Friday, January 31, 2014


Backdrop image of the prancing horse and the giant scroll of a Chinese landscape painting was taken at the concourse of Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR to all seniors celebrating the festival, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS to everyone following our SeniorsAloud blog and Facebook page. May the Year of the Horse bring you good health, good fortune and good relationships. May our golden years continue to sparkle with rich blessings.

Below: drum performance at KLCC to usher in the Year of the Horse. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


With the rising cost of living, and more price hikes expected after the Chinese New Year (CNY), many Chinese families have already begun tightening their belts a notch or two. From mandarin oranges to preserved waxed duck and sunflower seeds, practically every CNY food item has gone up in price. For example, pineapple tarts which are a CNY staple, are selling for RM27 a small container. There are definitely smaller crowds shopping for Chinese New Year goodies.

The malls may be packed, but I suspect many families are there either to window-shop or soak in the festive ambience. The bright red and gold decorations, the loud CNY songs celebrating the arrival of a new year, the pulsating beat of the drums for the lion dances and the acrobatic performances - all these can be enjoyed without paying a cent. But when it comes to shopping for the Chinese New Year, it is evident that most people are purchasing only the essentials, or going for cheaper alternatives. Luxury items and expensive decorations for the  house are out.

This photo was taken on 27 January - four days before the Chinese New Year, at the concourse of one of the city's premier up-market malls. Not a single shopper in sight. That little girl on the left is actually a mannequin.

I wouldn't be surprised if more families are opting to usher in the Year of the Horse with the traditional reunion dinner at home rather than at a pricey restaurant, and relegating shopping for new clothes to a lower spot on their To-Do priority list.

The queues at the banks for new currency notes are noticeably shorter too, from what I have observed. Married couples and the elderly will probably be withdrawing fewer big notes this year for ang-pows (red money packets) for the children. Some folks are planning to give their unmarried adult children and relatives lottery tickets in lieu of currency notes for their ang pows. Not a bad idea. A RM3 lottery ticket might win them anything from RM50 to the jackpot prize of RM22,500,000!

Prices for Chinese New Year dinners can range from RM518++ to RM2188++.  The number '8' is an auspicious number.
What you pay for yee sang (raw fish salad) this year. I wonder what next year's prices will be, with the introduction of the GST (Goods and Services Tax)
A CNY hamper can easily set you back several hundred ringgit, unless you want to be a cheapskate and get one stuffed with generic brands of biscuits and non-alcoholic wine.

If you want to know what the Year of the Horse has in store for you, read Joey Yap's horoscope predictions for 2014. This might just be your lucky year!

Sunday, January 26, 2014


The countdown to the Lunar New Year has begun. This year there are so many excellent videos to watch to get you in the mood for the festivities. Pity that most of the better ones are actually commercials. So to share them is to help promote their brand. You can view some of them on Seniorsaloud Facebook page.

Here's one short 15 minute video clip written and directed by Anthony Chen, who recently won the Golden Horse Best New Director award for his debut full-length feature movie 'Ilo Ilo'. That's Taiwan's equivalent of the Oscars.


For readers unfamiliar with the reunion dinner, it is a tradition for families celebrating the Lunar New Year to gather for this dinner on the eve of the first day of the new year. Adult children will return to the ancestral home to partake of the feast laid out on the dining table. Each dish is selected for the auspicious name that signifies prosperity, good health or longevity.

Yee sang or raw fish (usually salmon slices) salad is a must. Everyone gets to mix and toss the ingredients while saying aloud auspicious wishes for the new year. The higher you toss, the higher your chances of having your wishes come true, never mind the mess that's left on the table!

Family photos of children in their Chinese New Year finery are a good reminder of how fast the years have gone by. Here are a couple from my family album.

Reiya and Max with their mom, Chinese New Year 2009
The four cousins, Reiya and Max with Hana and Allie and their grandma, CNY 2013. How fast the children have grown!
From the family album 2010: my mom and all her red CNY must-haves

More family photos to come as we celebrate Chinese New Year 2014, the Year of the Horse, on 31 January.

Here's a video of how one Chinese Malaysian family celebrates Chinese New Year, with the matriarch of the family, Gina Liu, sharing her recipe for Nyonya curry chicken, a traditional dish for her family's reunion dinner.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


It was my uncle's idea to begin with. To take his eldest sister (that's my mom) to see the Christmas decorations in the city. I thought it was an excellent idea. He would provide the wheels (I gave up driving in 1998), and I would provide the care. We could invite his other sister (that's my aunt), and make it a siblings outing.

