to announce the launch of his 1Malaysia website.

With Najib, practically the entire FB content is one big PR exercise of what he has done as PM since 2008 and the world leaders he has met. A showcase, if you will, of his 'achievements' as PM of Malaysia. All nicely packaged and ready to go in his campaign bid for another term in the 13th General Elections, perhaps? His first post dates from September 2008. There is nothing about the man prior to 2008 except the day that he was born - July 23, 1953.

PM Lee's 1958 Primary 6 class photo - a priceless and very personal photo that he is happy to share with the FB community.

PM Lee, on the other hand, comes across as warm, humble and friendly, and eager to try out Facebook to reach out to Singaporeans. He has posted several family photos, including his 1974 Cambridge University graduation photo taken with his parents and his 1985 wedding photo. His archive of photos dates back to 1958. Here is his very first FB post (if you can't read the fine print in the screen-grab, the text is quoted below):

Good choice of profile photo that reflects his youthful enthusiasm and readiness to try out new channels to stay connected with his people. He also shares his delight at re-establishing contact with old friends.

Hello Everybody, Welcome to my Facebook page! :-)) 

The social media have changed the way we live, work and play, especially the way we connect with one another. Societies, communities and governments all over the world will not be the same again. Many of my colleagues have been using social media, including Facebook. They have encouraged me to start my own Facebook page. Having watched them, I have decided to join the fun. 

I hope you will find my Facebook page interesting. I will use it to talk about some of the things I am doing, and thinking about, but I would also like to hear from you. Let's use this page to help shape ideas and understanding of what we can do together to improve our lives. 

As a Facebook newbie, I would appreciate your advice, suggestions and, most of all, your patience. My staff will help me maintain this page, but I will try to post as often as I can myself. I will sign off my own posts with the initials “LHL”. 

If you wish to write in Malay, Chinese or Tamil, please feel free to do so. I hope you like (and Like) what you read. Thank you very much for your support. LHL

Which of the two men comes across better as the people's PM?
Quite obvious, isn't it?

Put it another way, who has a better PR team? The answer is the same as the one above. :-)

Whether we like it or not, perception matters, especially if we want to win hearts (or votes).

Friday, April 20, 2012


From Straits Times 19 April

The International Monetary Fund )IMF) has just released its Global Financial Stability report 2012. The report carries a warning of the rising healthcare costs of ageing. An underestimation of the average life span by a mere three years can translate into additional trillions of dollars in pension and healthcare costs for the global economy.

Graphics from Straits Times April 7.

How Singapore is preparing for ageing
The top three countries with the fastest growing ageing populations in the world are Japan, Germany and Singapore. In Singapore, the number of residents aged 65 and above increased from 7.2 per cent in 2000 to 9.3 per cent last year. By 2030, this will rise to 19 per cent.

Malaysia may not be on the list of world's fastest ageing populations, but it certainly holds the record for having the world's biggest civil service - 1.4 million Malaysians work in the public sector. Just imagine how much this will cost the government (and the tax-payers) in pension payments when these civil servants retire.

For other issues related to the "longevity bonus", do listen to this roundtable discussion held at Standford University. It's 90 minutes long, but worth spending the time if you have the interest. Some of the issues raised include:

~ social / financial security
~ job opportunities
~ medicare / healthcare / care-giving
~ nursing / retirement homes
~ transportation
~ lifelong learning
~ women's role / dominance in ageing
~ discrimination
~ inter-generational divide
~ social media (the 65+ are the largest growing cohort on Facebook)

The solution lies primarily in education. We all want to enter our golden years physically fit, mentally sharp, and financially secure, don't we? This awareness should be instilled as early as possible, and as part of the school curriculum.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The Straits Times of Singapore yesterday published a list of 44 men who allegedly had sex with an underage girl. This is the first time I have come across a list like this made public. If you think the men are probably serial rapists, thugs, paedophiles or perverts, think again. Included on the list are a school principal, a former police superintendent, military officers, a lawyer, businessmen and people in finance and other professions.

Recognize any name? Probably not a name you want to be proud to know.

The alleged mastermind of the online website that offers women (and also the teenager in question) for sexual services was earlier charged last November for living off the earnings of his bevy of 'social escorts'. If you think he must have a past criminal record or a history of psychological disorders, think again. According to the news report, "he had studied in Britain and worked in multinational firms, including Shell International Petroleum where he was an adviser to the chairman, Motorola where he was a channel sales manager and Virgin Mobile where he made general manager."

