Sunday, August 9, 2020

A DAILY STRUGGLE FOR THE CITY'S DESTITUTE ELDERLY


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.

Recommendations:
  • 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.)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

THINKING OUTSIDE THAT WOODEN BOX


We’ve heard it before: 60 is the new 40 and 70 the new 50. Yet, there are many among us senior citizens who view themselves as 60 going on 80, and 70 going on 90. They think old, look old and act old. They have OLD stamped all over their body and mind. No wonder they feel they already have one foot in the grave.

Granted death is a taboo topic in most Asian cultures, but, seriously, we all need a wake-up call sometimes before it’s too late and we are staring Death in the face. Do we want to spend the rest of our lives merely existing instead of living? The fastest way to speed up the ageing process is to think we are old and ready to expire. Sure, we all have to die one day, but that shouldn’t stop us from having fun, adventure, romance and happiness while we can still draw breath. Let's live before we leave.

These young men (my brothers and cousins) enjoying their golden years in 2008. They have retained their youthful looks and joie de vivre 12 years later in 2020.
When we think we are old, we are. Our thoughts are very powerful. They govern how we behave and react. There are folks who, upon reaching retirement age, retire not just from their jobs, but from everything that used to define who they are. They become a pale shadow of their former self, almost unrecognizable by old friends and former colleagues.

The first thing they give up is their physical appearance. In their minds, they are thinking – at my age, nobody gives me a second look, so why spend hard-earned money on unnecessary grooming. Their wardrobe consists mainly of auntie or uncle-type clothes in various funereal shades of black, brown and grey. If comfort is the reason, fine. But if they dress or act to please others, then they are allowing others to dictate how they should dress and behave as befitting their age.

Ladies from the Malaysian Menopause Society turn models for a fashion show in 2008. My first time on the catwalk. It was fun. (I am in black, centre)
Many retirees allow themselves to put on weight and wrinkles by avoiding all manner of physical activity. Their excuse – oh, at my age, I shouldn’t exert myself too much. Over time, they build up a host of health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. They become frail and sickly, and dependent on others.

They give up making an effort to keep in touch with old friends or make new ones. They spend their days mostly at home, moping around the house, and idling away the precious hours. They have no interest in anything that will improve their lives or that of others. Their favourite pastime is complaining about this and that. A close second is dwelling on the past with regret. No wonder they end up lonely, cranky, depressed and bitter. What an awful way to live their retirement years!

It’s easy to identify people who are ageing before their time. They say things like:

I’m too old to travel.
I’m too old to love again.
I’m too old to dance.
I’m too old to learn a new skill.
I’m too old to take up a course of study.
I’m too old to wear bright colours.
I’m too old to venture out on my own.
I’m too old to be outrageous.

It’s time to get rid of the ‘I’m too old to...’ mantra and replace it with a new one that's positive:

I’m still young enough to learn a new language.
I’m still young enough to welcome romance into my life.
I’m still young enough to write a book.
I’m still young enough to do the salsa.
I’m still young enough to go on an adventure trip.

I'm still young enough to....ENJOY LIFE!

We must constantly remind ourselves to make the most of our golden years, not waste them waiting for Death to knock on our doors. It's so easy to fall into the ageing trap.

‘And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.’ – Abraham Lincoln.

(This is an updated version of an article first posted here in August 2008. The original article was picked up by Asian Beacon, a Christian magazine, and published in their June-July 2011 edition.)

Monday, June 15, 2020

ABUSE HURTS AT ANY AGE


We shudder with horror and disbelief when we read in the papers about caregivers physically abusing the elderly 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.

Really?

How many of us are guilty of elder abuse? If truth be told, most of us would admit to some degree of guilt as elder abuse is not just physical. It encompasses verbal, 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. We read in the media of cases where elderly parents have been evicted from their own home by their children. Money over-rules blood ties. In a society where cash is king, and wealth equals power, the elderly without much assets to their name have no voice, no rights. They become easy victims of elder abuse.

Perhaps the most common abuse is verbal or emotional. 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 a welfare home for old folks. Of late there have been more reports of children abandoning their elderly parents in hospitals or at bus stops. Are these cases in the minority or are they the tip of the iceberg?

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.


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 ill, 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. They will learn from us.



Note: This is an updated version of an earlier article on elder abuse. If we see signs of elder abuse or know of any case, we should make a police report.  

