Monday, December 28, 2020


The interview was conducted over Zoom on 7 Dec. The podcast was up on BFM website the next day at 2pm. It gave me an opportunity to talk about my film 'Meniti Senja' which would premiere on 10 Dec as the opener of the 18th Freedom Film Festival 2020.


The text below is taken from BFM website

Come 2056, Malaysia will be a “super-aged society”, with over 20 percent of its population above the age of 65, according to a recent study by The World Bank. On the show today, we first explore the new challenges that Malaysia will face, as a super-aged society, before honing in on a specific challenge - aged care. For this, we speak to local first-time filmmaker, Lily Fu, whose film Meniti Senja focuses on Malaysian seniors who have been abused, exploited and abandoned in their twilight years.

This film is being screened as part of the FreedomFilmFest, the international human rights documentary and social film festival, which will be held online this year, kicks off from the 10th, and will run until the 13th of December. There are loads of other film screenings, which will also explore the theme of being "the other." For more information, do head to

To listen to the podcast, click on this link below:

Sunday, December 20, 2020


It is not often I write a book review but I am making an exception for Mrs Jagjeet Singh's book 'My 7 Secrets to Staying Young'. After reading the book (written in just two months during the Covid-19 stay-home period), I want to encourage everyone to read it too. The gems contained in it will enrich our lives in so many meaningful ways. The beautiful cover with the intriguing title attracts curiosity and interest. How often do we come across an author who looks and feels this fabulous at 80, and is happy to share how we can all be like her - radiant, bursting with good health and joie de vivre. 

I love how Mrs J (as she is popularly known) wrote the book as part memoir, part self-help manual, part academic research. Indeed a refreshing new genre that makes the book an entertaining read for many. It is written in a simple conversational style that is easy for the reader to follow and enjoy, and absorbing enough to want to finish it at one sitting.  

Mr and Mrs J with their five grandchildren

The pages are packed with photos of Mrs J's family and friends, and of memorable events from her childhood, teaching career, marriage, parenthood and finally grandparenthood. Through it all, Mrs J weaves a narrative that touches us as well as enlightens us. We journey with her as she draws us into her worries, her fears and her triumphs. It is a written record of an amazing life, filled with joys and tears, achievements and disappointments. The book is her legacy. 

Her experiences are not that different from ours. However, how many of us can honestly say we have learned from our experiences and have no regrets? Mrs J believes that every setback is an opportunity for us to learn from and do better next time. With purpose, perseverance, positivity and most of all, passion, nothing can stop us from achieving our goals. Just as how her 'cartilageless knees' did not stop her from hiking and mountain trekking. Indeed it was her knee pain that drove her to take up Nordic Walking in 2012. It has since become an integral part of her exercise regime and lifestyle. Mrs J is Malaysia's first certified coach for Nordic Walking. 

There are tips on health, wellness and wellbeing (exercise, keep moving, fuel for the brain and body), what to eat (Mrs J avoids the 5 whites), how to keep the romance burning in marriage (plenty of touch and oodles of love!), the importance of social connections (let's get together and celebrate life), how to keep stress at bay (adopt a positive attitude) and so much more. 

Each nugget of advice is backed not only by Mrs J's personal experience, but also by meticulous research. Each chapter is peppered with copious sprinkling of inspirational quotes. Mrs J is proof that all her tips work. Those of us who were at SeniorsAloud's recent interview with her on Zoom would have seen Mrs J glowing with robust health and radiating a zest for life all through the 90-min session. Seeing is believing, right? No gimmicks, no filters, just Mrs J as she is - live on screen. By the way, she shared that she uses coconut oil for her skin. Must be more effective than any branded moisturiser, judging from her smooth complexion. Barely a wrinkle in sight. 

What we must have is the will power to apply what Mrs J shares with us in her book. Our perennial problem - we read, we listen but we don't do. Knowledge in itself is passive. It only brings results when applied. And what do we want in life but to enjoy longevity in great health and be at peace with ourselves? Isn't that what we hope for upon retirement? To transit well-prepared into our golden years, which is where Mrs J is now. "These are the best years of my life," she says, "and I am blessed to share them with a loving spouse. Mr and Mrs J just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary looking like newly married lovebirds in photos posted on her facebook page. 

