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?

Friday, August 24, 2018

MY ELVIS EXPERIENCE

Glad I caught Doug Church's concert a week ago on 17 Aug at Serangoon Gardens Country Club, Singapore. Another excellent sold-out show brought in by Jimmy Preslee Productions. Backed by the band King Creole from Indonesia, Doug sang 30+ Elvis classics in the 2-hour concert with a short break in between for a costume change. He had the ladies in the audience swooning over him especially when he went around 'scarfing' the lucky ones. I happened to be one of them!

The flyer promoted Doug Church as 'The True Voice of Elvis'. If I closed my eyes and just listened to Doug, yes, it certainly felt as if the King himself was right there singing to all of us. This is probably the closest any of us there could get to an Elvis experience.

Uncanny resemblance to Elvis, down to that famous smile!
The King certainly lives on in the voices of the many Elvis Tribute Artistes (ETA) around the world. I have seen and listened to many, including Malaysia's own Elvis, the late Ricky Teoh. But the ETA crown and title go to Doug Church, hands down.

I managed to record a handful of videos before my phone battery died on me.






Jimmy gets to sing 'The Wonder of You' with Doug. Well done, Jimmy!


From left: Judy (Jimmy's wife), me, Ellen and Jimmy
Nice of Doug to oblige with group photos after the concert.
Elvis' presence lives on in Serangoon Gardens Country Club. Jimmy Preslee Productions will make sure of that. Keep us posted, Jimmy!

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.