Sunday, May 10, 2020

YES, THE FUTURE IS INCREASINGLY FEMALE


My mother, now 94, grew up in Seremban in the WWII era when women had no voice, no official role to play in society. They were the family nurturer and caregiver, roles thrusted upon them which they accepted without complaint or protest. This was long before women discovered they were multi-skilled and could handle several diverse roles equally well. Many didn't even have a say in who they wanted as their life partner. Their parents made the choice for them. (Above photo taken in 2014: four generations - my mom, me, my elder daughter and two of my grand daughters.)

My mom was widowed in her early 30s. She was left with six young children to raise. Fortunately my relatives and my paternal grandma helped to look after us while my mom was going through depression. I was the eldest and learned to shoulder responsibilities at a young age while still in primary school. 

The women from my mom's era were tough physically and mentally, often raising as many as 10 children singlehandedly, and managing all the housework without the aid of machines. It was a life of daily sweat, toil and stoicism. Their children (that's us baby boomers) have remained eternally appreciative of their mothers to this day. Just look at the thousands of heartfelt outpourings of love and gratitude in cards and stories on Mother's Day every year.

The true emanicipation of women came with the Baby Boomers. We were the first generation that had access to education including post-graduate studies. That was our gateway to jobs and financial independence. We learned to drive and that gave us the freedom to venture further afield, to explore more opportunities and to develop the spirit of adventure. But one thing never changed, and thank God for that. We have continued with our role to put family first and foremost in our life's priority list.

Along with jobs came earning power and purchasing power. Today women consumers are a formidable force that cannot be ignored. They spur growth in the market and the economy.


There is a dearth of research on the breakdown of consumer spending by gender in Malaysia. If the stats for the US are anything to go by, we will likely see a similar trend here. According to MIT AgeLab founder, Joseph Coughlin, in his 2017 book 'The Longevity Economy', women across all ages worldwide influence 64% of consumer purchases. Among older women, the power of female consumers is even more profound as they enjoy longer life expectancy and often outlive their men.

It is common knowledge from decades of observations that in most family households, it is the lady of the house who wields considerable influence on her husband when making decisons on big item purchases. A joint account also gives women more freedom to make purchases. The rise in the number of single professional women as well as single moms further enlarges the pool of female consumers.

From Women's Buying Power
The list below is by no means exhaustive but it gives a clear picture of areas where women hold purchasing power in making decisons. They are often the ones who do the bookings, make reservations and handle the family's accounts and budget.
  1. groceries and household essentials
  2. home appliances (fridge, washing machine, oven, vacuum cleaner)
  3. medicine, supplements, healthcare products
  4. clothing, cosmetics, toiletries
  5. holiday packages (airline, hotel, tours)
  6. restaurants for family dining-out (women make the reservations)
  7. home purchase (women check out the property first and usually have the final say)
  8. schools for their children 
  9. nursing homes, home care (for their elderly parents or in-laws)
  10. senior living (retirement homes, senior travel, dance & fitness classes, lifelong learning)
The longer life expectancy of women also means longer purchasing power for them as evident in the predominance of women in aged care facilities and retirement villages. 

From Ford recognises women's purchasing power
The few remaining areas where male consumers still dominate (but not for long) are in financial products & investments, cars, IT gadgets, sports and hobbies such as golf, fishing, DIY. But this is set to change as women are making their presence felt in almost every sector of the economy and industry. We are also seeing more of them as captains of industry and holding positions in government. More younger women are emerging as successful entrepreneurs, with many running their own online businesses.

We don't need a crystal ball to tell us what the future of the world will look like. It will definitely be female. More so with online shopping getting popular. Advertisers, marketers, product designers, take note. Be prepared and be ready to adjust your plans and projections for the 2020s and beyond.

Friday, April 10, 2020

THE YOUNG ONCE



MCO (Stay-Home) Day 24. Today is a good (Fri)day as any to take a trip down Nostalgia Lane. Am digging up some old blog posts and giving it a slightly new 2020 update. Join me in this first one.

In April 2014, then US President Obama began a 3-day (26-28 April) visit to Malaysia. The last time a US president visited Malaysia was in 1966 when President LB Johnson paid a 20-hour whirlwind visit.

In conjunction with President Obama's visit, the Star published an article ("It was the good old swinging 60s") that probably resonated with those of us who grew up in the 1960s. To many of us, those were the most carefree years of our lives. We were young then, with no cares in the world except to study and do well in our exams. The joy and stress of raising a family and the pressures of working life were yet to descend upon us.

