Sunday, May 31, 2015


(StarMetro 27 May, 2015) 

The article 'Old Folk Too Easily Forgotten' in The Star (Metro) is posted below in full for our record, and also for those interested in reading it and sharing it. Lily Fu, founder of SeniorsAloud was interviewed for her views on what the community can do to help ensure the elderly are cared for in their own neighbourhood.

by Yip Yoke Teng

For RM1,800 a month, residents of St. Mary’s Nursing Home receive care and take part in games like this race aided by nursing staff. –  Star filepics

HELPLESSNESS strikes at some point in life when ageing gradually takes away one’s physical ability. This is felt not just by the seniors, but also their children who find themselves suddenly taking on the role of caretaker.

It is projected that by 2020, 10.6% of the country’s population will be 60 years old and above as compared to 8% in a 2010 census, and 16.3% by 2040.

Malaysia is expected to become an ageing nation (where 15% or more of the population are aged 60 and above) by 2035, according to the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN).

Our society is not prepared in almost all ways to meet the needs of the elderly. The high number of old folk abandonment may shed some light on this issue.

At wit’s ends

LPPKN’s survey also showed that nearly 30% of the seniors in the country were abandoned or received no financial support from their children.

Kim Loo Ting Old Folk’s Home’s caretaker Reverend Kai Guo said he had come across almost 100 such cases.

Residents resting in their room at the Sungai Way Old Folk’s Home. - Star pic

While not all children are heartless, it is no denying that taking care of aged parents is getting increasingly difficult especially for the middle-income group. This group is not rich enough to hire nurses or maids, nor are they poor enough to receive public aid.

Caring Old Folks’ Home founder Wendy Yap said many average-income earners had pleaded with her to take in their aged parents.

“Some actually cried when they send their parents to our home. I cannot call them unfilial, they really cannot afford providing for their parents with the city’s high cost of living.

“Many requests come from the middle-income group and we have to reject them as our home has to give priority to seniors without children,” she added.

As their parents age, it is highly risky to leave them alone at home but most wage earners are unable to quit their jobs to look after the elderly.

Nursing home becomes the more affordable choice, but the elderly will not be happy and worse still, many such establishments are unlicensed.

If the society is more equipped with elderly care services and facilities, chances are many seniors do not need to go there.

Communities can help

Retired teacher Lily Fu, a strong voice for seniors’ well-being through her blog, feels that while the Government needs to steer its attention to such concern, the community can also build asimple support system with existing resources.

The residents’ associations, in her view, can do this perfectly.

Whenever members in the family cannot be around, the second line of support will be neighbours, who can look out for the elderly, and security guards in gated communities who can prevent them from wandering off too far.

The residents’ associations or management companies can keep a database of the doctors, nurses and caregivers in their neighbourhood to attend to their needs.

The condition of senior citizens at an old folk’s home run by the Kim Loo Ting temple in Setapak often improves with the patience and dedication of the caretakers. - Star pic

Fu said that in Ampang, where her mother lives, there is a pool of retired nurses who offer caregiving service.

“The residents’ group can also arrange for caregiving trainings, activities and health sessions that can benefit everyone in the community. All it takes is just a bit of dedication and the spirit of volunteerism,” she said.

“I call babies and seniors the bookend generations, so whatever you have for the former, you should have the same for the latter.

“For instance, why can’t you have as many daycare, recreational centres and catering services for the elderly in the neighbourhood, so that they can stay close to their children?” she said.

Furthermore, such services can be a source of income for housewives and young retirees, she added.

At the same time, society should be equipped with public facilities to help seniors stay independent.

They should build parks with amenities for the elderly to build their strength; ramps, railings, grab bars, benches, sit-down toilets and many more should be in place so that the seniors can travel around safely.

“Society needs to have the elderly at heart, just think of how we would like our parents to be cared for,” she said.

“These are simple requirements, yet our society lacks it. Malaysians seem to think it is not worth it to invest in old people. We fight for children, environment and animals which are very good causes, so why not add in the elderly?” said Fu.

She said the Government had not been proactive about elderly care.

