Wednesday, June 27, 2018


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 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


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.