What drove these men, whose ages range from 21 to 48, to have sex with a 16-year old? She could have been the same age as their sister or daughter. Many of these men are married with children. The lawyer for some of them is portraying his clients as victims of a "hardcore prostitute". The men can come up with all sorts of reasons and excuses for their actions, but the law is the law. No one is above the law. Not even former PM of Italy Silvio Berlusconi who is currently facing charges of having paid for sex with an underage girl. He's old enough to be the teenager's grandfather!

I think a lot has to do with respect. And this works both ways. Girls must be taught to respect themselves, and be worthy of respect. Boys must be taught to respect all girls and not take advantage of them. This teaching has to start at home, if not through heart-to-heart sessions, then through good role-modeling. If young parents are too busy building their careers, then the grandparents should step in.

Any comments on how we should teach our children to respect women?

(Update: The Straits Times has just added another four more men to the list, including a former executive director of the Singapore Environment Council and a former top banker with a global private bank. Will there be more names to come???)

Monday, April 16, 2012


Let's not deceive ourselves. None of us are getting any younger. At best, some of us have managed to slow down the ageing process through healthy living. The worst thing we can do is to mark each birthday with a sense of gloom and depression. Isn't it better to count our blessings than count the number of years left of our life span?

Some of you are probably muttering "What blessings? I am retired and without an income. My savings are running out. I still have children in college and elderly parents to support. I have loans to pay off. I am a physical and mental wreck. My doctor tells me I have diabetes and high blood pressure. I have aches and pain all over. AND YOU TELL ME TO COUNT MY BLESSINGS???"

Okay, maybe life isn't coming up roses for some of us, but what good does counting all our misfortunes do for us? It only makes us feel even more aggrieved with our lot. We will only succeed in sinking deeper into self-pity. If we are unhappy with our current circumstances, we should do something about it. Whining never gets anyone anywhere. 

If we make the effort, we can always find something to cheer us up, something that we can be grateful for. Look at it this way. Isn't it a great feeling to be able to wake up in the morning? Shouldn't we be thankful that we can breathe on our own? Aren't we glad we have a roof over our head? And best of all, isn't it wonderful to know that we are not alone, that we have family and friends who love us?

Maybe some of us are single, divorced or widowed, and live alone. Go out and start making friends. Join a club, volunteer for a good cause. The world does not revolve around us, or owe us a living. We have to make the first move, take the first step. If we want to change our life, we have to start from within - change our mindset, our attitude. Become a new ME, a new YOU.

Know why young people view older folks as grouchy, long-winded, and cranky? Because most of us are exactly that. It's time for an image makeover, and it begins with us wanting to make that change, and then doing whatever it takes to set the wheels of change in motion.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I had lunch yesterday at a cozy, homely cafe tucked away in an obscure corner of the garden outside Parkview Square in North Bridge Road, Singapore.

What makes Chatters special is that it is run by staff all aged 50 and above with the exception of barista Kenster Yu, 31. "They need me to move heavy things around," he explains with a smile.

Chatters is managed by Silver Springs, a social enterprise founded by Helen Lim, 65, and her partner, Rowena Chin, 68. It opened its doors to the first customers in December 2009. Today, there are three Chatters outlets, including Chatters@Silver Circle that serves healthy food to the elderly at the Fenshan and Dakota Eldercare Centres and the latest Chatters@Ren Ci near Novena MRT.

Says Helen, a former human resource director and now a personal coach on encore careers, "We want Chatters to be a hub for seniors, a place where they can gather to network with other like-minded seniors. Silver Spring acts as a springboard for ideas that will bring meaning and fulfillment to seniors in their golden years."

Members of Silver Horizon were having a meeting when I dropped by yesterday.

Already one such idea has sprung into fruition. The newly registered Silver Horizon is the result of brainstorming sessions at Chatters. It is a cooperative founded by 19 seniors that seeks to promote active living and learning through customized travel programs for seniors. Membership is open to all Singaporeans and PR aged 40 and above. For more information, please email

From left: Charles, 62, Margarita, 64, Juanita 55, and Kenster, 31. Service with a smile, and a chat.

The next time you are in Singapore and looking for a place to eat, think of Chatters. You can be assured of good food, and friendly staff like Juanita and Margarita. It is obvious they enjoy working at Chatters. They find their days fulfilling and it makes them feel great to be productive at their age. "It's teamwork in action," says Juanita, "and PMA too - positive mental attitude", adds Margarita.

The outdoor garden. The staff may be seniors, but the customers come from all age groups.
The exterior of Chatters. The menu for the day is displayed on the board.

Seniors supporting seniors - if this theme resonates with you, do drop by for a meal at Chatters cafe.

