Friday, November 23, 2018

SERIOUSLY, LUNCH NEAR KLCC FOR ONLY RM5?!!


Seven years ago, I had one of the best Chinese vegetarian meals ever in terms of value: good taste, low prices and rich variety. I had blogged about it then as one of the staff volunteers there asked me to help publicize the food court. Today the blog article popped up among my Facebook Memories. A good reminder that I should post an update for those who have yet to drop by for a meal. This place has been around for decades. Yet many of my friends have not heard of it.

A vegetarian's food paradise! I gave up counting the number of dishes after 40. Strictly no meat, eggs, garlic or onion.
A feast for the eyes and stomach, but only if you are a vegetarian. The longest queue is for the mixed dishes with rice.
All this for only RM8 in 2011 when this photo was taken. Prices have gone up but still low compared to other food outlets in the area. 
The daily menu at a glance. The temple marks festival days on the Chinese calendar with free meals but donations are welcome.
Best time to be there - before 11.30am. You avoid the lunch time crowd and the long queues at the cashiers.
The scene at 12pm. Difficult to find a seat unless you are alone. Besides locals, expats and backpackers eat here too. Diners have to clear their own plates after eating. The staff here are all volunteers.
All the vegetables and fruits are organically grown on the temple's farm.
Once you enter the temple premises, it's a short pleasant walk past a rock garden with a lotus pond and mini-waterfalls to the food centre at the end of the corridor.
From the outside: This ornate temple, opposite Corus Hotel and a stone's throw from KLCC, hides a bustling food court waiting to be discovered by those in search of a satisfying vegetarian meal.
Besides rice dishes, there are stalls selling noodles, salad, fruits, buns and drinks. When in season there are durians for sale. Everything comes from the temple's organic farm. I have lunch there whenever I am in the vicinity (which is often!) and tapau (take away) for dinner. The two meals usually cost less than Rm10. If I am early enough, I get free soup and fruit dessert. Parking is a problem. You can take the lrt to KLCC and walk there, or take any bus that goes to KLCC. Get off at Corus Hotel and walk across the overhead bridge. 

So now you know where to go for your next organic vegetarian meal, do spread the word. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

THE NEED TO KEEP RAISING THE RETIREMENT AGE

PM Tun Mahathir, 93, has jokingly said the new retirement age in Malaysia will be 95 in 2020 when he hands over his premiership to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He may have said it in jest but at the rate our demographics are changing, Malaysia will reach ageing nation status by 2030, and we will see more people working well into their 70s.

When the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) was established in 1951, life expectancy then, believe it or not, was 55! With the retirement age set at 55, lump sum EPF withdrawals would be more than sufficient to sustain contributors through the short retirement period. We now know those figures were way off the mark. Advances in science, medicine and technology have drastically extended life span. Life expectancy in Malaysia currently stands at 75, and is set to rise further in the years ahead. 60 is the new 40, and living to a ripe old age of 80 and beyond is fast becoming the norm.

This begs the question - do we have enough in our EPF savings to see us through an additional 15 to 20 years? For the majority the answer is No. The M40 (middle income group) is arguably the worst off as they are not eligible for welfare aid unlike the B40 (lower income group). They also have more financial commitments such as these below:
  • loans to service (housing loan, car loan)
  • their children's higher education 
  • their healthcare expenses
  • support for their elderly parents
Do check out what these senior citizens from M40 have to say about their financial status, and what we can learn from them at this link. Their profiles are typical of most retirees.


Upon reaching 55, most retirees would opt for lump sum withdrawals. They have worked hard and waited patiently for the day when they would have the means to turn their dreams and plans into reality, whether it is to pay off debts, renovate the house, take a well-deserved holiday abroad or start a business. Unfortunately, going by EPF data, most end up depleting their retirement savings within a few years mainly through mismanagement of their money.

How much should the average retiree have in order to avoid getting into debt? EPF puts it at RM228,000. More than half of their members have way less than this amount (see infographic below). EPF has come up with some good advice on how to live a simple and sensible life in retirement to stretch savings. If a retiree finds himself unable to cope financially, he should pay a visit to AKPK (Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit) for some free advice on how to manage his limited financial resources. Or refer to AKPK's special presentation for SeniorsAloud members at this link.

Read the full article at this link.
To reduce the risk of retired contributors using up all their EPF savings within a few years, EPF introduced several withdrawal packages (see below). There is also the option of leaving the entire sum with EPF until age 100. However dividends from their savings will stop once they reach age 75. At dividend rates of 6% and above since 2011, it makes sense for retirees to let their savings remain for as long as possible with EPF. The dividend for 2017 was 6.9%.

