Tuesday, August 14, 2018

MY CLASS VALEDICTORIAN SPEECH

(This is a transcript of my speech delivered on 4 August at our alumni lunch sponsored by NTU. The convocation ceremony took place on 1 August 2018.)

Good afternoon, my dear AG cohorts and our dear lecturers,

Thank you for making time to be with us to celebrate our graduation.

This is not exactly a valedictorian speech, and I’m not exactly your typical valedictorian. But thank you for the honor. Age does have its privileges aside from getting seats on the MRT.

Looking back on the year that was, I am glad I waited seven years before finally deciding to do this program at Nanyang Technological University. I was encouraged to do a Masters in Gerontology at Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2010. But it wasn't the right time for me then.

My concentration core was Leadership and Management in Elderly Care
In 2011 I heard about the Master of Science in Applied Gerontology program being offered at SIM (Singapore Institute of Management), now renamed SUSS (Singapore University of Social Sciences). I wrote to Prof Kalyani Mehta for more details. She was helpful with her advice.

To cut a long story short, much as I wanted to sign up then, the logistics and fees posed a huge obstacle. Every scholarship I looked up had an upper age limit. Mine was way above that ceiling. Then in Dec 2016, my daughter told me of a preview for a new program at NTU – Master's in Applied Gerontology.

(Video credit: Lee Foong Ming)

I went, I heard, and I signed up. This time there were no obstacles. My daughter and son-in-law took care of everything including the hefty $34,000 fees. I hope this will be the trend in future where retired parents can pursue their educational dreams fully funded by their adult children.

Going back to school at 69, 70, was a challenge in many ways. I had to get used to new modes of learning. I was also constantly reminded during lectures about the limitations of the ageing body and the ageing brain. But thank you for making the journey so much smoother and fun too.

After the convocation ceremony, with my son-in-law Dr Ansgar Cheng, my elder daughter Moon, and my two older granddaughters Allie and Hana.
Coming from Malaysia, I am always seeking diversity, especially in education. It would be hard to find much diversity in Malaysia’s public universities. But here in NTU, I can’t ask for a more diverse cohort than the pioneer batch of AG, in age, ethnicity, personality, background, and even values and opinions! They make for a rich and rewarding learning experience.

I have worked with 23 of you in various group assignments, and others in class group discussions. We have been through ups and downs together, happy times and not so happy ones. They have all served to strengthen our bond of friendship. Thanks to FM, we also have tons of photos and videos to remind us of the year we spent together.


If we had awards to give out, I know who some of the winners would be. Let's see if you agree with my choice: Ibnu for favorite group presenter, Smitha most active participation in class, Parthiban best wefie photographer, Lai Ying best actress, CK best actor, Jamilah best script writer and director, Cheng best story-teller, and for Outstanding Performance in multiple roles, the winner, hands down, two thumbs up goes to Foong Ming!

On a more serious note, there is much for me to take back to Malaysia. Thanks to what I have learned about leadership from Dr Steward Arnold, and from all the lecturers in Continuum of Care, I intend to use my qualifications and my voice to advocate for the rights of older people, and to push for improvements in the healthcare system.

The biggest challenge I will probably face is age discrimination. But I will not let that faze me.

Relieved that my speech drew laughter and applause. Dr Arnold had expected it to be 'funny and entertaining'. I hope it lived up to his expectations. 

What advice can I give you to take away? Only what I have learned from my own life experience. It has worked for me, and I hope it will work for you too.

First, never let age stop you from pursuing your dreams. Even when you have retired, you can still live your dreams. Take Tun Dr Mahathir. At 93 he has returned as PM, with renewed resolve to get the country back on track and achieve his Vision 2020!

Second, you need passion to achieve your dreams. Passion is like a magnet. If it is strong enough, it will attract the right people who will provide you with the resources you need to turn your dreams into reality, whether it is to start your own aged care facility or design a device to help the elderly.