  • Chatters@Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road (opp Bugis MRT). Tel: 6297 5703
  • Chatters@Ren Ci, 71, Irrawaddy Road, (near Novena MRT). Tel: 6254 9838
  • Chatters@Silver Circle, Fengshan and Dakota NTUC Eldercare Centers

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Ron Akana is 83, and still going strong as a flight attendant with United Airlines.
(Photo: New York Times)

At an age when he should be enjoying his retirement, Ron Akana, 83, still derives joy from his work as flight attendant with United Airlines. He is silver-haired, wears bifocals and has been with the airline since 1949.

This hasn't always been the case. Back in the 1960s, air stewardesses had to retire when they reached the age of 32 or when they married or became pregnant. They were discriminated against not only for their age but also their gender. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 changed all that.

Today, more than 40% of the roughly 110,000 flight attendants in the United States are 50 or older. Less than 18 percent are 34 or younger. (The New York Times 17 March)

In Asia, most major airlines have done away with the upper age limit requirement. However, there are still a couple that continue to impose age restrictions on hiring flight attendants. The following information is taken from AirAsia website for flight attendant applications (highlight added). Note the emphasis on youthful good looks.

Absolute Essentials

Male/Female (Malaysian)
Age: between 20 and 35 years old

Gentlemen- Office wear, be smart and stylish
Ladies - Office wear, strictly skirt knee length only full make-up, look stunning

Malaysia Airlines:


• Malaysian citizen aged between 18 to 30 years as of interview date.

Straits Times Feb 25

Whether we like it or not, and regardless of mandatory rules, ultimately, the hiring company has the perogative to reject older job applicants. Older adults are still at the mercy of employers when it comes to re-employment.

The exceptions are those who have skills, knowledge or experience that are highly sought after. Take Hassan Marican, 60, for example. He was featured in the previous blog post. He has been getting offers from blue chip Singapore companies. And there is Bobby Ng, 64, watch specialist who was offered a two-year re-employment contract by The Hour Glass when he turned 62 two years ago. He has worked on the creations of over 50 luxury brands of watches during his 15 years with the company.

From Straits Times April 10; Newsletter Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM)

Point to be taken: Develop a passion for what you do that can be translated into valuable skills and expertise that companies are willing to pay top dollar for. They won't care if you are 70 or 80. Just make sure you are still fit and in good health. When you have reached that level, you can practically name your price.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


From the Straits Times April 8

It has been almost two years now since Hassan Marican, 60, left Petronas. His career with the country's oil giant spanned 21 years, including 15 years as its President and CEO.

His exit from Petronas Malaysia to the boards of Sembcorp Industries and Sembcorp Marine and Singapore Power is a painful reminder that the brain drain from Malaysia shows no signs of abating.

Losing someone of Hassan Marican's stature is a double blow to our country. Petronas is our best corporate success story, and with Marican at the helm, Petronas can only continue expanding and contributing to our economy.

Hassan Marican was well-known for his frugality and he applied this trait to his management of Petronas. He did not suffer government interference, especially from the PMs. The friction between PM Najib and Hassan was an open secret. It probably explained why there were no serious efforts made on the part of the government to extend Hassan's contract.

The air-conditioned KLCC-Pavilion pedestrian walkway, financed by Petronas under its CSR programme. However, the walkway caters mainly to tourists.

If Hassan were still with Petronas, one wonders whether he would have agreed to Petronas funding the air-conditioned KLCC to Pavilion walkway. It cost Petronas a cool RM100 million to finance the 562-metre long and 5-metre pedestrian walkway. That works out to RM3,307 per square foot! Think of the number of houses or schools this RM100m could have been used to build.

But I digress.

In the Straits Times article, Hassan comes across as a workaholic who has a reputation as a 'penny-pinching' chief. He is quoted as saying, "Whether it involves RM1 or RM10 or RM1 million is not relevant. The expenditure must be justifiable, relevant and beneficial.

Where would you find a corporate captain like Hassan? He belongs to a dying breed. That's why his departure from our shores to Singapore is a huge loss. This June he will have another feather to add to his star-studded resume with his appointment as Chairman of Singapore Power.

During his 15 years tenure as President and CEO, Petronas grew into a top Fortune 500 firm with assets worth more than RM400 billion.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


The early 1960s were my coming of age years. I learned to dance and went on my first date. My grades at school took a dip when I discovered Billboard Top Hits and our own Top 10. The music came from the local radio stations, of course, and from my collection of LPs and EPs, those black vinyl records that I would play over and over again on the turn-table. We had no TV or CD players then.