Read the full article at this link.
Many of my friends who were teaching in public schools back in the 1980s opted for early retirement when they reached their 40s. As long as they had served a minimum of 10 years, they were eligible for a gratuity and pension benefits as stipulated under Section 12A Act 227/239. Today early retirement at 40+ would be unthinkable for most people. Given the rising cost of living and a host of financial commitments, few can afford to enjoy full retirement. The mantra is work, work, work for as long as possible.

Acknowledging the plight of retirees and those nearing retirement age, the Pakatan Harapan government has sought to increase job opportunities by proposing tax incentives for employers hiring older Malaysians. It's a long shot from proposal to implementation. Whether this will make a significant difference remains to be seen.
Source: Budget 2019
One thing is for certain - we can expect the retirement age to continue going up. In developed countries such as Germany and Japan, the retirement age is moving towards 70. Former PM of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, famously said that 'retirement means death', and was in favour of doing away with the retirement age.

As the country's biggest employer, the government finds it a challenge to fund pension payouts to a growing pool of retired civil servants and beneficiaries that is expected to reach 836,000 in 2019 and would cost KWAP (Kumpulan Wang Persaraan) a whopping RM26.56 billion. This is one of the main reasons for raising the retirement age - to enable both retirees and pensioners to work longer and accumulate sufficient savings to be self-supporting in old age.
Read the full article at this link.
Older Malaysians too want to work for as long as they are able. The family structure has changed so drastically that parents can no longer expect their adult children to support them in their old age. Family size has shrunk, and with the grown children moving out to work or settle elsewhere, retired couples are often left to fend for themselves.

The falling fertility rate at 1.9 is the lowest on record and below the replacement rate of 2.1. This means a shrinking of the young work force. This shortage of young workers will have to be met by an increase in technology, in the recruitment of foreign workers and in opening jobs to people in the 60 to 65 age group.

So, whichever way we look at the situation, there is definitely a need for older workers to return to the work force, and for the retirement age to be raised. The likelihood of doing away with a retirement age will gain traction in the years ahead. Let's just hope it won't reach a situation where we have to work till we drop dead!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

CELEBRATING SENIORSALOUD'S 10TH ANNIVERSARY 2018

Proceeds go towards our Grant a Wish for the Elderly (GWE) community service initiatives.
Videos of our 10th anniversary dinner:


Our 32-page 10th anniversary commemorative booklet (front and back covers)
A collector's item - limited copies of our commemorative bookmark (front and back)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

EMBRACING AGEING - NATURALLY


Back in 2013, I was asked if I would like to volunteer for a non-invasive anti-ageing procedure. Some doctors were doing a short training course in this field and needed volunteers to practice on. The idea of looking years younger than my chronological age (I was 65 then) was tempting, especially as it wouldn't cost me a cent.

But I declined. I was nursing a bad cough at the time. That was the excuse I gave, but the real reason was my aversion to anything that is labeled 'anti-ageing', whether it's anti-ageing procedures, supplements or cosmetics.

The only exception for me at the time was getting my hair colored black. It had turned almost all grey within a short span of six months, brought on mainly by the stress of caring for my mom after her hip surgery in March 2011. She was also diagnosed with dementia at the same time. I was her sole caregiver.

I would have happily left my hair that shade of grey had it not been for well-meaning young people offering me their seats on trains, or helping me with my bags. It made me feel frail, old and decrepit when the reality was I probably had more energy than those nice young people.

Anyway, since then I have vowed that once I reached my 70s, that's it. No more coloring my hair black. Maybe shades of brown or blonde! Well, I am 70 now, and have kept my vow.

I mean why go against nature? Physical ageing is inevitable. Some are born blessed with great genes that slow down the ageing process. They look terrific for their age, whatever it is. We have all met such blessed individuals and secretly admire or envy them.

Less is always more when it comes to make-up for older women. Unless we know how to apply make-up to look younger and more natural, we may end up looking like a painted Chinese opera performer! Branded cosmetics are expensive. Some of them are meant to help us look natural. The irony of it! Wearing make-up is addictive too. Once we are used to having our face all made up whenever we go out, or when we have company, we will feel naked to be seen sans make-up.

Confident women don't mind being seen in public without a trace of make-up on their face. They know outer beauty is only skin-deep. It is what's inside that makes them glow - inner strength of character and a positive attitude towards life. A light touch of lipstick should suffice. The best face-lift is a genuine smile. It works. Try it.