Finally, it’s about giving back to society. If we have been blessed with a loving family, a beautiful home and enough in the bank to live comfortably, there are others out there who are not as blessed. There are already many earth angels among you here working in hospitals, nursing homes and social services. Keep it up. One day you too will need looking after, and you will appreciate every bit of help.


To our lecturers, thank you for mentoring us, for listening to our views and giving us advice where it matters to improve our assignments. I have thoroughly enjoyed the flipped classroom activities, the action learning journals, and the class presentations, although at the time we all moaned about them.

I recall my very first class was ‘Ageing, Death and Dying’. My mom would have said ‘Choy! Tai ket lei si!’(euphemistically translated from Cantonese to mean how inauspicious!). But I learned so much from the course.

By the way, Andy, I was supposed to start my speech with five seconds of mindfulness. But my Tibetan bells are still in KL. Besides, we don’t want to be too mindful today. Just eat, drink and make merry. Never mind the calories. Now is not the time for caloric restriction!

Let me leave you with sincere wishes for your good health. May your telomeres remain long, may your electrolytes be PH-balanced and may your brain cells never atrophy. For sure we will meet again and again over the years. It will be a joy to see how gracefully we age, as we apply what we have learned in our Gerontology courses.

My course-mates including the part-timers with some of our many lecturers. Photo taken at our convocation lunch in the library, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in Novena, Singapore.

Footnote:
What I learned from the program is much too long to list here, but suffice to say the following are of special interest to me:

  • Mental health in the elderly, specifically Alzheimer's Disease
  • Gerontechnology - assistive devices to help the elderly
  • Continuum of care - from hospitals & nursing homes to independent living & home care
  • Active, healthy lifestyle for seniors
  • The Arts as therapy - music, dance, painting
  • Policy & Advocacy for the rights of older people
  • Building age-friendly cities
(Photo credit: Wee Teck Hian)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

REACHING OUT THROUGH MUSIC

Really glad I decided to drop by at Singapore Conference Hall yesterday. It was my first time there and my first time listening to the Teng Ensemble. Worthwhile skipping lunch for this musical treat. And what a feast it turned out to be. The free concert was also to acknowledge Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) donation of $350,000 to 20 social service organisations through its SPH Foundation. This presentation is done annually to support charities that serve families in need, as well as senior citizens and special needs children.

Reaching out through the Arts is an effective way to raise funds and offer financial assistance and psycho-social support to NGOs doing charity work. Music, in particular, cuts across boundaries and unites people in the enjoyment it brings.

The concert was open to the public. As it was a weekday, most of the attendees were senior citizens and specially invited charities among them Lions Befrienders, Minds and Rainbow Centre.

Waiting for the doors to open. I was there an hour early. The queue was already building up.
More waiting inside the purpose-built hall. The acoustics are amazing. Elder-friendly facilities too.
If you enjoy popular songs, you will be well-entertained by the Teng Ensemble. They have added a touch of western flavor to well-loved Chinese and Malay songs which I thought was music fusion at its creative best. The two emcees were excellent, and added a touch of humor that resonated with the audience of mostly senior citizens.

Here are a few video clips for your listening pleasure.







Thank you, Teng Ensemble, for a most entertaining performance. You guys were superb! So were Lily Goh and Miss Lou.
Upcoming performances at Singapore Conference Hall. Check out Singapore Chinese Orchestra's home page at https://www.sco.com.sg/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/singapore.chinese.orchestra/
SCO's vision and mission are deserving of applause.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES


Gotta give it to these Singapore seniors. They certainly know how to live the good life in their golden years. This was evident when they turned up in full force to have a good time at the Fab Four Beatles Tribute held at Serangoon Gardens Country Club last night. Another sold-out event by Jimmy Preslee Productions.

After the 6-course dinner, the Fab Four are ready to take the packed room on a musical journey back to the 1960s and 70s.