So there we were, early in the morning on the second day of the new year - my uncle, 80, my aunt, 83, and my mother, 87 - all octogenarians in varying degrees of health and mobility. My uncle has had a bypass, my recently widowed aunt has difficulty walking, and my mom has dementia.

My mom - getting a trim before stepping out
My uncle's pick of the malls was Pavilion. It has the best Christmas decorations, he said. A Google search and some phone calls later confirmed that all the premier malls had their festive decorations taken down just the day before. It was a huge disappointment for my uncle, and more so for the sisters. They had been so looking forward to the outing.

We decided to go ahead anyway. We drove to MidValley Mall as it was the nearest and most convenient. This was what greeted us - a bare concourse. The Christmas decorations had just been taken down, and the Chinese New Year ones were yet to be put up. What a disappointment!

Since it was still too early for all the retail outlets to open, it was down memory lane with the photos that my uncle had the foresight to bring along. It was heartwarming to see the siblings poring over the black and white photos from an era long passed, and laughing at the memories each photo stirred up. Vintage photos preserve so much better than the colour ones.

From left: my mom, my uncle and my aunt, reminiscing over photos of the good old days

Next stop was the bowling alley, followed by the video arcade and the cineplexes all on the top floor. My uncle probably thought his sisters would enjoy a peek into the world of Gen Y and Z. The only stop that really interested them was The World of Feng Shui. Not surprising considering the older generation's penchant for anything even remotely related to auspicious signs and talismans of prosperity, good health and longevity.

Welcoming the Year of the Horse with a photo next to the Gods of Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity.

We made several stops to allow my aunt to rest, and my mom to pop into the rest rooms. MidValley is one of the few malls that have elderly-friendly facilities like benches to sit on and rest tired feet, and special toilets and ramps for the wheelchair bound.

I have only two complaints. As the lifts were located at the far ends of each floor, it was quite a distance for my uncle to push my mom's wheelchair and also for my aunt to walk even with me helping her. Another problem was the lack of space inside the shops for easy wheelchair manoeuvrability. How do shoplot operators expect customers in wheelchairs to check out the merchandise on sale, or even to try on some clothes in the narrow fitting-rooms?

Enjoying a sit-down meal of chicken rice, steamed chicken, barbecue pork and bean sprouts

Our last stop was at the Chicken Rice Shop where we had lunch. When it comes to choosing food for the elderly, it is best to stick with dishes they are accustomed to, and that is easily digestible. Order anything spicy, chewy or exotic, you might find the food untouched. The same applies for drinks. It's either warm water or hot Chinese tea.

The last time I took my mom out to a mall with my uncle was to KLCC. The wheelchair lift from the basement to the lower ground floor was under repair. The last I checked, which was just last week, it was still under repair. First World infrastructure at the city's premier mall, but Third World maintenance. 

Some advice for anyone planning to take the elderly for an outing in the city:

  • pack a small bag containing a tumbler of drinking water, some snacks, an adult diaper, some wet wipes to clean sticky fingers and mouth after a meal, and a foldable walking aid cum seat. Not all malls provide wheelchairs or have sufficient rest benches.
  • vehicle transport must be elderly-friendly. Old people have difficulty getting into and out of a car with seats that are too high or too low. SUVs are out, so are 2-door sedans.
  • check whether the places you want to visit provide elderly-friendly facilities e.g. wheelchair parking, ramps, toilets and rest-rooms for the disabled.
  • make a mental note of where the rest rooms are. Incontinence is common among the elderly. 
  • look out for signs of tiredness. Old people are known for being stoic and also stubborn. They may not want to admit they are tired even when you see them slowing down or nodding off.
  • where possible, have one able person or caregiver to take care of one elderly person 1:1. In our case, it was one baby boomer (that's me) to three octogenarians. Not a recommended ratio.
  • check if they have taken their medication, or need to bring it along.

One thing is for sure, there will be another outing soon for my aunt and mom, if my uncle is up to it. This time we will make sure there are plenty of festive decorations to awe and dazzle the elderly members of my family.