The book is for the men too. In fact it is for all ages and genders as living a long life in good health is ultimately everyone's goal. Do we have the will power to achieve it as Mrs J has done? She writes that a visit to the hospital is a wake-up call, an eye-opener to the number of people who are suffering from chronic illnesses. That should be motivation enough to get us started on applying all that Mrs J has generously shared with us - her 7 secrets to staying young. That would be the true legacy of her book.

Mrs J's book is self-published and not available at bookstores. To get a copy of Mrs J's book, whatsapp her at 012-200 5276. It is RM50 a copy. Add Rm10 for courier charges. You may also arrange to pick up a copy at specified locations. The book makes an excellent gift. Very limited copies left, so do contact Mrs J asap. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


For this blog post, I have selected to address an issue that many of us seniors here in Malaysia and Singapore are familiar with - a reluctance to ask our doctors for more information even when we want to know more.

Perhaps it's to do with our Asian culture of keeping quiet especially when in the presence of someone with expert knowledge like doctors. We put doctors on a high pedestal. We pay homage to them. After all they have spent years poring over medical tomes and having to pass exams after exams. So who are we to ask for more information or question them? 

Doctors are busy people with little time to listen to us. Especially doctors in public hospitals and clinics. There is an endless queue of patients waiting outside each consultation room. Consider ourselves lucky if the doctor spends more than 10 minutes with us. They are often overworked and the least we want to do is add to their stress. 

It's different at private hospitals. The specialists will spend a bit more time but at a cost to us. So we try not to take up too much of the doctor's valuable time in case it adds to the charges later. Besides, we don't want to show our ignorance with our questions, or let on that we have some anxiety and doubts about the efficacy of the medication that was prescribed if it is a follow-up visit. 

Most times we don't quite understand their explanations or instructions. Doctors should be able to explain to a patient in layman's language. We tend to forget much of the details as soon as we leave the consultation room.  A common experience among patients, especially older ones.

And so we let pass the opportunity to ask questions while in the doctor's room, only to go home and berate ourselves for not asking what all these prescription drugs are for, if it's okay to take them together with traditional medicines, or what the side effects are, if any. We call up the clinic. We would be lucky if our call gets through. And if it does, chances are the nurse will inform us the doctor is with a patient and can't take our call. Or he is at surgery or on leave.

So the next time we see our doctor, we should bring up any questions that are troubling us. Best to write them down so we won't forget. Go prepared not only with questions but with whatever medical records, xrays or documents in case the doctor wants to refer to them, especially if you are seeing another doctor for a second opinion. How many times have we answered 'I'm not sure' or 'I don't remember' when the doctor asks us about our past medical history. Better communication between us and our doctor leads to better care for us. 

Here are the 10 questions we might want to ask our doctor. The list is by no means exhaustive. 

1. What is the cause of my illness?
2. What is the test for?
3. When will I get the results?
4. Why do I need this treatment?
5. What can happen if I don't take this treatment?
6. Are there any alternatives?
7. What are the possible complications?
8. Are there any side effects of the medication?
9. Will this medicine interact with medicines that I'm already taking?
10. Are cheaper options available?

If for some reason we need to look for a new doctor, we would do well to take a look at this website for the 17 questions to ask when choosing a new doctor.

Do watch this 7-minute video above that features patients and clinicians discussing the importance of asking questions and sharing information.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


We are familiar with the 'New Normal' and have adjusted to it quite well. There is also another New Normal going around. This is the rise of a new generation of older people - the baby boomers, born between 1946 to 1964, the post-WW2 boom years. They are now aged 56 to 74. They have had the benefit of education, a good career and are now reaping the rewards of years of hard work. 

These septuagenarians and octogenarians are giving 'old age' a brand new meaning and image. Thanks to advances in medicine, science and technology, the New 'Old' are fitter, healthier and looking much younger than their counterparts from their parents' generation. And their numbers are growing, worldwide. 

Remember Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal in the 1970 movie 'Love Story'? She was so pretty and he was so handsome, and both were so young then. She was 30, and Ryan 28. Half a century has passed. They are now 80 and 78. From their pictures above, both have aged remarkably well. 