This wasn't the first time the Fab Four had performed in Singapore and Malaysia but it was my first time listening to them live and seeing them up close. They are probably the closest we can get to a Beatles concert experience. What a blast from the past it turned out to be. Two thumbs up to the band. They soon had the audience warmed up for a massive singalong and dancethon. Everyone enjoyed themselves so much they wouldn't let the band go. In the end we were treated to an extra 30 minutes of great music. Thanks, Fab Four!


The band played chart-toppers from the Beatles' first album, With the Beatles (1963) to the final one, Abbey Road (1969). Who could ever forget the lyrics of Imagine, Hey Jude or Obladi Oblada? No memory loss here, and definitely no signs of Alzheimer's from the enthusiastic crowd!



After the break the Fab Four returned in colourful outfits straight from the cover of Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. They played When I'm 64 from the album and everyone sang along with each word resonating with them. The band continued with more hits from other Beatles albums - Back in the USSR, Please Please Me, Eight Days a Week, and more.


In the special tribute to The Bee Gees, the band removed their Sergeant Peppers costumes to sing a string of hits including Staying Alive, Words, Massachusetts. Needless to say, every song received strong vocal support from the audience!





The Fab Four's last song Twist and Shout drew more happy feet onto the dance floor. What a night! What a band! And what memories their songs evoked! A round of applause to Jimmy Preslee Productions for bringing in the Fab Four and giving us an opportunity to relive those good old days of rock and roll. We are all still very much young at heart.

Me with Jimmy and his lovely wife Judy. 

Jimmy Preslee Productions has another not-to-be missed concert coming up in August. Tickets are already on sale and going fast. Glad I have got mine. Am looking forward eagerly to another evening of unforgettable golden oldies this time from the era of King Elvis performed by award-winning ETA Doug Church. See you there!

PS: For a look at the fun we had at last year's 'All Shook Up - Elvis 40th Anniversary', just click on the link below, and be there for this year's tribute on 16/17 August, same venue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A GROWING COMMUNITY OF SENIORS FOR SENIORS


With a permanent resolution at the policy stage far from sight, several parties have taken to forming support groups and outreach programmes to educate seniors in living a more fulfilling and healthier life.

“When you retire, it is not the end of life. Life goes on. You must stay active for your own sanity and health,” says SeniorsAloud.com founder Lily Fu, who is sodden in sweat after her weekly line dancing session. The 67-year-old joining the troupe in 2008.

The blog describes the group as a “community of seniors for seniors”. Fu, who was just entering her sixties then, started the blog in 2008 to empower her community in their retirement. Her motivation was to ensure that seniors do not languish in their retirement.

“It is very important to be actively engaged in life, even in your retirement years,” says the grandmother of five. “I always encourage senior citizens to make new friends and keep in touch with their old ones. Together, they can do something meaningful and contribute to society.

“One thing a lot of retirees have is time. They should not just stay at home and look after their grandchildren round the clock. They must have something to look forward to. If they love cooking and gardening, the internet is a great tool. There are a lot of recipes and gardening tips online.”

She sees it as a form of safety net for the aged community to generate provisional income. It can be something as simple as selling homemade delicacies to using their expertise and experience.

Through the SeniorsAloud community, she alerts the members, who are mostly baby boomers, of threats or scams and warns them against falling prey to unscrupulous schemes. “This is especially prevalent among newly retired seniors, who have a lump sum stashed away. Since they want to bankroll their cash so it can be sustainable, it makes them easy targets of scammers.”

In Fu’s experience, seniors who have the most difficulty adjusting to a slower pace of life are normally those who used to be in the C-Suite. “They are so used to having their personal assistants do everything for them that they might not know how to book an air ticket or fill the car with petrol. It is a lot of re-learning for former top executives.”

Through her blog, Fu approaches the topic of living thriftily based on her own experiences. She advocates learning about inflation, currency depreciation and the concept of starting a second career.

“People are living longer, so the money they put away for their golden years is just not enough to cover their needs. Nowadays, the third age is loosely defined because a lot of us cannot afford to retire. Many people go into semi-retirement as their savings in the Employees Provident Fund are far from enough to cover the living expenses of retirement years,” she says.

Fu recommends re-skilling courses for seniors looking for opportunities to go back into the workforce. “By learning new things such as how to write a better resumé and how to use social media platforms like LinkedIn to promote ourselves, we stand a better chance.”

Coming from a well-educated and independent background, Fu observes that retirees are not keen on spending their golden years relying on their children. There has been a notable change in their outlook, she says, as many are considering retirement living instead.

“People at my age, we are educated, we are professionals. We are not like our mothers’ generation. They have more conservative and traditional views, while we expect a certain lifestyle,” she says with a glint in her eye as she talks about her ideal retirement lifestyle.

While some of the elderly live on their own by choice and others by circumstances, most do not want to live on their own and yet do not want to live with their children.

“I have an inner circle of female friends. When we cross our eighties, we plan to rent a three-bedroom apartment and share a common living room and kitchen. We plan to share the expense of having a live-in nurse or domestic helpers too,” says Fu.

From her interaction with like-minded seniors, she says there is enthusiastic interest in good retirement homes. Housing developers in Malaysia are starting to notice that there is potential in the aged-care sector with a few retirement villages launched in the past few years.

“The potential buyers of retirement homes want to live in a more self-contained area. Mont’Kiara, for example, is the perfect place for retirement living. But not everyone can afford to live there,” Fu notes.

In an ideal setting, a retirement village should be complete with easy-access services for the elderly with lower mobility such as shuttle service, clinics, security, banks and convenience stores.

Fu stresses that retirement living is not just for those in the higher income bracket, so developers should also look at retirement homes for the middle and low-income groups. “I think there is a huge market for these groups. For the low-income group, there can be a low-cost retirement condominium, and one of the floors could serve as community centre, where all the elderly could gather for activities and classes. A day care centre for the elderly could also be set up,” she says.

“It is very risky to leave senior citizens alone at home. They risk falling down or having a heart attack, and loneliness could lead to depression,” Fu says, recalling the time her mother sustained a fall when she was home alone.

Fu believes that government intervention is necessary as Malaysia rapidly becomes an ageing society. Without the necessary laws and policies, the elderly continue to live perilously.

Her frustration stems from the lack of basic requirements like non-standardised pavements, the poor upkeep of walkways and deplorable state of community centres in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. “One of the ways people could help senior citizens stay active is through community centres. Many activities and classes for the elderly could have been done in these centres. But our community centres are not well maintained; it is such a waste,” Fu exclaims.


(The above is an extract from the original article that first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on Dec 21 - 27, 2015 under the title 'Living the good life in your golden years (Part 2)' by Pathma Subramaniam and Maxine Yong. Images and links have been added for this extract.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

WHEN ADULT CHILDREN ABUSE THEIR ELDERLY PARENTS


How many of us are guilty of elder abuse? If the truth be told, all of us would admit to some degree of guilt. We shudder with horror and disbelief when we read in the papers about caregivers in nursing homes physically abusing the elderly residents in their care.

We cannot fathom how anyone could cause pain and injury to frail and defenseless old people. We would never do anything like that to hurt the very people we are supposed to look after and care for.


But elder abuse is not just physical. It encompasses financial and psychological abuse as well. Guess who are guilty of such abuse? Who are the usual suspects? The answer - adult children.

When adult children exploit their elderly parents for their own financial gains, that's abuse too. Examples include compelling their parents to prematurely sign over ownership of the family property to them, or transferring shares to their names.

For whatever reasons, these children can't wait to inherit from their parents. That would take too long. I know of cases where elderly parents have been evicted from their own home by their children. Money over-rules blood ties.

Perhaps the most common abuse is emotional and psychological. Most of the time we are not even aware that we have hurt the feelings of our elderly parents. In moments of stress, anger or frustration , we lose our patience with them. We chide them, belittle them, even threaten them with the possibility of packing them off to an old folks home.

If we do not want our children to treat us this way, then we should not treat our aged parents this way. Let us set a good example by according our parents and all elderly the respect they deserve. We exist because of them. We are who we are today because of them. We owe them a lifetime of gratitude and love.

Last Sunday, we celebrated Father's Day. It is a timely reminder that while we celebrate with joy Father's Day and Mother's Day, we should also remember to honor our parents in their old age, and treat them with respect and dignity.

Filial Piety is becoming rare these days. Countries such as Singapore and India have implemented the Maintenance of Parents Act whereby parents can report their adult children to a tribunal for failure to provide financial support and care. When adult children face problems in their business or marriage, it is easy to take out their frustrations on their elderly parents who are vulnerable and unable to stand up for themselves. Life becomes unbearable for their elderly parents. It is no wonder many say they prefer to die than suffer at the hands of their own children.

One day, it will be our turn to experience old age. Will we fall victim to elder abuse? Not if we raise awareness of this despicable social disease, not if we raise our children to respect our elders. We can be good examples by showing our children how we care for our parents.


Footnote: This is an updated version of an earlier article posted in June 2014.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

IS QING MING A DYING TRADITION?


I grew up barely knowing my father. I only saw him during weekends. But every year when Qing Ming comes around, I am reminded of him. I was nine when he passed away. For many years after his demise, I dutifully joined the family to pay our respects at his graveside during Qing Ming. But when I left to further my studies, and especially after I moved to KL in 1971, those annual visits became fewer and fewer, and eventually they ceased altogether. (Photo source: Straits Times)

My father's grave is still there in the Chinese cemetary outside the small town of Bakri on the outskirts of Muar. It is marked by a tombstone with his portrait and name in Chinese characters on it. My brother Henry and his wife have faithfully continued with the visits during Qing Ming, and I plan to join them on their next visit. My other siblings have converted to Christianity and they prefer to remember Father in their own way.

This year Qing Ming falls on 5 April. Thousands of Chinese Malaysians and Singaporeans who practise ancestral worship will observe this day by making the annual visit to the burial grounds of their dearly-departed kin. It is a mark of filial piety to pay their respects to their ancestors with prayers and offerings of food. Family members also take the opportunity to spruce up the burial area. This explains why Qing Ming is also referred to as "Tombsweeping Day".

Perhaps most fascinating of the Qing Ming rituals is the burning of papier mache offerings. Over the years, these paper mache offerings have changed in keeping with the trends. I recall decades ago witnessing the burning of this huge paper replica of a mansion. The patriach of a family supermarket in my neighbourhood had passed away at a ripe old age. His children wanted to make sure their father would live in luxury in his after life.

A papier mache mansion all ready to be burnt as an offering to the deceased.
At the time as I was watching the 'mansion' make its way up in smoke to the other world, I thought about my father. He was in his late 30s when he passed away in 1957. I remember my grandma made sure we burnt offerings of paper money - lots of it, in silver and gold, also replicas of his favorite clothes, food and his reading glasses. She wanted to make sure my dad would be comfortable and would always have money to spend in the other world. He was her only son.

Today, being well-provided for takes on a new definition. It is no longer about sending necessities to the beloved deceased. The trend now is to go for paper replicas of luxury items like an iPad, LV bags, jade and gold jewelry, a BMW, and even a yacht! Apparently the rituals at some burial sites have taken on a modern flavour, with dancing girls as shown in the image below forwarded by a friend.


I was in Chinatown, Petaling Street a few weeks ago hoping to find that little shop which used to make paper offerings for Qing Ming. It was no longer there. In fact, it had closed down many years ago. Not surprising. Making paper offerings for the departed is a dying craft, literally.

With the younger generation losing interest in the old ways, Chinese traditions and customs will soon disappear into the history books. There might come a day when Qing Ming will no longer be observed if Chinese parents of today do not pass it down to their children.

In land scarce Singapore, for example, land has become such a premium that the government has taken back cemetary land for redevelopment. Graves have been exhumed and the affected families notified well in advance. Today only the Choa Chu Kang cemetary is left. Columbariums will soon meet a similar fate as more families opt for the ashes of their dearly beloved to be scattered at sea or in flower beds as in green burials. Graveyards as we know them will be a thing of the past.