I dropped by at KLCC yesterday (21 Jan), and was impressed by the CNY decorations at the concourse.

There's a giant scroll featuring a beautiful Chinese landscape painting on the other side of the golden horse.
Ushering in the Year of the Horse

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


The Chinese character is made up of the
characters for 'old' and 'children'.
After writing about amazing super seniors in the previous blog post, it is depressing to have to highlight the plight of seniors who are frail and decrepit, and left to live in squalor and neglect.

This picture (see below) on the front page of yesterday's The Star paper is a strong reminder of our filial responsibility. Fortunately, the sad story ended on a happy note when the five abandoned senior citizens were taken to the hospital and given food, medical treatment and counselling. An old folks home has offered to take them in.

This is not an isolated case. I have visited old folks home where many of the residents have been left there to await their final days. One such home is the Tong Sim Old Folks Home in Old Airport Road. It is a pathetic scene that greets visitors. The more able seniors care for those less able as there is no paid staff to look after them, only volunteers.

Front page of The Star, 13 Jan 2013. Click here to read the article.
A day later - good news for the abandoned senior citizens. Click here to read more.

The 2010 population census shows that Malaysia has 2.3 million senior citizens aged 60 and above. Of this number, about 675,000 or nearly 30% have been abandoned by their children and are now living in welfare homes or left in hospitals. With this demographics (those aged 60 and above) projected to reach 4.9 million or 15% of the population in 2030, we certainly won't be hearing the last of such tragic stories.

From The Star, 14 Jan 2014. Click here to read the original article.

For several years now, there has been debate over whether to introduce a Maintenance of Parents Act similar to the Act that has already been enforced with some success in several countries including Singapore. Each time the proposal comes up, it is shot down by advocacy groups as 'not the way forward'.

What is the way forward then? As it is, it is shameful for adult children to have to be reminded of their filial duty. Their parents looked after them when they were children, now it is their turn to look after their parents. That is the circle of life, and has always been since time immemorial.

Abandoning parents in their old age because they have not been 'good' parents sounds like a vengeful tit-for-tat, and speaks volumes about the kind of individuals these adult children are. If they cannot forgive their parents for whatever wrongdoings their parents may have committed, they will ultimately be consumed by this bitterness that will fester in them like a cancer.

Capital fm 88.9's Joanna Kam interviews Lily Fu of Seniorsaloud and Chai Sen Tyng of the Institute of Gerontology, UPM for their views on the Maintenance of Parents Act. (July 2013). Click here for what Lily shared. 

With the number of abandoned parents continuing to rise, it is clear that we urgently need a Maintenance of Parents Act to protect those who are left alone to fend for themselves in their old age.
At the same time, young parents can learn from these sad cases the importance of bonding with their children, and inculcating in them the right values. They themselves should also set the right example for their children to emulate. Otherwise, they might just end up being abandoned by their children one fine day.

On a personal note, my 87-year old mother is in a special home for the elderly who have dementia. You can read more about the home here. When I first registered her, I had to sign a contract. One of the many clauses was the pledge to visit her regularly. I was also required to provide the contact details of another family member. I am not sure if this is standard procedure and implemented in all homes for the elderly. If it is not, then it should be to safe-guard parents against neglect or abandonment by their children.

Something for us to act on and share in these images below.

An edited copy of this blog article was published in The Star on 16 January, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014


It started with my daughter posting a video of Annette Larkins, on my Facebook timeline. The Daily Mail calls her the 'Ageless Woman'. I couldn't believe this woman with the flawless unlined skin and firm body is 71 years old. There's not a stitch on her face or body to suggest she's had plastic surgery. That's what she claims too.

Her secret? A vegan diet. She eats raw food and grows her own vegetables and herbs. Check out the video for more of her tips on healthy eating and living.

Fit, healthy and youthful seniors were a rarity not too long ago. These days they seem to be everywhere - in the newspapers, magazines and on Youtube. They are among our friends too. It's getting increasingly difficult to guess someone's age just by their physical appearance alone.

I met these youthful looking seniors at a wedding reception in New Delhi in Dec 2011. The ladies were the epitome of grace and elegance, and the men carried themselves really well.

The message these super seniors seem to be sending out is that if we lead an active lifestyle, eat right, exercise and adopt a positive attitude, the golden years can truly be the best years of our lives.