Which begs the question - why do some people age better than others? What do they do that is different? Is it the genes they have inherited? 

Let us look at more examples of the New 'Old' to get some answers.

These grandmas (see below), all in their 60s, caused a sensation when videos of them sashaying along the city streets in Beijing began circulating on the internet. Grandmas are not supposed to look this glamorous. They are breaking all the rules in the Handbook on Ageing. As one of them says, "If you are always afraid of death and ageing, your life is grey. So you need to face it (ageing) with positivity." Well said indeed.


Here's another Beijing sensation - Wang Deshun. Hard to believe he is 84 this year. A bare-chest picture of him strutting down the catwalk turned him into an overnight household name in China, and thanks to social media, his fame has spread worldwide. Passion plays a huge role in Deshun's journey to being fit and in top physical form. When we have a burning passion, a goal in our lives, it becomes the driving force for us to want to age well so that we can achieve our goal. 

It's not just about looking fabulous. It's also about having the stamina and energy to run a marathon, to cycle cross-country, to climb mountains. Or just boogie-woogie! Meet German couple Dietmar, 73, and Nellia, 67. They can outlast and outclass younger couples on the dance floor. Their dance videos are trending on YouTube. Watching them doing all those age-defying twists and turns leaves us breathless and wondering how they can be so flexible and energetic. Most people their age would be feeling aches and pain in their joints. Their secret? They have been dancing since they were teenagers. It's all about getting an early start to being active, and maintaining it through the years. A daily regime of exercise strengthens our immune system and protects our body against frailty. Dancing is definitely a very enjoyable form of exercise. 


We have our own crop of New Age grandmas and grandpas too. Here are some of them. Don't they look fabulous! 

First up is this youthful couple, Mr and Mrs Jagjeet Singh. He is 87 and she is 80. Such a picture of glowing health and marital harmony. Mrs J, as she is fondly referred to, recently wrote her first book. She did it in just two months during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now isn't that excellent use of extended stay-home time? I am eagerly waiting to read about her seven secrets to staying young. She does Nordic walking daily to keep fit, and watches what she eats.

And there is Judy Chong-Lee. Would you believe she is a 67-year old grandma? She could easily pass for a university student. For married couples, Judy has this to say, "If there's a formula for looking and feeling good in addition to a healthy diet, exercise and sleep, it is also doing our best to look good for our spouse and give each other TLC in words, thoughts and deeds. And if there is any argument or quarrel, the remedy is instant forgiveness and reconciliation." Excellent advice.

Another awe-inspiring New 'Old' is Yusuf Hashim, 75. He retired at 53 and has been living life to the hilt since. When you listen to how he has been spending his retirement years (see video below), you can't help but feel a tad envious. A gypsetter (his own word for who he is), his love of adventure has taken him to all corners of the world. He has visited remote and exotic places that we can only dream about or appreciate vicariously through the beautiful photos he has taken of his travels. (I just listened to an interview where he shares his views on a wide range of topics. He makes a lot of sense, at least to me.)

In 2017, I had the opportunity to interview Team Strong Silver (TSS) in Singapore. Formed in 2013, TSS comprises core members Ng Bee Kia, 71, Ngai Hin Kwok, 68 and Ng Siu Chi, 58, who was away at the time of the interview. Now three years on, they are still working their muscles and doing daily calisthenics – gymnastic exercises that use one’s own body strength. If there was a Seniors edition of Men's Health magazine, TSS would be a shoo-in for the cover. Their well-toned sculpted bodies are the envy of men decades younger than them, and I bet also secretly admired by the ladies. Check out the interview and photos here.

Think only young people dance to Jerusalema? Think again. Here are my senior lady friends and I doing the latest dance craze last month (Sept). Four minutes of sweaty fun repeated several times makes for an enjoyable workout, not to mention the social connection that comes with each session - chats over coffee or tea and a piece of cake or two. Our seniors know the importance of having friends to hang out with or just to share stories. This helps to keep our spirit up and drives away any hint of depression.

So where is that elusive fountain of youth that we can take a sip or two from? Guess what? It's right here, within ourselves and in the great outdoors. 