Whether that is a sad thing or not is debatable, I suppose. The dead must give way to the living, and the living find new ways to remember the dead, as in converting ashes to wearables e.g. rings, pendants or decorative items. Life must go on. But the memory of loved ones who have left us will remain in our hearts.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

LIVING A FULFILLING LIFE


In February 2017 I gave a talk at the launch of The Senior magazine at Petrosains KLCC. I was then the editor of the magazine. It was my second time speaking at the venue. The first was on the topic 'Staying Relevant in the Digital Age', and the second was on 'Active Living for Seniors'. The Facebook memory I received this morning (March 1, 2018) reminded me of the talk. So I am sharing the slides here for those who missed the talk.


Here's the first slide (above), and a question for the readers - Do you agree retirement is the best time to enjoy life? I can almost hear the YES and NO.

The response would depend very much on whether we have laid the foundation for a successful retirement. If the roots of a sapling do not get enough of the right nutrients, the sapling will not grow into a strong and sturdy tree that will withstand the vagaries of the weather.


Likewise, for our retirement years to be truly golden, we must ensure these six pillars (roots) are firm enough to buttress us against the challenges of our later years. The six pillars: good health, financial security, strong relationships with our family and friends, community service, a belief system to keep us grounded, and lifelong learning to help us grow and improve.


If we do not have all six pillars in place, or if some of these pillars are weak, we need to shore them up. Insufficient savings? Work on a plan to generate some income or cut back on spending. Too old to do the things we have always wanted to do? Says who? Age is just a number that Father Time has given us. It does not define who we are, or what we want to be. We are the drivers controling the steering wheel of our lives.


Retire from work, but do not retire from life. Live life to the fullest or see it pass us by. The march of time seems merciless as we enter our later years. It is as if the countdown had begun as soon as we hit our 70s, never mind the research studies that show longevity is on the rise as evident in a new demographic category of super-centenarians worldwide - those aged 100 and above. Do we want to make each moment count, and fill it with happy experiences? Or do we want to withdraw from family, friends and the world outside, and fill our days with regret and remorse, and all the bitterness of a life that could have been otherwise. What a sheer waste of precious moments as the clock ticks away the minutes.


So get rid of the doldrums and go out. Feel the sunshine and the breeze on your skin. Take time to smell the roses, play with your grandchildren. Recharge. Be grateful that you can get up in the morning to greet another new day. Growing old is a privilege not everyone gets to experience.


Have fun, travel, explore, discover. This is the time to spend on yourself. Be selfish. The above photo is one of my all-time favorites taken at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore in May 2015. A total of 40 members from SeniorsAloud and U3A (KL and Sgor) went on this 3D2N trip. There was so much to see, do and learn. A truly diverse group of Malaysian seniors spending a fun weekend together.


No need for us to look across the oceans for an inspiring role model of graceful ageing. Right here on our shores we have our former PM's wife, YB Toh Puan Dr Siti Hasmah, 92 now, to show us how we should live life in our retirement years. We are never too old to pick up new skills. All it takes is a change of mindset and attitude. The world is our oyster if we let it be.


One of the biggest fears of growing old is loneliness and abandonment. This comes from the perception that older people are useless and unproductive. Harbouring such thoughts and feelings can lead to depression, and in some cases, to suicidal tendencies in the elderly. The best way to dispel such negative thoughts and pessimism is to be active. An idle mind is the devil's workshop, right? Join a seniors club or volunteer with an NGO that resonates with you. For a start, why not sign up for courses with University of the Third Age (U3A)? Not only will you widen your circle of friends, you will also enjoy the fun of learning new skills with your peers in a non-threatening environment, without the stress of exams and assignments!


The ladies above signed up for U3A acrylic painting course as beginners. They soon discovered they had a flair for painting. The result - an acrylic art exhibition of their masterpieces held in Putrajaya. Goes to show that we are never too old to learn new skills, never too late to unearth our potential. Think of the sense of pride and achievement these ladies must have felt. We can all be like them. Take the initiative to explore new horizons. Be fearless. Never let our age stop us from trying new things that interest us.


When we spend our retirement years living a sedentary lifestyle, our muscles will soon atrophy. We will start complaining of aches and pains all over. And before we even reach our 70s, we have become dependent on all kinds of aids, from walking aids to hearing aids and every other aid in between. It's time to get up from our armchair and exercise. Don't fancy exercising on your own? Round up some friends for a qigong session, or join a group like Mrs Jagjeet's Nordic Walkers.


There are also groups that organize hiking-camping-cycling trips. Take your pick. Go google, or search Facebook to find out where these groups meet and how you can join them. Making resolutions to lose weight, eat well and exercise regularly produces no results, if they remain as resolutions. Translate your resolutions and good intentions into action to see results.


Nothing like spending time outdoors in the early mornings or late evenings doing exercises to keep fit. Above are some members of Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) brisk walking in Taman Jaya park a few Sundays ago. In another section of the park was a group of old friends enjoying a quiet board game. Good friends provide a strong support system in our old age. Cherish their friendship.


Don't fancy the physical demands of hiking or cycling? Take up gardening like SeniorsAloud member Keats (above). Mowing the grass, raking dry leaves, carrying flower pots and weeding all help to strengthen our muscles and improve our flexibility. There's also the added joy of eating the fruits of your hard work if you have a garden of fruits, herbs or vegetables. Urban farming is gaining popularity among city residents. U3A offers short courses on hydroponics, kitchen garden and mushroom cultivation in some semesters.


Not only should we take care of our physical health, but also our mental health. Use it or lose it applies to our brain as well. Board games are great as mental exercises, so are doing crossword puzzles, sudoku and playing mahjong. All these help us to maintain our mental acuity and hopefully keep Alzheimer's at bay. Above are members of SeniorsAloud enjoying a mentally stimulating game of Math Magic. The board game was invented by Malaysian Jimmy Yeoh.


The ladies of senior citizens clubs love to dance. We just wish the guys shared the same interest. No matter, as long as the ladies are having fun, the guys are content to sit and watch. Dancing is an enjoyable way to exercise the body. It is liberating as well. The above photo was taken at SeniorsAloud's 'Golden Memories' dinner and dance in 2015. Our 10th anniversary dinner is coming up in October. Do join us to celebrate this milestone.


Passion and Compassion - these two values have been at the core of SeniorsAloud's existence from its very beginning in May 2008. Working hard to extend SeniorsAloud's reach and promote an active lifestyle for seniors has been my passion since I retired in 2004. I am blessed to have a dedicated team of volunteers to support me for our events and projects. Our passion spills over into compassion for others that need a helping hand. We believe firmly that volunteerism adds meaning and purpose to life. There are so many ways we can contribute to community service. Just find the one you are comfortable with, and that works best for you.


For SeniorsAloud we have chosen to help by setting up a small initiative to look into appeals for assistance from the elderly or from NGOs that serve the elderly. Above are some of our past community service efforts made possible with funds raised at our annual dinners. Consider joining our SeniorsAloud Volunteer Group (SVG). Alone we can do only so much, but together we can do more.


Given the platform to speak on active ageing to an audience of senior citizens, I could not pass up the opportunity to promote SeniorsAloud and U3A at the launch. These are probably the most active senior citizens groups on social media in Malaysia. So it should be easy for anyone interested to get in touch with SeniorsAloud or U3A to join their activities. Just google. By the way, U3A semester 2018 starts soon. Registration Day is Sat 3 March 2018. Course enrolment is on a first come basis.


The above are the slides from my 30-min talk, with notes added. If you would like to know more about any of the groups or activities mentioned here, contact SeniorsAloud at info@seniorsaloud.com. We are committed to promoting active living for senior citizens, and will put you in touch with the relevant people in charge of these groups.

(This article has been updated from the original posted on Feb 28, 2017.)