If I had some money saved, I would buy Tigerbeat. It was the #1 teen magazine then. I would cut out pictures of my favourite teen idols like Ricky Nelson and Cliff Richard, and paste them into my voluminous song-book containing hundreds of lyrics all hand-written. We had no computers then.

Just the other day I was browsing Youtube when I came across these vintage songs from the 1960s. In those days, songs were sung with emotion and lyrics held meaning. A far cry from the majority of today's top hits. Here's a selection for your listening pleasure as you reminisce on the good old days when the world was our oyster and life was ours to explore.



Then Woodstock happened in 1969. My taste in music changed, but that's another story for another day...

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Today, 7 April, is World Health Day. The theme for this year 2012 is "Healthy Ageing" and the slogan is "Good health adds life to years".

Over the past century life expectancy has increased dramatically and the world will soon have more older people than children. Older men and women can lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities.

"For the first time in human history, the world will soon have more older people than children. The human race is ageing and we are unprepared. Unless we change the way we think and act about ageing, we will miss the opportunity to age in good health and to build a society where older people are respected and valued members of society. That is why this year the World Health Organization is dedicating it's birthday - on 7 April - World Health Day - to healthy ageing."
~ United Nations ~

(Photo: Helmut Wirz, retired pharmacist)
Jumping head first from high altitudes is 87-year old Helmut Wirz's passion. The former pharmacist discovered bungee-jumping at the age of 75. "When I’m standing up there, I feel completely calm“, he says, despite the fact that he is only secured by a rubber - band fixed to his legs. Helmut held the record as the oldest bungee jumper in the world for many years and is not planning to switch to playing chess or bowling any time soon.

(All excerpts from World Health Organization)

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Last week I attended the roundtable discussion on "Public Transportation: Issues and Solutions" organized by the Environment Bureau of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM). The event was well attended with representatives from OKU groups, NGOs, FORMCA, ALIRAN and TRANSIT. Well-known environmentalist Gurmit Singh was also there to present his views.

Most of the concerns were about big issues like land acquisition for the MRT project, need for better infra-structure, disabled-friendly facilities, improved inter-connectivity and environmental protection. There was also a call for better transport services in the rural areas.

As I take the bus almost on a daily basis, my grouses were mainly with the public bus system. After the meeting I decided to take some pictures around the city to lend credence to my complaints. Unless you are a frequent bus commuter, you probably have no idea what bus commuters go through on a daily basis.

Allow me to give you an idea of what a bus commuter faces every day.
As the bus moves off, you are bathed in exhaust smoke before you can even cross the road. 
Old buses like this one pollute the environment, break down frequently and are a hazard on the road.

The high step makes it a struggle for the elderly to get up the bus. And there are no bars to hold onto to lift yourself up.

Broken seats are a common sight due to heavy usage, pun intended. Seats should be of sturdier material.

Passengers often have to sit and wait in the bus for as much as 15 minutes sometimes till more people board before it moves off, never mind if it is obstructing traffic. Love the slogan on the bus.

 Another reason why bus schedules are a joke. Look closely and you will see the driver enjoying a snooze while the passengers are waiting in the bus. This makeshift dump is supposed to be the bus terminal in the up-market neighbourhood of Sri Hartamas!

Clueless at the bus stop. Nothing to inform people about bus routes and schedules.
This bus stop at MidValley, a popular mall, is so poorly designed with translucent glass for roof and seats facing away from approaching buses. As you wait there, you suffer from sun stroke and sore necks, not to mention being soaked when it rains!

KLCC bus stop - these bars are for leaning against. Try sitting and you will slip and slide to the ground!
My outing ended at night where I had to sit on the pavement to wait for my bus home. Either that or stand indefinitely till the bus finally comes. This is the bus 'terminal' for all Rapid KL buses plying the KLCC route. Unbelievable!

Queuing up to get their warga emas discount card that offers 50% off for travel on Rapid KL buses, monorail and the LRT.

So there we have it, folks, what we bus commuters go through each day, no thanks to the city planners, all of whom probably do not have to rely on public transport to get from A to B. So naturally they have no clue about the needs of the ordinary people.

About the only good thing to credit the government for is the introduction of half fares for all senior citizens aged 60 and above. This card is available only at the Pasar Seni LRT station. Bring along your identity card for verification. There's a camera there to take an instant photo for the card. You pay RM5 which will be credited to your card for your fares. You can top up the amount at any LRT station.

If we don't speak up for our rights as senior citizens now, one day when we can no longer drive, we may have to rely on public transport to get around. Why wait till then to make our grievances known?