The Star, 25 April 2014

What was life back then in the 60s? If you are now in your 60s or 70s, the images below will stir up poignant memories of an era long gone but not forgotten. Here's a glimpse into the past.

I bet many of us still keep some currency notes and coins from the 1960s. A dollar then could buy us a good lunch. Bank Negara launched the local currency notes in 1967, but it was only in 1996 that the $ sign was replaced with RM.

Inflation was an alien word in the 60s, virtually unheard of during my high school years from 1960-1964. 50 cents pocket money was all my mom gave me but it was enough to get me a plate of nasi lemak or a bowl of noodles at the school tuck-shop, a glass of syrup drink and a piece of fruit. I still had money left to buy sweets or save.

My TIGS classmates and I with our bicycles in 1962. In primary school, I went to school by trishaw. I still remember how the trishaw uncle could pack five of us in one trip - three seated, two squatting.

Pedal power ruled the day. My friends and I went everywhere by bicycle. Festive seasons would find us cycling in groups to visit our Malay, Indian and Chinese friends. Those who didn't cycle would take a trishaw to their destination. I recall my uncle taking us for an evening spin around Batu Pahat in a trishaw. The ride around town cost him only one dollar. It was a treat as not many families then could afford a car to cruise around town.


The UK and the US dominated the youth fashion scene. We were very much influenced by what teenagers there wore, and they in turn were faithful fashion followers of their teen idols of the time. My wardrobe then consisted of mini-skirts, hot pants, huge flora ties and colorful fancy stockings. Woodstock 1969 spun a new fashion fad - the hippie cum flower child look. Bell bottoms were in, so were tie-dyed tees and gypsy skirts. My wardrobe changed accordingly.


As for hair style, the boys either spotted the bowl-cut Beatles style or the pompadour a la Elvis Presley. While the guys heaped Brylcream on their hair, the girls teased their hair into huge 'beehives' kept in place with generous amounts of hair spray. The hippies would let their hair grow long and adorn their hair with flowers. Others opted for the Afro hair-do. The clean-cut Gary Grant look of the 50s was uncool, and definitely OUT.

Teen Idols of the 60s made a huge impact on the music we listened to. We followed religiously the UK and US hit parades like BBC's Top of the Pops and the American Billboard Top 20. Music genres ran the whole gamut from romantic ballads to acid-rock, from musicians like Neil Sedaka to Jimi Hendrix. Pop groups also dominated the teen music scene. We enjoyed songs by The Carpenters, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. We swooned over boy bands like The Monkees and Herman's Hermits. Later, we added Santana, James Taylor and The Who to our fave list. Our music taste was certainly eclectic!

Some of our teenage idols

We bought EPs and LPs and played them on our turntables at home. Coffee shops had jukeboxes. For 20 cents a selection, we could listen to the current hits of the time. I painstakingly copied the lyrics of hundreds of songs, and sang them aloud in the privacy of my room.

The radio stations had programs where you could dedicate songs to your friends. I remember DJs Constance Haslam, Vicky Skelchy and Patrick Teoh announcing names like "Elvis Rocky Tan dedicates the next song to Lulu Sandra Lim". We gave ourselves names after our favorite pop idol.


The songs we listened to all came from gadgets similar to those below. No such thing as a remote control. Gadgets then were heavy or bulky. There was nothing we could carry with us in our handbags or pockets for easy listening or viewing.


As teenagers we loved to dance. We had dance parties where the boys would sit on one side of the dance floor, and the girls on the other. The boys would pluck up courage to walk over and ask the girls to dance. Such gentlemen! The wallflowers were those girls who never got asked.

The Twist, the Jive and the Limbo Rock were staples at any dance party. Strangely enough, off-beat cha cha and a-go-go seemed to be popular mainly in Singapore and Malaysia.

How many of these dances do you remember and can still do now? Probably all of them except the Limbo!

SeniorsAloud organised our first of several annual dinner and dance in 2014. Not surprisingly our theme was Celebrating the 60s, a reference to our age and to the good old days. It was truly an evening of fun as these videos below show, posted by Alfred Ho on his YouTube channel.  Alfred was in his element that night.





Well, once the MCO is finally lifted, and it is safe to go out and enjoy socialising again, we will have our next dance party. It will be a celebration in many ways.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

SELF-ISOLATING DURING COVID-19


Am writing this on the last day of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia from 18 March to 31 March 2020. It has been extended for another fortnight from 1 April to 14 April. I am not complaining. Better safe than sorry. We should be thankful that we are staying at home in relative comfort, with food in our fridge and pantry, and activities to keep us occupied. There are many others who are not so fortunate.