Ali MacGraw, 79, and Robert Redford. 82, still looking great despite the silver hair and age lines 
Men are lucky - they don't need make-up to cover the wrinkles or color their hair to pass off as younger than they are. However, a word of advice - if you are balding on top, please don't drag some strands of hair to cover up the shiny pate. It's a huge turn-off for the ladies. Better to go a la Sean Connery, or go completely bald a la Bruce Willis. Some women do find bald men sexy!

Source: Daily Mail
From face lifts to breast implants, tummy tucks and more, older women are resorting to whatever means they can afford to reverse the ageing process. More men are now chasing that elixir of youth too, as evident from the rising demand for anti-ageing products for men in the market.

Alicia Douvall is the world's most surgically enhanced woman. At only 33 (in 2013), she already had 71 operations and 260 cosmetic procedures, with her first one done when she was only 17. At this rate, by the time she turns 50, her entire body would have been re-molded. She readily admits to being an enhancement addict. Surely this can't be considered effectively turning back the clock?

If going under the knife to look good makes you feel confident about yourself, or if you are doing it for functional reasons rather than aesthetic like dental implants, for instance, by all means go for it. Just don't overdo it or you might end up looking really plastic with all that plastic surgery. Make sure you get an experienced doctor. And if you are prepared to spend on costly anti-ageing products, make sure you do the research and find out if the products are genuine and effective.

With the world's population ageing at an alarming rate, the anti-ageing industry can only go from strength to strength in terms of revenue generated. Cosmetic surgeons will likely be the most sought after of all medical professionals, as there will always be men and women who refuse to grow old gracefully.

For the rest of us who prefer to let nature take its course, just remember that growing older isn't all that dreadful if we still enjoy good health, have plenty of good friends and a family that loves us and cares about us. Think of wrinkles as lines that reflect our wealth of life experiences.

Baby boomers all. With my cousin Henry (centre) and Antares after a dip in the river at Kampung Pertak. Staying forever young-at-heart and only slightly older in other places :-) (Photo taken in 2013).



Thursday, August 30, 2018

A WEEKEND OF MUSIC AND LAUGHTER WITH THE PHIL


Last weekend was one of the best I had in a long time - two whole days filled with music and laughter that can be described as truly uplifting - music that warms the heart, and laughter that heals the soul. It was as if every song was deliberately chosen to reflect this twin purpose, from the opening song 'Getting to know you' at the Sunday concert to the fitting finale 'Thank you for the music'.

Day 1 kicked off with a high energy session of Laughter Yoga led by Debbie Rodrigo and her team. This was followed by a workshop conducted by Dr Jonathan Welch. He was specially invited to share his vast experience in working with community choirs.


Listening with rapt attention as Dr Jonathan Welch explained the fine points about singing in parts. 'Do you know if you are soprano, alto, tenor or bass?' he asks.
There is so much more to singing than just belting out a song. I discovered this during rehearsals under the direction of Dr Jonathan Welch.
The Mass Choir at rehearsal. 
I was there on both days and can attest to how meticulous (and insistent) Dr Welch was in ensuring that the choir got the enunciation and the pitch right, down to the phonetics! He said if we got it right the first time, it would be a whole lot easier to get it right every time. Absolutely. He demonstrated the importance of proper breathing and correct posture for singing well. He had such a great sense of humor and made the rehearsals so much fun.

The choir from National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) opened the concert with 'Getting to Know You' and immediately won over the audience.
Credit goes to Cheryl Teh, chairperson and choir director of the Philharmonic Society of Selangor, (affectionately known as The Phil), and her team for the long hours of hard work in putting together such a wonderful showcase of songs and singers that not only entertained but also enlightened. True, everyone can sing, but not everyone can sing like Janet Lee, Elvira Arul or Victor Chua, if you know what I mean. Brenda James-Leong was outstanding as emcee, and so was Nish Tham who provided the musical accompaniment. All of you deserve a standing ovation!
My humble phone camera doesn't do justice to the singers above. Nothing like listening to them live and getting mesmerized by the way they delivered their song.


The Inclusion Choir made up of choir members from the University of the Third Age (U3A) and from Malaysia Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) gave a beautiful rendition of 'Sejahtera Malaysia' under the direction of Dr Indra Selvarajah who is the Founding President of Malaysian Music Therapy Association (MMTA). She also serves on the committee of the Malaysian Society of Music in Medicine (MSMM) at Universiti Putra Malaysia.



Next up was Victor Chua. When I heard Victor sing 'There's a Dream' at the rehearsal, I was completely bowled over and was an instant fan! The song has been haunting me since then. Just can't get it out of my head. It's an original song composed by Victor. He sang it at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in KL. This updated version has new lyrics to reflect the hopes of a new Malaysia.