Drum roll, please, for these remarkable seniors who are re-defining the meaning of 'old', and changing public perception of the 'elderly'.

Dr Charles Eugster, 93, is a retired dentist. He is now better known as the world's fittest pensioner. He took up weight-lifting to build muscles. Check out his tips for a healthy body and a healthy mind in the video below.
Tao Porchon-Lynch attributes her good health to yoga and meditation which she has been practicing all her life. She enjoys ballroom dancing as well..
The 'Turbaned Tornado' picked up running in his 80s. He was an Olympic torchbearer at the Athens Games in 2004 and the London Games in 2012. He was in Malaysia in Dec 2012 for the Sikh community's fun run.
Ernestine Shepherd is listed in the Guinness World Records as the oldest female bodybuilder. 
The evergreen Tony Bennett is still doing concerts. He performed in Kuala Lumpur in Sept 2013.
Daphne Selfe is still in demand for modelling jobs. She was discovered by the world of high fashion when she was 70. 
Dementia is not an inevitable part of growing old. Dr Manmohan SinghIndia's PM since 2004, is renowned for his economic reforms. He had a successful bypass in Jan 2009, and went on to serve another term of office.

Yup, thumbs up for all these super seniors.

There was a time when people used to dread growing old. It meant being frail and senile, wrinkled all over and fully dependent on others to assist with daily living.

No more. Today we can enjoy quality of life at 80, 90 even 100. Who wouldn't want that? Best of all, we can be around to see our grandchildren grow up. Now that is something I am definitely looking forward to.

It's never too late to start on a regime of regular exercise and a healthy diet, preferably vegetarian. That's sound advice for those of us aspiring to live a long and happy life.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Any 31-year-old who makes millions, has the titles 'Dato Seri' and 'Dr' precede his name arouses more than my admiration. It stirs my curiosity big time.

I have worked hard my whole life, lived frugally and now at the ripe old age of 65 have accumulated savings sufficient only to continue living frugally for the rest of my retirement years. After a lifetime of sweat and toil, and years doing community service, I still don't have a title to my name or millions in my bank account.

So, of course, I want to know how this Dato Seri Dr Peter Ong Kean Suan did it. How did he amass so much financial wealth at so young an age that he can play philanthropist to the hilt and not feel the pinch? I am talking about donations amounting to RM690,000. Certainly not an amount to scoff at.

This advertorial in The Star, 19 Nov 2013, got me asking 'Who is this Peter Ong Kean Swan?'  According to the advertorial, he arrived in style at his 31st birthday celebration - in the 'surewin4u self-purchased private helicopter...escorted by police cars and 40 bodyguards'. Wow! But why the need for that many bodyguards? Is he afraid for his life? Why?

Don't you want to learn his secret of generating wealth? Well, I certainly do. I want to learn from this making-money sifu.

Thus began my Google search to find out more about this bigger than life young man who is CEO of Surewin4u. With such a name for a company, how can anyone who invest in it not win? That's probably how this Dato gets folks to place their trust and confidence in him - by convincing them they will make many times more the amount they have invested in Surewin4u.

From Surewin4u website. Impressive enough to win over some folks eager to make money.

Basically, this is how the system works. The company uses the money you have invested (entry point fixed at RM25,000) to gamble on your behalf at the casino. They claim to have devised a system that is guaranteed to beat the odds at the gambling table 100% of the time, and you get a monthly dividend of 8%. They are so confident about their system they even have a refund policy to assure investors they have nothing to lose. This is the carrot that they dangle before potential investors. Those who can see only dollar signs in the carrot and not the beta carotene in it will want to go for it. There's nothing to lose with the guaranteed refund, right?

Intrigued by this 'sure-win-for-you' system, I decided to investigate further. Guess what turned up? This picture below taken from Astro Awani allegedly shows a man who resembles Ong Kean Suan (sans titles) in handcuffs being escorted by the police to the magistrate's court on a charge of impersonating royalty to get room discount at a hotel! The picture is dated 20 March 2013. As far as I know, the company is still operating and still attracting investors, so it could mean the charge has been dropped, or the man has been acquitted.