When not taking our health seriously means suffering comorbidities and high medical expenses in old age, we don't have much of a choice. It's never too late or too early to start. We can't avoid ageing and slowing down. It is part and parcel of the life-death journey. But we can do something about preventing disease and infirmity. So watch what we eat. Eat less, and eat smart. Exercise more, and regularly. And pay heed to our mental health. Know how to de-stress.

The mantra for the 'New Old' is to aim for longer health span as opposed to longer life span. We want to enjoy more healthy years and fewer years of frailty. Just remember the trinity of successful ageing and take care of each one of them: physical health, mental health and psychological health. That is the recipe for ageing well and looking great. With self-determination and support from family and friends, this goal is certainly achievable. So let's get started.

Related article: TIME FOR NEW LABELS FOR THE NEW 'OLD' (I wrote this in 2013)

(Postscript: Frankly, I have always hated the word 'old'. I prefer 'older' as in 'older people', a term I use often in my writings. It has a gentler feel about it. Besides, the definition of old age is relative to whom you ask. To children, anyone above 25 is old. But to the seniors themselves, 65 is still young enough to enjoy the best time of their lives.)

Saturday, September 5, 2020


Where the extended family used to live under one roof, today's nuclear family structure means there is no one to care for the children when both parents are out at work. So who do young married couples turn to to look after their little ones? Their parents, of course, especially if they are still active, in good health and, most important, retired.

To a couple with young children, nothing is more helpful than having supportive grandparents who are there to help as babysitters. Young mothers, in particular, can return to work after their maternity leave knowing that their little ones are in safe hands. To them, it is a far better option than leaving their children with a domestic helper or at a day-care centre.

From a young mother of two in 1973 to a grandmother of five in 2014. (Tap on pic to enlarge)

While most grandparents are ready to help out if they are able, there are some who feel they have paid their dues and done their duty as parents. It’s time their children did theirs.

Says one grandmother, 67, “No more changing diapers and dealing with toddler tantrums for me. At my age, it’s too stressful. Sure, if there’s an emergency, I’ll be there. I don’t mind playing with my grandchildren or visiting them, but hands-on babysitting? No thank you."

There are many who share the same sentiments.

On a family vacation in Phuket with Max, 6, and Reiya, 6 months. 
Photo taken in 2006.

On the other hand, there are doting grandparents who love nothing better than to help out with their grandchildren. They are also fortunate to have children who are very appreciative of their help, who do not take for granted their parents' help. When there is understanding on  both sides, grandparenting becomes a pleasure, not pressure. As grandparents, we should know when to offer our advice, and when to stay on the sidelines. Through trial and error, young parents will learn, just like we did when we were young parents ourselves, the best ways to bring up the children.

Max, 2, with my sister. Me and Max in 2018. He towers over everyone in the family.

I recall when my first grandchild was born on 28 August 2000, my younger daughter Belle was at the time helping her husband build his company. After three months maternity leave, she had to return to work. She had little choice but to approach me for help with the baby. Fortunately for her, it was the start of the year-end school holidays. I had two months to enjoy re-living my parenting days, this time as a brand new grandma.

I spent a lot of time (and patience) helping Reiya with her Kumon homework.

But it was a different story when the new school term began in January 2001. I had to start teaching again. My daughter and I didn't trust a maid or anyone else to look after four-month old Max. In the end, to my daughter's relief, I decided to take care of Max full time. The school principal was understanding enough when I requested to teach part-time. I asked for three hours of classes from 7.30am to 10.30am, Mondays to Fridays. My request was approved, and thus began my first year of grandparenting which would continue till today, albeit in a different capacity.

Allie, Max, Hana and baby Reiya. Photo taken in 2006.

My weekday routine for that whole year began with the alarm clock going off at 6.20am. I had to be in school by 7.25am in time for the first class. As soon as the bell rang for the first recess, I would rush over to my daughter's place so she could leave for work. On most days she would return home after 8pm. There were times when there was so much work in the office she would be back well after 10pm. By the time I was back in my own home and in my own bed, it would be close to midnight.

With Ryder in 2014 and in 2020. With him around, there is never a dull moment. 

I was often tired and stressed out from teaching in the morning and looking after Max the rest of the day. Changing Max's diapers, feeding him, bathing him and taking him out for walks in the stroller became the order of the day. In between I had to find time to mark assignments and prepare lesson plans. Whenever she could, my younger sister would drop by in the afternoon to help out. I remember looking forward to her visits. 