What to take note of during the MCO
For the past month, there has been a continuous stream of Covid-19 news coming to us via social media and on telly. Let's not overdose on it. Most of it is depressing and causing viewers undue fear and anxiety, especially for senior citizens like us. We belong to what the health authorities call 'the vulnerable group'.

My mom is 94 years ago and in a nursing home. Strictly no visitors allowed since 18 March. The staff keep me updated on whatsapp and send me instant photos of her so I know she is eating well and sleeping well.
I feel we should instead look at the positive side for a change. Even in times of sadness and pain, there is always something to learn, and I daresay we have many lessons to learn from this experience. We will all come out of it wiser and more appreciative of the things we have always taken for granted. Our values will change and the world will be a better place to live in. Hopefully we will learn to live in peace and harmony, helping one another across the borders as countries are doing now.


The stay-home order has kept us apart from our families. I am self-isolating. It will be at least a month before I can see my grandchildren, especially Ryder, 6, the livewire of the family. My last two big family gatherings were my niece's wedding on 7 March and my aunt's 90th birthday dinner on 14 March, both before the MCO was imposed. But it's ok. We will get together again and celebrate when the outbreak is over.

It is important that we remain active physically and mentally at home. Can't go jogging in the park or workout at the gym? No problem. Here's all we need for some exercise at home: yoga mat, weights, stretch band and a grip ball. Oh, and a pair of sneakers. Don't have dumbbells? Be creative. Fill two 1.5-litre bottles wirh water and use them as weights. With the condo gym closed, my grandson lifts 5kg rice bags placed in tote bags for muscle exercises.

There are also plenty of online videos on keeping fit: yoga, taichi, qigong, chair exercise, aerobics and dance. I enjoy brisk walking. Only now I have to do it in  my room to this video below. I can work up a sweat just keeping up with the instructions.

This is the best time to learn something online. There are many free classes and tutorials on practically anything you want to learn. Just do a Google search. I would recommend learning a new language, or some art and craft. Try out some new recipes or start on a project. I finally have time to do some decluttering and it's such a joy to find things that I have long forgotten I had, like old photos and mementos.


A typical day begins with me at my laptop after breakfast, going through my email and checking out whatsapp and facebook. Meals are simple and homecooked. I have only been out briefly twice in the past two weeks to get groceries and other necessities from the supermarket nearby. I walk there so this means I can't buy much. Just enough for a few days. After dinner it's either watching the news on telly, enjoying music videos on Youtube or entertainment on Netflix. I wonder how older folks without internet spend the evenings. 


I made the above to show my gratitude to the courageous medical and healthcare professionals for taking care of the sick, to the police and security personnel for maintaining order, to the NGOs and volunteers who make sure that food and supplies reach those in need, to the drivers, delivery workers, refuse collectors, cleaners and so many more, THANK YOU, for your services during these trying times.


We are all in this together, and together we will pull through. Everything will be alright. We need a song like this to comfort and reassure us. Do view. Stay safe and positive.

I am writing this so I can remember what it was like when I had to stay home and had only myself for company for four weeks. No visitors. No one to talk to. It will give me a better understanding of why older people living alone often complain of loneliness and isolation. This will be a social experiment. Well, another two weeks to go. Let's see how I feel by then. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

SHOULD WE SAY NO TO MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS?

Ever wonder why fewer women in China get breast cancer compared to their western counterparts?

In her best-selling book “Your Life In Your Hands”, Professor Jane Plant, herself a breast cancer survivor, shares her extensive research on the subject and concludes that dairy-product consumption is a risk factor for breast cancer (and perhaps prostate cancer), as smoking is for lung cancer.

"Cow's milk is a perfect food for a rapidly growing baby calf," she writes, but "cow's milk isn't intended by nature for consumption by any species other than baby cows."


In her research, Prof Plant discovered that the typical Chinese diet does not include milk or dairy products. This is in stark contrast to the western diet where milk and dairy products are consumed at every meal. She began to eliminate dairy products like cheese, butter, milk and yoghurt from her diet. Within days the tumour on her neck started to shrink!

For men, there is a link between diet and prostate cancer, according to Dr Robert Kradjian. In an interview for Nutrition Health Review, he advises men to minimize or eliminate all animal protein and fats and avoid all dairy products.