The Phil choir came on after Victor with three songs: 'Wind Beneath My Wings', 'The Moon Represents My Heart' (their first Mandarin song ever) and 'The Journey Continues'. A nice gesture was when the choir sang 'Happy Birthday' dedicated to all born in August.

One problem with video recording at a concert is the obstruction from people walking past or from others who are also recording. I am posting these videos below taken at the rehearsals where obstructions were minimal.


It's amazing after only a few hours of rehearsal, the Mass Choir comprising members from the U3A choir and the Phil choir gave such an impressive performance at the concert. They sang three songs: 'Freedom Train', 'Happy Together' and 'Hand in Hand'.


'Music and Laughter' was another song that I enjoyed learning. The lyrics resonated with me. I understand that the Phil had commissioned Nick Choo to compose the music and the lyrics for the song.


 'Tanah Pusaka' was a timely inclusion given that we are just days away from celebrating Merdeka Day on 31 August. It's a new dawn for the country under a new government after 61 years! So easy this time to sing the song with feeling.


Indeed, THANK YOU to The Phil for the music, the laughter and the joy we had at the concert. One audience member put it so well when she summed it up thus on the Phil's facebook page: "Enjoyed the Phil's 60th celebratory concert. Full of warmth and love."

We echo that sentiment 100%.

As part of its 60th year anniversary, The Phil has pledged to donate RM60,000 to several community organisations. Recipients include Cheshire Home, Hospis Malaysia, NASOM and Perak Women for Women. Another three more recipients will be announced in December. A round of applause for The Phil! You guys ROCK!

A pleasant surprise to see this flashed on the screen in the acknowledgements.
SeniorsAloud team with Dr Welch and with Cheryl
The Phil looks set to getting plenty of new recruits after the success of the 2-day event.
Couldn't agree more with these quotes. Hope the message goes out to everyone that music (and laughter) is the best medicine.

Monday, August 27, 2018

OPPORTUNITIES IN THE UNTAPPED SENIORS MARKET


This is an updated version of my blog article posted in 2014. Reading it now, I find that my predictions were pretty spot on. If you are seriously contemplating starting a business venture, or planning to invest in one, here are some business ideas you might want to look at. Of course, it goes without saying you have to do the market research, check out if there is a demand for your product or services, and find out what the competition is. And lots more. It pays to know what you are putting your money into.

With global ageing comes global demand for products and services that cater to the needs of an ever growing seniors market. As seniors ourselves, we know how frustrating it is to discover that something we need is not available or not easily accessible. So here's our pick of 10 business ideas that might give you the impetus to start coming up with your own ideas:

1. Health Applications

Seniors are very concerned about their health. As apps are easily downloaded and most seniors own smart phones, there is demand for good, reliable health apps that monitor our vital signs, e.g. blood pressure and heart rate, and that offer safety warnings like fall alerts. There are already many in the market, but if you add useful features to your app, you can beat the competition. There are plenty of app developers who would be happy to build your app for a fee. But the idea and details will have to come from you. As a senior citizen, you have that extra edge of knowing from personal experience and insight what seniors need or want.

2. Home services
 The elderly will welcome such services, especially if they live alone, and do not go out much. Home delivery services take the hassle of having to go out to shop, run errands, or see the doctor. Think home nursing care, food catering, grocery delivery, car wash, pet grooming, hairdressing, manicure, etc. There is a long list of home services that you can provide on your own, or you can start a small company and employ staff to deliver these services. Home delivery is not new, but catering to a niche market of the elderly is relatively new. There are retirement homes that outsource some of these services to individuals or companies. Think of the number of elderly residents that require, for example, personal grooming, massages, or physiotherapy. Of course, expect a mushrooming of nursing homes and aged care facilities as the population continues to age rapidly.


3. Social networking for seniors

There are many lonely seniors out there - singles, widows/widowers and divorcees, who are looking to making new friends or finding a companion. Social networking sites such as Senior FriendFinder are popular, but three factors deter more seniors from using these sites. One - not all seniors are internet-savvy, two - they are not sure if the sites can be trusted with their personal particulars when they sign up, three - there is some hesitation in making friends with strangers. Trust has to be built up over time. SeniorsAloud has been approached to organize social gatherings to enable seniors to meet up and make friends. If you are already operating a restaurant or coffee house, contact us. We may consider hosting our social luncheons at your premises. If you have the resources to start an online senior friendship or dating agency, and would like SeniorsAloud to collaborate with you, give us a call.