This looks like a direct translation from Malay in the original post dated 20 March, 2013. Eight months later, this photo below taken from The Star shows Ong celebrating his birthday in grand style. Is this the same Ong Kean Suan of Surewin4u? 
(Photo: The Star, 13 Nov 2013)
So the question you may want to ask me - why am I so interested in this Peter Ong and his mission to help make millionaires out of us ordinary folks? Well, I have good friends who have invested their retirement savings and had their fingers burnt investing in various get-rich schemes. That's why. It pays to be extra careful when parting with your money. A young man can still get a job and work hard to rebuild his lost fortunes. But not for a retiree. He sees his dream of retiring to a comfortable life going up in smoke.

Retirees are a favorite target of agents dealing in pyramid or multilevel get-rich schemes. They have a tidy sum in their retirement funds, and many are looking at ways to make that sum grow.

We have all read about people who have lost their life savings in their desire to make money quickly and easily. Yet they don't seem to have learned their lessons. As is often the case, greed or desperation makes good people throw caution to the wind, and they end up with nothing to show for all the years of hard work and saving. The worst off are those who find themselves in debt because they borrowed money to invest in these schemes. Now life is hell for them as they are hounded daily by Ah Longs or loan sharks.

If you don't have excess money to play around with, if you know next to nothing about investing, if you have no clue how the stock market works, the safest thing to do is to do nothing, and let your money earn interest in the bank or EPF. You won't get much, but your exposure to risks is low. Alternatively, find a financial consultant you can trust and who truly has your interest at heart to manage your money. He must have an excellent track record of good returns on investments.

So, is this one a scam or a legitimate money-making venture? It would interesting to find out from folks who have invested in the company and have reaped profits. Success stories are always inspiring.

It is easy to tell whether a scheme is a scam or not. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially if it promises easy money and quick returns. So if your nose tells you there is something fishy about any invitation to make quick easy money, stay away from it. Your retirement savings is meant to see you through your golden years. Make sure you protect it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


What better way to kick-start the new year than by sharing this inspiring story of a young Malaysian who followed his dream against all odds. Today he is an internationally acclaimed celebrity photographer.

If the name Zung does not ring a bell, that's only because photography may not be among your interests. But amateur and professional shutterbugs alike hold his name in high respect and awe.

And what better testimonial than to have Donald Trump refer to him as 'the best photographer in the world'. Zung is also Tony Robbins' personal photographer and has been so since 2009, thanks to a helping hand from my daughter. But that's another story for another day.

Zung's journey from a virtual unknown to a high-flying much sought after lensman of worldwide acclaim needs to be told and shared. It is a story that will inspire our young people, our children and grandchildren, one that is made all the more poignant because he is one of us, born and bred here in Malaysia, a true son of the land.

Zung's story is one that will resonate with many of our youths, because he hails from a background that they are familiar with. The only difference perhaps is that while most youths facing the same circumstances would have given up, Zung never called it quits. He soldiered on till he achieved the recognition he was looking for.

Consider the challenges he faced:
  • he was born in a rural area, in the small fishing village of Sekinchan
  • his father was a fisherman, and his mother a housewife
  • he was Chinese-educated, and struggled with English, even to this day
  • he dropped out of college due to financial difficulties
  • he was a slow learner
  • he could not afford professional training
  • he was only 18 when he experienced grief from the loss of his elder sister
  • he struggled to earn a living in the early years
  • he lacked the right connections 
That he has succeeded despite all these obstacles speaks volumes of the kind of person he is - focused, passionate, determined, resilient and tough. 

Today Zung travels the world on assignment. He has photographed some of the world's most famous people, among them the Dalai Lama, Richard Branson and Andrea Bocelli. On the local front, he has taken portraits of royalty and of former prime ministers. One of his photos has even graced the cover of TIME magazine.

Despite his numerous accolades, Zung has remained humble and modest. He is driven not by the money he can make, but by a genuine love for his craft, and for the satisfaction that he gives his clients. His extensive portfolio covers a wide range of subjects, but his favourite remains weddings. That was how he started in the business - as a wedding photographer.

If Zung can do it, so can our young people - our children and grandchildren. Do share the story with them. They will be inspired and motivated never to give up on their dreams.

Here are some copies of photos from our family album taken by Zung. As you can see, he has captured the essence of the moment in these portraits.

My grandchildren Reiya and Max, photo taken at home in 2009
My daughter Belle, photo taken at the Datai, 2007
Me and Reiya in Langkawi, 2007

Zung has some advice for all of us:

Screen-grab from YouTube. (Text added)