In his “The Milk Letter: A Message to My Patients”, Dr Kradjian argues very convincingly that “The milk of every species of mammal is unique and specifically tailored to the requirements of that animal. For example, cows' milk is very much richer in protein than human milk. Three to four times as much. It has five to seven times the mineral content. However, it is markedly deficient in essential fatty acids when compared to human mothers' milk. Mothers' milk has six to ten times as much of the essential fatty acids, especially linoleic acid. It (cow's milk) simply is not designed for humans."

But what about the calcium that milk provides? Take a cue from the cows themselves, argues Dr Kradjian. Cows get their calcium from eating grass, so humans can get their calcium from greens.


It may surprise mothers to know that Dr Benjamin Spock, the guru of childcare is another strong opponent of cow’s milk for children. He went on US national TV to advise mothers not to give their children milk, reversing what he had been saying in his books for over 50 years. He himself stopped taking milk and dairy products in 1991 when he was 88 years old. At the time he was suffering from a host of illnesses. He switched to a macrobiotic diet and within two weeks, all his symptoms disappeared.

What these distinguished anti-milk crusaders say makes sense. The onus is on everyone of us to read up more on this milk issue and make an informed decision on whether to eliminate milk and dairy products from our diet. I have made a small start – I've replaced my regular magarine with ‘milk-free’ margarine.

If you could see only one documentary this year, do make it 'Forks Over Knives'. It could change your life forever. It could even save your life! (Available on Netflix. If you don't have Netflix, watch it on YouTube.)

As the title implies, the documentary's central theme focuses on why we should choose a diet of plant-based foods over meat and dairy products. It offers convincing data to back this up, including the landmark The China Study, a 20-year collaboration between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. It is the largest study ever done to examine the correlation between health and diet. The findings showed that people who followed a diet rich in animal-based foods were at risk of more chronic diseases, while those on a mostly plant-based diet were the healthiest.


The film also traces the personal journeys of Professor T.Colin Campbell, 86, (above right) a renowned nutritional scientist from Cornell University, and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, 86, a former top surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. These doctors are a picture of robust health and boundless energy!

Note how doctors would always advise their patients who are obese, diabetic or have heart problems, to cut down on meat, diary products, and processed foods. They should increase their intake of whole foods and commit to a regime of daily exercise.

I am a pescatarian - as far as possible I avoid eating meat except for seafood. I haven't ordered a steak, chicken chop or pork cutlet at restaurants since 2008. I don't get tempted when I see my friends tuck into stick after stick of satay, although I must confess I still like to dip my ketupat rice into the peanut sauce.

I also avoid milk whenever I can. In 2009 I attended an Anthony Robbins seminar. He was advocating that we stopped drinking milk for health reasons. That was contradictory to what I had been taught all my life, that milk is good for us, and especially good for children.

I decided to check out the validity of his statement. The more I read, the more sense it made to me that mother's breast milk is best for babies, and cow's milk best for calves, not human babies. Indeed, our intolerance of milk increases as we become adults. It is quite common to hear people say they are lactose-intolerant.

To browse hundreds of academic research papers on the subject, click HERE.

Just think about all the hormones that are injected into the cows. No wonder breast cancer is more prevalent in the west than in Asia. Unfortunately, with the fast food industry making giant inroads into China and Japan in the past decade, meat-based diets are gaining popularity among Asians, and the result of that is reflected in higher incidence of heart disease and cancer in these countries now.

The documentary 'Forks Over Knives' also dispels fears that people who follow a plant-based, dairy-free diet are weak, small in stature, and prone to fractures. We need protein to grow and build muscles, and calcium to build strong bones. Well, the documentary provides compelling evidence to prove that these 'beliefs' are myths. Eating more meat, drinking more milk and consuming more fast food puts our health at risk. Sure, it contributes billions to the meat-based food industries and businesses. It is in the interest of these companies to perpetuate the myths, and for people to buy into these myths.

Here's the official trailer for 'Forks Over Knives'. Hope it motivates you to check out the film, as it did for me.


In the end, readers should be the judge and decide for themselves. Perhaps this article below 'Is Drinking Milk Healthy for Humans?' may help. It lays down both the pros and cons of drinking milk. Not surprising that most of the proponents come from organisations and companies that are associated with the dairy industry, while the opponents are mainly doctors.

Is Drinking Milk Healthy for Humans?

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine