Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Source: Straits Times
Feeling lonely? Look up your friends. Or get them to come over for a beer or mahjong. Don't fancy being at home? Take the car for a spin. Catch a movie. Have a meet-up over lunch. Join a club. The options are endless...if you are young, active and mobile.

But when you are in your 70s or 80s, and living alone either by choice or circumstance, social isolation and loneliness becomes a very real and serious issue. You realize many of your friends are no longer around. They have moved away or have passed on. Those that remain may be house-bound due to failing health, or have given up driving and can no longer drop by for a visit. Even your best buddy has become a social recluse. Soon you will be one too.

This is happening not just in Bangladesh, but in every country. Click here to read the full article.

Many from the older generation enter their twilight years lonely and alone. Where are their adult children? They have flown the nest and set up home elsewhere. If they are still living in the country, they may visit regularly. But if they have settled overseas, their parents will be lucky to get annual visits from them.

If you (or your elderly parents) are experiencing social isolation and loneliness, here are some suggestions:

  1. Get familiar with the public transport system. Learn how to use apps to book a cab. Or arrange for someone to provide transport for you.
  2. Adopt a pet or take up gardening. Looking after a dog or a plant helps to reduce the sense of loneliness.
  3. Join social or religious groups that organize regular activities to promote fellowship among the members.
  4. Learn to use the internet for social networking and staying in touch with family and friends.
  5. Above all, have a sense of purpose. It could be learning something new, volunteering for community service, or embarking on a project. 

Oftentimes older people decline invitations to go out, not because they prefer to remain alone at home, but more so because they may have a health problem that makes it inconvenient for them to go out. For example, they may suffer from incontinence, failing memory or poor hearing, all of which can cause some awkwardness in a social setting. Soon they develop a reluctance to go out and socialize.

Prolonged loneliness can result in depression, declining health, or worse, suicidal tendencies. If the signs are there, seek counselling. Help is always at hand  if we take the initiative to ask for it.

Blessed are couples that have each other in their old age. But there will come a time when one will go first before the other. When that day comes, loneliness will set in. Their children should be alert to this. They should ensure their surviving parent gets extra care and attention to prevent the onset of loneliness and social isolation.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


In my previous post, I wrote about age discrimination in the job market. Reality bites you hard when employers pass you over for someone younger and cheaper. But having said that, a day will come when employers will have no alternative but to hire older workers due to demographic changes. The young labor force will continue to shrink while the number of older workers will see a surge as life expectancy increases, and birth rate declines.

That scenario is not too far off. In the meantime, age discrimination remains an issue for those aged 50 and above seeking re-employment.

Source: New York Times, Feb 7, 2014

If no employer wants to hire you, hire yourself. Be your own boss. Start a small business with your retirement savings. Be an entrepreneur. This is your chance to realize your dream, to pursue what you enjoy doing as a hobby. Start with your passion, your skills, your wealth of experience. What drives you? What are you good at? That should give you an idea of what business or enterprise you want to get into.

Money should not be the sole driving force. Equally if not more important is the service or product you provide. You can't go wrong if you offer quality and customer care. Differentiate your business from your competitors so that your brand, your company is the preferred choice. Always think of how you can bring value to your customers for the money they pay you. That should be your business philosophy.

Home-based businesses are hugely popular with retirees. I know of lady friends who turn their love of baking into a profitable business. They operate from their kitchen, and promote their cakes and cookies through social media. During festive seasons, they can barely cope with the deluge of orders.

Source: Older Entrepreneurs Are Better Than Younger Ones in Forbes.

Some of my retired men friends put their years of work experience to good use by starting a consultancy. Many are financial or IT consultants. I daresay this is the most popular of all business ventures for retirees - setting up your own consultancy or online business. Capital outlay is small, and overheads are minimal if it is just you and one staff in the office, which could also be your home.

Find a niche market. If you love teaching, offer computer classes for seniors. Teach them to use social media for social networking and for promoting their businesses. Seniors learn at a slower pace, and will welcome classes on any subject that cater specially to them.

More and more people are starting a business later in life. Source: The Guardian

You could also brand yourself as a professional speaker in your area of expertise. Or a trainer. Conducting workshops can be a viable business. One word of caution. Do not put your money into a business you know next to nothing about just because you have attended a seminar, for example, on "How to reap $million in forex trading".

The more ambitious among my friends have bought land with their retirement savings and started home-stays in the countryside. Those with more funds (and energy) to invest have taken up organic farming.

HS Wong (centre) started DQ Farm in 1991. Today his farm supplies organic vegetables, fruits and chicken to health foods outlets in the Klang Valley. Photo: visitors enjoying organic fruits grown on DQ farm. Click here for more images.

Avoid going into any venture that is capital or labour intensive, unless you have an appetite for risk-taking. Restaurants are a good example. If people like your food, you will have long queues outside your restaurant. Your cash registers will go ka-ching all day long. If your food sucks, even flies see no reason to patronize your restaurant. And your business (or lack of) will bleed you dry.

If start-up funds is not an issue, and you love a challenge, you might want to go where few dare to venture. I am referring to businesses that target older adults as their market. What do we need that we can't find easily? Satisfy that demand, and you stand to profit from it.

Good friends who have created a niche in the retail
business of fashion and food. Click here to read more.
Retail businesses are another example. Older adults have a hard time shopping for clothes. Most fashion retailers cater mainly to the younger age groups. Other examples - we love to travel, and it is only in the last decade that travel agencies have started special tour packages for seniors.

In the fitness industry, gyms that offer work-out sessions for seniors will likely see their membership numbers going up. What about cafes with book clubs? Seniors love reading, but there are few such cafes where they can meet and discuss books they have read.

Retirement resorts and retirement homes are lucrative businesses if managed well. The market for such residences is expanding rapidly. Setting up a retirement home is not that difficult. Already many retirees have jumped on the bandwagon and converted old bungalows into retirement homes for active and independent retirees who do not want to live alone.

A bungalow converted into a cozy retirement home.

So if you can't find a decent job because you are considered too old to be employed, it is not the end of the world. You can always BE YOUR OWN BOSS. Where there is a will to be successful, there will always be a way. You just have to find it.

For tips on deciding which business is right for you, and to read some success stories, click on the links below:

Deciding on a Business

Rise of the grey entrepreneur: meet the over-50s starting their own businesses 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


In an earlier post (To work or not to work after 65? Do we really have a choice?), we looked at some of the reasons why older workers would want to continue working after reaching retirement age.

Unfortunately, once we reach 50, the chances of getting a decent job are slim. Whether we want to admit it or not, age discrimination does exist in the work-place. Employers will give 101 reasons why they can't or won't hire you if you are on the wrong side of 50. They say older workers are too expensive, older workers take too many days off on medical leave, older workers are not as productive as younger ones. etc. Often these are mere excuses for what ageism in the job market.

Discrimination against older workers exists not only in the US, but also in Asia. Unless the government steps in with legislation making it mandatory to offer re-employment to retired workers, it is a challenge for older adults to find work in a competitive job market.

Singapore came up with the Tripartite Alliance in 2006, with guidelines for  employers, employees and the general public. Hopefully more countries will adopt a similar approach to help older folks seeking employment to support themselves and their family.

Here's an excerpt from the background to the Tripartite Guidelines to the re-employment of older employees. To read more, click here.

"An ageing population is not only a challenge, it also presents an opportunity. Age need not be a barrier to employment. Equipped with the right skills and expertise, older workers are a valuable source of manpower. Employers can benefit from having an age-diverse workforce, where mature workers with the requisite experience and skills are able to contribute productively in their jobs. At the same time, in view of rising life expectancy, workers also need to remain in the workforce longer to ensure their retirement adequacy."

With many developed countries experiencing declining birth rates and declining mortality rate, companies will soon have to face the inevitable. The young working population is shrinking. Companies will have no choice but to draw on older workers for their staff recruitment. It's already happening in Singapore in both the public and private sectors, from top senior positions to the rank and file. 

Don't be surprised one day to be served by a grandma or a grandpa at McDonald's, or have a grey-haired official assisting you at the MRT station or Changi airport.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Source: Elderly and Home Alone
I have several family members and good friends in their 60s and 70s living alone. Some do so by choice - they value having their own space and privacy. Others live alone because they are divorced, widowed or choose to remain single. The extended family has given way to the nuclear family unit, with adult children leaving the family ancestral home to set up their own home elsewhere. Many of my Malaysian friends have adult children working in Singapore, or have settled in other countries like Australia and Canada. Their home has become an empty nest. For single parents, this may mean living alone.

Source: Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore

Living alone is fine if we are still in good health, and physically and mentally fit. But what if the unexpected happens? What if we suffer a heart attack, a stroke or lose consciousness after a fall? Who is there to help us, to render first aid or call for an ambulance?

File picture
This is exactly what happened to my mother in 2011. She was 86 then. I can still recall that fateful day when I returned in the afternoon from a weekend trip to find her lying on the floor next to the bathroom in a pool of urine.

I had decided to return a day earlier. Had I not done so, my mom would have lain there for a good 24 hours or more on the cold hard floor and in the dark when night came. We found out later that she had fractured her hip and suffered a slight concussion. (I wrote a series of articles about this episode. They are filed under Archives, March 2011.)

The Population Trends 2013 report of the Department of Statistics, Singapore, showed there were 109,500 one-resident households in 2012 - more than triple the 32,400 in 1992. In South Korea, such households shot up from 9 per cent in 1990 to 23.9 per cent in 2010 in South Korea, and from 13.4 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010 in Taiwan. (Statistics from NUS Asia Research Institute).

Source: A Place for Mom

If you (or your elderly parent) display any number of the the above signs, it is time to make alternative living arrangements. Either you move in with your children or vice versa. Or engage the services of a caregiver who is trained in aged care, is reliable and also trustworthy. If you can afford it, there is the retirement home or the nursing home, depending on how much assistance you need with activities of daily living (ADL).

We may be in our 60s or 70s now, still active and able to manage on our own. But inevitably there will come a time when it will no longer be safe for us to live on our own. How prepared are we to face that eventuality? What plans do we have to ensure that we continue to be cared for by our loved ones?

The future is closer than we think, and we should take heed.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Who in their right mind would want to continue working upon reaching retirement age? After spending the best years of our lives working hard for others just so we can feed the family, most of us can't wait to clock out for good.

No more daily stress of a 9-5 job. The sheer joy of waking up late, and spending the rest of the day doing what we like. Time is our own, and we can finally withdraw all our savings from the EPF/CPF to spend as we like.

Life can't possibly be better than this. No wonder the retirement years are aptly called the golden years.

Yet, in a simple survey carried out by the Straits Times recently, 70% of the 50 workers aged 55+ said they would want to keep on working.

Straits Times, 3 May 2014

A good friend of mine is a strong advocate of full retirement after 55. He feels that retirees should not seek re-employment. They should just enjoy life to the full. For many that would mean playing golf, travelling, picking up new hobbies and spending time with the family.

Sure, we all deserve the good life upon retirement, don't we? But sad to say, many of us, especially those from the middle income bracket, can't afford to simply stop working. What happens when the pay check stops coming in? Who will take care of the bills for utilities? Who will pay for our children's postgraduate studies? Who will foot our elderly parents' medical expenses? Who will keep up with the mortgage payments and the insurance premiums?

And what about the rising cost of food and fuel? Inflation eats into whatever little savings we have.

We may live longer now thanks to better healthcare and advances in medicine, but longevity can be a bane for those who do not have adequate savings to support 15-20 years of retirement.

It's a growing worldwide trend for older workers to seek re-employment after retirement.

If your company offers to re-employ you in a different capacity, or extend your contract after you have reached retirement age, would you accept the offer?

I bet the answer for many of us is YES. We really don't have much of a choice.

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