From little girls to big girls but always grandma's girls

In 2003 and 2004 my elder daughter Moon gave me two grand-daughters, Allie and Hana. As they were both born outside Malaysia, Allie in Canada and Hana in Singapore, I wasn't able to help take care of them. Moon had to quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom for Allie's first few years. When she had her second child, the family had settled in Singapore. She was fortunate to hire a very capable helper who doubled up as a nanny for both the girls. In 2006, my family welcomed baby Reiya, sister to Max. Reiya made me a happy grandma for the fourth time. In January 2014, Ryder joined the family as my youngest grandchild.

All the children are into sports. Max was a champion triathlete but has switched to muscle building. The girls are into running with Reiya into swimming as well. As for Ryder, he swims, cycles and does jiu jitsu. He excels in all three and more. 

Children grow up so fast. Max celebrated his 20th birthday on 28 August 2020. At 6 feet plus, he towers over everyone in the family. Allie is 17, Hana 16 and Reiya 14, all pretty teenagers. Then there is Ryder, 6, the little rascal and the livewire of the family. He still has a long way to go to catch up with his older siblings. But he is a sprinter as far as IQ goes. Very smart for his age.

The cousins - all share a love of art.

Looking back on those years of babysitting, I can honestly say I wouldn't trade a single day of it for anything. Of course, now that all my grandchildren are grown, I care for them in a different way. Max has just completed his first year in a university in Cologne, studying for a degree in International Business majoring in Digital Management. Allie is doing her A-levels at a boarding school in the UK. Now it's a different kind of bonding altogether. I make it a point to attend their school functions whenever I can, support them in whatever they do, and offer advice if needed. I have to remember not to compare my era of growing up with theirs. Times have changed.

Max looking after his two younger siblings. Ryder adores his big bro and looks up to him. 

There will come a time when all my grandchildren will prefer to hang out with their friends than with their grandma. Indeed, it is already the case now. l miss hearing the pitter-patter of little feet, of hearing my grandchildren squeal with delight and run to hug me when they see me at the front door. I miss their excited cries of "Grandma is here!" That's the sweetest music to my ears. My grandchildren are truly my joy and my blessings.

As for the question - "Are grandparents being taken for granted as child-minders?" Put another way, are grandparents being taken advantage of to care for the grandchildren? I can't answer for other grandparents. For me, my answer is obvious. It makes me feel good to know I played an important part in my grandchildren's growing up years. My two daughters have shown their appreciation many times over, in a thousand and one ways.

I am now in my 70s. God willing, I will see all my grandchildren graduate, and be around still to see them start their own family. With long life and good health, I will be around to play with my great grandchildren. 

PS: I love all my grandchildren dearly and equally. But each one wants to think he/she is my favourite. 😀 

Sunday, August 9, 2020


Hard times are here, and they get harder by the day. Jobs are scarce and money is even scarcer. For the elderly with no family and no financial support, it is a daily struggle to stay alive. Some have lost their contract jobs due to months of business shutdown. They are desperate to look for any kind of work but who would want to hire a senior citizen even if he was fit and capable?

Since 10 June when restrictions on movement were lifted under the RMCO, I have been spending time with the homeless and destitute elderly in downtown areas like Pasar Seni, Bukit Bintang-Imbi, and Pudu. Their numbers are increasing each day and the queues for handouts keep getting longer.

Is it possible for an elderly to live without a roof over their heads and without a dime in their pockets? Yes, and this is how they do it. Not that they want to, but many have no choice due to various circumstances beyond their control. For some, their plight is of their own making.

Some have families but shame stops them from returning to their homes. Others choose the streets over welfare shelters as they want to retain their freedom and independence.

The street elderly are mostly men. It is not safe for women to be out on the streets at night. So they share rooms in the nearby budget hotels and shophouses. With their meagre savings fast dwindling, they are aware they may have to move into welfare homes soon. Some have family homes to return to but they prefer to stay out the whole day returning just to sleep. They do not want to be an additional burden to their adult children who have their own financial commitments to take care of.