4. Niche restaurants and cafes

This 'Grandmama's' restaurant serves all patrons regardless of age. But the name does give us some marketing ideas. If you own a restaurant or a bistro, you can attract more patrons especially seniors who are quite fussy about what they eat and drink. Offer more healthy choices on your menu - low fat, less sugar, less salt, organic, preservatives-free, non-GM, etc. Food companies, including fast food and soft drinks companies are already doing that to stay relevant in an increasingly health-conscious market. To stand out from your competitors, make your restaurant elder-friendly in terms of design, furniture and facilities. Not a bad idea to introduce 1960s decor to create an ambience of nostalgia. Chinatown already has several restaurants that are remodeled along such lines.

5. Medical devices

Step into a healthcare supplies retail shop, and you will be surprised at how many assistive devices there are on the market. As the population ages, there will be a growing demand for medical and health devices that help the elderly with their activities of daily living (ADL). There are walking aids, hearing aids, customized beds, wheelchairs and many more. Think of what would help make life easier for older adults, that would be the business you may want to explore further and invest in.

6. Retail for seniors

Bet many of you know the frustration of shopping for clothes, shoes or bags and not finding something that suits your size or taste. The retail world is still very much geared towards the sartorial tastes of the young, while the middle-aged and older adults will have to make do with limited selections of apparel. Off-the-rack clothes in department stores and fashion outlets are designed for svelte young bodies, and killer stilettos are meant for young feet. Left with limited choice, we patronize shops like Ms READ or VIOLETA in MidValley Mall that cater to older women and carry bigger sizes.

7. Senior travel

Travel agencies are smart enough to realize that seniors love to travel. They have the time and the money to do so. Many travel agencies now offer tour packages that are specially designed for older travellers. Meals, accommodation and itinerary are planned to provide safety and comfort for senior travellers. If you are already managing a travel agency, this is one area you can expand to attract more customers. Build a reputation as the agency for seniors to go to when planning a vacation, whether it's a 3-day cruise to nowhere, a day trip to Sekinchan for seafood or a week-long getaway to explore Bhutan.










7. Mobile businesses

Another fast-growing area with the potential to generate good income for small business owners. Decide on what you want to sell, and do it from a customized van. It doesn't have to be food, although that is obviously the most viable option. Park in areas where human traffic is excellent like near office blocks or tourist attractions. Remember the Milo van at sports events during our school days? Today Milo vans are still around. They are joined by Starbucks vans and others offering fresh fruit juices. These vans are frequently seen in up-market office and residential areas. They are now so ubiquitous that The Star has done a cover feature on them. There is room for more mobile businesses if you have something better or different to offer. Think Blue Ocean strategy. (Note: one of the earliest food truck parks or TAPAK is the one next to Corus Hotel along Jalan Ampang. It is packed every night. Go check it out.)

8. Lifelong learning for seniors

Many senior citizens missed out on a college education during their younger days. Now is the time for them to study and obtain the academic or professional qualifications they have always wanted. They can also choose to pick up new skills or learn new languages. Demand is high for schools or instructors that can teach seniors how to use the computer and social media. Seniors also enjoy learning for the sake of learning. They sign up for short courses in art and craft, music and baking. Gyms and dance schools attract seniors by offering special programs like Zumba for Seniors and Ballroom Dancing.

That's me taking ukulele lessons from instructor Kelly Teh at YMCA in 2014. Skills-based short courses are gaining popularity among seniors as seen in the rise in enrollment for courses offered by University of the Third Age at UPM Serdang.
Social media workshop organized by SeniorsAloud for members. One of our key objectives is to provide opportunities for older adults to learn to use digital devices e.g. tablets and smartphones. 

9. Transport service for seniors

Although there is no upper age limit for driving, most seniors give up driving when they reach their 70s. But they still need to go see the doctor, or do their grocery shopping. There are mobile clinics and grocery delivery services but their routes are restricted to certain areas. Just like the mini school buses that provide transport to and from school for children, we can also have a similar transport service for seniors living in a particular neighbourhood. These mini buses should be wheelchair-friendly and have lower steps for seniors to board and get off easily.

10. Social enterprises

If making money is not the main driving force, but the passion for doing good is, then social enterprise is for you. It is a for-profit business venture. The profits are used to cover administrative and operational costs and to reinvest into the business to sustain and grow it to do even more good for the community. You should be able to find a few that will appeal to you. Or you can come up with your own. This quote from Thomas Friedman should ignite the entrepreneurial spark in you.


Without doubt the easiest and least capital intensive, and therefore the most popular business to set up for semi-retired or retired professionals is a consultancy. You can put your wealth of working experience and expertise to good use by providing consultancy services to companies or organizations that require such services. But know that competition is stiff and you have to really stand out to stay ahead of your competitors.

Related post:

Do older adults have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?