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.)