Take a walk in the downtown inner city areas any time of day. You will see the homeless sleeping at bus-stops or on cardboard pieces spread out along the five-foot ways of shuttered shops. Some have set up home under flyovers or overhead bridges. Some beg for alms, others search the trash bins for recyclables they can sell for a pittance.

Those who have been on the streets long enough know where to go for free breakfast, lunch and dinner. On weekdays Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) gives out vegetarian meals and bottles of drinking water. Samaritans like Ee Lynn and her friends have pooled their money to provide 100 food packages for their weekly food distribution downtown. There are other groups providing sustenance too. Food is not so much a problem as money.

Inset: vegetarian rice with taufu. Food donated by Ee Lynn and friends.
The hungry are grateful for these free meals and handouts which often include face masks, medicated oil and panadol. They eat sitting on the pavement, next to piles of stinky uncleared garbage with flies hovering around. At night the mosquitoes take over.

While some have marked out their territorial space along the pavements with their belongings, others are more itinerant, dragging their trolley bag of clothes and essentials from place to place. There is safety in numbers so it is common to find them congregating in groups. The solitary homeless elderly is rare.

Taking daily baths is a luxury. They wash their clothes with pails of water sourced from restaurants nearby, and leave their laundry to dry on bushes or makeshift lines. The street corners and back lanes are their urinals. Hence the overwhelming stench of pee that assails the nostrils.

Many community kitchens and NGOs providing free meals before Covid-19 have remained closed. When I heard that Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) was open for food takeaway, I dropped by on 15 July with my daughter Belle and my grandson to see how we could help. Ryder, 6, was so touched by what he saw that when he went home, he took out some money from his piggy bank and returned a few days later to give his 'ang-pow' to a 78-year old aunty who collects recyclables to sell. She earns less than Rm3 a day.

I had kept in touch with Justin Cheah, KSK program director, since my first Saturday night food distribution with KSK in 2010. I had written about it in my blog article (The kitchen that feeds all who come). Our chat that morning led to one thing and another, and concluded with SeniorsAloud stepping in to sponsor 436 food packages for the upcoming Saturday night food distribution.

Photo credit: Vivian/KSK
On Saturday, 1 August, a total of 41 volunteers, including myself, Belle and her friends Marie-Anne and Michelle, turned up at KSK at 8.30pm for a briefing before setting out with the boxes of food. The packing had been done earlier that afternoon at 3pm. Each food package consisted of vegetarian rice, sandwich, biscuits, banana and drinking water.

We were divided into groups, each with a group leader. There were seven areas in total: Pudu Market, Chow Kit, Anjung Singgah, Sentul, Brickfields, Petaling Street and Dang Wangi. These were areas where we would find homeless elderly. Our group led by Justin was given Pudu Market. All very well organised, I must say.

The night scene was quite different from the daytime one. The elderly we met seemed tougher and more acclimatised to rugged living. Some were happy to chat and share their stories, others were more reticent. Some were asleep so we quietly left the food beside them. We finished distributing all the packages by midnight.

I have been visiting the elderly downtown several times a week now. I know many of them by name and they are always eager to chat. A sign of boredom? Perhaps. They have nothing to do the whole day.

This is what I have learned about them:
  • The street elderly are very resilient and stoic. They have learned to accept and live with the vagaries of life. 
  • They have developed a strong immune system built over years of tough living on the streets.
  • Some of these street elderly are abandoned by their families. Many are single and have lost touch with their siblings.
  • They have a sense of pride. They want to work and support themselves. They do not want to depend on handouts.

  • Introduce legislation that supports filial piety, similar to the Maintenance of Parents Act in India, China and Singapore.
  • Set up more old folks homes and welfare shelters for the elderly and ensure they are properly and efficiently managed.
  • Have better coordination of food donation and distribution services to prevent wastage.
  • Establish a skills-based training centre for older people to enable them to be self-supporting.
  • Remove ageism in employment. Older people in their 50s and 60s are still capable of contributing to the economy.
  • Introduce programmes and activities that strengthen family bonding and intergenerational understanding.
  • Promote an active lifestyle so that every citizen will age well. Our health and well-being is our responsibility. Start early. Start young.

(Note: Unless otherwise acknowledged, all photos are the property of SeniorsAloud. Permission is required to use any of the photos featured here.)