“It is wrong to think that only the Welfare Ministry should attend to this. The health, transport and many other ministries have a role to play, too,” she said.

Asked about the option of retirement village, she said an area could easily be turned into that as long as it has a hospital, shuttle service, security, shopping, amenities, alert system and CCTV.

She is working hard to improve seniors’ quality of life but hopes more will join the crusade. Some of her “dreams” are to create a privilege card for seniors, a cafe operated by seniors and a portal for the elderly to addresses to all their needs.

Government’s slacking

Aged Care Group’s chief executive officer Carol Yip said there was a lack of awareness on elderly care and most would be at a loss when they were forced into the caretaker’s role because the relevant information were very scattered.

“The middle-class is affected most. There is no public platform they can turn to for help and information. Many nursing homes are not properly licensed, and most of them are short-handed with a lot more maids than nurses,” Yip said.

The main problem, she said, is that the Government has not shown the commitment even though the country is becoming an ageing nation.

There’s little funding from the Government for elderly care, and they are taking too long to prepare the Aged Healthcare Act.

She said the various ministries must work together to address the issue.

Yip said her company tries to mobilise the community to address the issue of elderly care. Among the measures taken are working with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) to provide TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) service, and with IMC Education on the training of caregivers.

“The caregivers’ service is RM250 one day, but if there is a higher supply of trained caregivers, the cost can be lowered,” she said.

Caregiving service, outreach programme, home rehabilitation, one-stop pharmacy, care centre and reemployment after retirement are some of the services provided by her company to elevate seniors’ wellbeing.

Yip is actually against the idea of retirement homes as they are expensive and beyond the reach of the middle-income group.

“It all boils down to the availability of quality, affordable nursing care in the area,” she said.

She said Malaysia must create its own model for elderly care because every country was unique.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Our recent trip to Singapore for the 50plus Expo at Suntec left us more than a tad envious of Singaporean seniors. This year marks the silver jubilee of Singapore's independence in 1965. Singapore citizens, including permanent residents can look forward to receiving plenty of goodies from the government.

As a tribute to the pioneer generation for their contribution to nation-building, the government has put together a SG50 Senior Package that will benefit more than 700,000 older Singaporeans. From transport vouchers to discounts for dining, as well as free admission to some of the country's top tourist attractions, there is plenty in the package to put Singapore seniors in a celebratory mood.

The package comes with a 50-page booklet, with a complete list of the benefits. Most of the offers are valid from June to August this year.

And that's not all. In her speech at the launch of 50plus Expo on 16 May, Senior Minister Dr Amy Khor announced that Singapore seniors can sign up for 400 free courses ranging from literature and dance to business and culinary skills. The Ministry of Health aims to encourage lifelong learning with this generous perk. 

For seniors that surely must be the icing on the cake to top off the year-long silver jubilee celebrations. No wonder the Singapore cheer turned into a deafening Singapore roar at Dr Khor's announcement.

So, that begs the question, what can our government offer us older Malaysians to make us happy and looking forward to our retirement years? We have given 30-40 of our prime years in the service of the country. Surely that must merit some recognition and appreciation?

We want an outdoor gym for seniors in every housing estate and public park where we can exercise

We don't want awards and titles, for they benefit only a few selected individuals, not the community. (By the way, Singaporeans from the PM to the man-in-the-street are addressed as Mr, and for the ladies, a plain Ms/Mdm.)

We don't want cash handouts which offer only short-term benefits to the needy. We want senior discounts on groceries, health supplements, fuel and meals, and other essentials.

Above all, we want to be accorded respect and dignity, not ignored or seen as unproductive and a burden to society

We certainly don't want empty pre-election promises of what the government can do, will do for us. We also don't want general references to what it plans to do for seniors. We want details, specifics and deadlines. And if the government doesn't deliver, we have the right to protest, to hold it accountable if it reneges on its word, and to withhold our vote if any of our under-performing ministers should stand for re-election. That's not a threat or a warning, but a straightforward case of cause and result.

So, what do we want?

Here's a short checklist to begin with for the relevant ministeries to take note of. In no particular order.

An impossible dream, or a soon-to-be reality?
If you click on any of the links above, you will find that SeniorsAloud have been making these proposals as far back as 2009. We will continue to voice our concerns till we are heard.

To give credit where credit is due, we appreciate the government's efforts in making public healthcare accessible and affordable to seniors. We welcome the discounts for seniors travelling on trains and buses. We also acknowledge the financial assistance given for funeral expenses (!) under the Mesra Usia Emas Scheme and other schemes.

With seniors making up 8.8% of the population and growing steadily, Malaysia is on its way to becoming an ageing nation in the next 10-15 years. UN defines a country as ageing when 7% of its population is aged 65 and above.

But these provisions are either limited, too slow in implementation, or if already available are not efficiently maintained or managed.

Each year when the budget is announced, we scan the papers looking for some tiny morsels of good news for seniors, only to be disappointed yet again. Last week, the PM announced details of the 11th Malaysia Plan for 2016-20. To date, we still have no clue what 'supporting active ageing for the elderly' involves, or how 'the government will address the needs of...the elderly'. (The Star 22/5/15)

How long do seniors in Malaysia have to wait before they hear these words from our ministers? Words are cheap, unless they are backed by prompt and effective action.

Our ministers are seniors themselves. Like us, they have elderly parents. One day they too will be elderly. Isn't it time they gave more attention to what the seniors and the elderly want?

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Last weekend 38 members from SeniorsAloud and University of the Third Age (U3A) Malaysia went on a 3-day joint trip to Singapore. Our main purpose was to visit the 50plus Expo 2015, but we also took in some sightseeing on Day 1, and a visit to Econ Medicare Centre and Nursing Home on Day 3. More of that later.

The trip was originally scheduled for 27-29 March. When Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced a 7-day national mourning period. As a result, the organizers Council for Third Age (C3A) and PICO had to postpone the expo to 15-17 May.
Our group (not all are in the photo) outside the expo hall on 16 May, 2015

If I remember correctly, the first 50plus Expo was held in 2009 to promote active ageing. Since then it has become a much anticipated annual event for older Singaporeans. I have visited it twice, in 2010 and 2011. It has grown bigger and better over the years. I had expected this year's Jubilee Edition to be even bigger and on a grander scale. But it didn't seem to be so. Perhaps the last minute change of date had affected the participation of some exhibitors and speakers. 

The Singapore Cheer team (in red) and the crowd waiting for the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour

Still, our group spent an enjoyable and fun day at the expo. There was much to see, do and learn as well, from health checks to food sampling, from games to entertainment on the stage. A pity, though, that the forum talks were held on a separate floor, and required pre-registration. Otherwise, many more of us would have attended the talks as the topics were of interest and relevance to seniors.

Senior Minister of State from the Ministry of Health and Manpower Dr Amy Khor, and Chairman of C3A Mrs Chua Foo Yong at the launch of 50plus Expo 2015. They sat on benches just like the rest of us. Exemplary!

In line with Singapore's Jubilee celebrations this year, Dr Khor announced that the Ministerial Committee on Ageing is offering 400 free courses for seniors as part of the SG50 Seniors package. You can imagine the boisterous response from the crowd. More reason for the Singapore Cheer!

Here is a small selection of photos taken at the expo. If you missed this year's expo, do make sure you visit it next year. It'll be worth your time. For now, do check out C3A's portal at It's packed with plenty of info and goodies for seniors.
My granddaughter would love this - creative arrangement of food to whet the appetite 
Always fun to play around with make-up for a new look. For ladies only? Don't men need grooming too? 
Cooking demo on how to make yummy crepes
This hobby is fast gaining popularity with seniors
These seniors are having fun learning to strum on the ukulele
 Puan Kasummah was interviewed by ST. This image appeared in Straits Times' online write-up about the expo.
Non-slip socks - great gift for grandma and grandpa
Queuing up to get the eyes tested
This might turn out to be the next big indoor board game for seniors
Portrait photography inclusive of styling by professionals, and you are ready for a cover shoot!
Waiting patiently for a talk on herbs and their benefits 
The ladies from People's Association getting ready to perform the cha-cha
Tapping into seniors as an excellent resource for community service
Spotted this foldable wheelchair at the expo. This young man and his mom were kind enough to give a demo.
Always great to meet up with Singapore friends like Eleanor Yap (left, back row) of Ageless Online and members of RSVP Singapore.
Meeting up with our counterpart U3A Singapore, led by their president Mr Goh Kim Seng (with orange lanyard)
With members of YAH (Young-At-Heart) College

On behalf of the group members, SeniorsAloud would like to thank C3A for the warm welcome given to us. A special note of appreciation to C3A's Ms Tan Si Ling and Ms Cheryl Ho for arranging the logistics for our visit, and to Ryan Lau for the guided tour and briefing.

It's time we had an expo for seniors in Kuala Lumpur. There have been several in the past, but nothing on the scale of 50plus Expo. Well, never too late. Will the private sector or the relevant government agencies take up the challenge?

Photo Credit:
Lily Fu
Koeh Siew Lim
Eleanor Ong

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Some of you might have read the article 'Sex in your 60s' in The Sunday Star (3 May, 2015). A timely reminder that turning 60 does not necessarily mean we are on the decline physically, mentally and sexually. Far from it, according to Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar who penned the article.

A search on this blog will turn up a good number of earlier posts on this topic, some with images for 18+ viewing only :-)

I'm no sexologist or medical doctor, but we all know that any physical exercise done regularly over a period of time will improve one's overall health and well-being. This includes swimming, brisk walking and most definitely sexual intercourse too.

But as with most good advice, it is always easier said than done. There are many challenges that confront older couples in the bedroom besides the age-old complaint of - 'The mind is willing, but the body is not'.

Sure there are sexual aids available, from Viagra to lubricants, not to mention countless books and videos on sexual positions for the over 60s that take into account their physical limitations of arthritic joints, lower back pain, weak muscles, cramps, etcetera. These are just a few of the many physical ailments that plague older adults. This is the time when we wish we had laid the foundation of good health and physical fitness in our younger years.

There is also the question of relationship. Sexual intimacy goes hand in hand with a loving relationship between husband and wife. Unfortunately, many married couples have long lost that 'lovin feeling' for each other. Most continue to live under the same roof for convenience, but in separate beds or different rooms. Where there's no love, there's no will for physical proximity let alone sexual intimacy.

It takes two to tango, and to make whoopee. What if you are widowed, estranged or divorced? Or single? Your well-meaning friends will tell you to look for someone, preferably someone you fancy and who likes you too for the right reasons. Again, it's easier said than done.

You don't want any Tom, Dick and Hairy, or Moll, Peg and Suzie, do you? You are not that desperate, right? Not yet, anyway. You can't trust strangers who want to befriend you on social media or in bars and clubs. You need a mutual friend whom you can trust to make the introduction. Even then, it takes the right chemistry for two people who have just met to want to see each other again.

The field is very limited for older singles, especially for older women. By virtue of their longer life expectancy, single women far outnumber single men of the same age group. So while the good doctor advocates sex 'to improve heart health, reduce pain and depression, as well as increase relaxation and self-esteem', all of which contribute to healthy ageing, only the lucky ones get to enjoy these benefits. For the rest of us, it's gardening, line-dancing or running after the grandchildren to get our heart pumping and muscles working.

In Asian culture, conservative social norms dictate that seniors should behave and act their age. Translated, that means no sex, please, also no kissing, no hugging, at least not in public, and certainly not in front of the children. No lovey dovey, touchy feely display of affection, thank you. It's embarrassing, it's gross, it's offensive! Ah, wait till they get to be our age.

Personally I find it most heart-warming to see older couples holding hands while strolling, or sitting on the park bench with their arms around each other. Such open displays of affection in seniors are rare in Asian societies.

So to all those couples who are still very much in love after all these years, keep the flame of romance burning brightly and cuddle up in bed as often as you can. Appreciate each other for it is a joy to grow old together with the one you love. Not many are that blesssed.