Friday, April 16, 2021

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL, TIME HAS NOT BEEN KIND TO ME AT ALL


Baby boomers are looking much younger than their age these days. 60 is the new 40, they say, thanks in part to cosmetic aids and medical advances.

However, there are certain parts of the body that reveal our real age, that no amount of clever cosmetic tricks will cover up for long. Let's leave aside surgical procedures that enhance one's physical appearance. After all, how many of us have the financial resources to go down that expensive route to looking 'youthful'? Not many.

This tongue-in-cheek post is dedicated to those among us to whom "60 is the new 40" does NOT apply. We look our age, and for some, even older than our age!


10 body parts that betray our age, in no particular order.

1. Face
No prizes if you got this right. The lines on our face (and neck) tell the truth - that we are no spring chicks. More like autumn hens, or turkeys if you know what I mean.

2. Knees and elbows
From years of wear and tear, the skin covering these joints resemble the roughness and toughness of elephant skin. When my grandson was 4, he used to be fascinated by the folds on my hands and kept trying to see if he could smoothen them out!


3. Skin
Like the migratory birds that fly south during the winter months, our skin goes south too. Unfortunately for us, it is a permanent southward migration. In old age, our skin loses its elasticity and literally 'hangs loose'.

4. Eyes
From 'Dreamy Eyes' to 'Droopy Eyes'. If only we could iron out those laughter lines or 'crow feet' that surface each time we laugh out loud. No wonder we seldom see older women react to jokes no matter how hilarious!


5. Neck
Now you know why older women wear scarves or opt for clothes with a high collar. The dreaded 'turkey neck' syndrome afflicts all of us, sooner or later.

6. Hands
Unless we wear gloves all the time, there is no way we can hide our wrinkled, gnarled hands. They are a dead giveaway of our age. 


7. Hair
Not only does our hair turn grey, silver, white, it goes into free-fall whenever we brush it. The horror of removing clumps of hair from the hair brush and from the bathroom floor. Yikes! 

8. Teeth
The number dwindles with advancing age. Only solution - dentures or implants. That explains why most older folks prefer soft foods!


9. Breasts
This affects women more than men. No longer firm and perky, the breasts now swing freely and resemble papayas.

10. Penis
This body part in older men spends more time hanging down than pointing up. Fortunately, the little blue pill comes in handy, and is a life-saver for grandpas that still want some action..

The funny side of ageing - developing a sense of humor helps to keep us young in spirit

For a peek at some nude paintings that captures the way our body really looks, click here.

Depressing, isn't it? We miss how we used to look. No wonder many of us avoid looking in the mirror, especially a full-length one. The years do take a toll on our body.

I will turn 73 in June 2021, and I wear my age with pride. 

All living things including humans have a life span, an expiry date. Let us not tamper too much with God's creations. There are only so many face lifts one can have, or number of botox jabs our body can tolerate before our entire body crumbles and collpases under the strain. And we end up looking very much worse than if we had left our body especially our face, alone and allow it to age naturally. 

Looking great has a lot to do with feeling great. It's more important to remain young at heart and in spirit than looking young in appearance.

Here are some great tips on how we can do just that, courtesy of Audrey Hepburn.


A truly loving spouse, partner or friend will see beyond the external and look deeper into that beauty of soul and spirit that still reside inside all of us. But we must continue to nurture that inner youthfulness and keep it forever young. 


Monday, March 29, 2021

EMPOWERING OLDER PEOPLE WITH DIGITAL LITERACY

 

Ageism is closing the doors of opportunity to our senior citizens. Whether it is looking for employment, getting a place in an HRDF upskilling course or applying for a bank loan to start a business, our age puts us at a disadvantage. It shouldn't.


The recent announcement in the media of the government speeding up the introduction of 5G in the country is leaving many seniors out in the cold, especially those now in their 70s and 80s. They are lagging so far behind in digital literacy that it's unlikely they will be able to participate actively in the digital economy. Many of these elderly are either single living on their own or are empty nesters.

Who is there to help these older people learn how to use the internet and get connected online for e-services? There is as yet no educational institute where they can enrol for courses on social media apps and entrepreneurial skills. What we have currently are piecemeal ad hoc workshops offered by NGOs and IT companies. These usually comprise a few hours of instruction or a one-day workshop at best. Grossly insufficient.

What we are asking for is a government-supported initiative where digital skills courses are offered throughout the year. IMDA Singapore started Seniors Go Digital in 2017. Since then more than 140,000 seniors have benefitted from this programme. But this is in Singapore. Can we have something similar here in Malaysia?

       


There is also the National Silver Academy which offers a wide range of courses including digital literacy courses. Seniors are literally spoilt for choice. Fees are affordable. Seniors can pay from their SkillsFuture Credit of S$500 given by the government to all citizens.


Seniors themselves must also be responsible for their own learning. Where there is a will, there is always a way. We have to adopt a positive attitude towards learning. This is part of the ethos of lifelong learning. There is no such thing as being too old to learn something. When an opportunity to learn something new and useful is made available to us, we should take it. We shouldn't let the fear of failing or the lack of confidence be our excuse. 

I recall in the late 1990s when teachers were told they had to start using the computer to teach, some of my colleagues opted for early retirement. They didn't want to be stressed out learning this new technology. Others took up the challenge and eventually were able to teach confidently using the computer and the projector instead of depending solely on the textbook and blackboard.


There are also many examples of successful learning when there is strong motivation to do so. The need to remain in touch with family and friends is a powerful incentive especially during the pandemic stay-home period. Hence older people have learned to use social media apps e.g. Whatsapp and Zoom. Facebook is now dominated by older users, resulting in younger people migrating to Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok. But aside from social media usage, seniors are still slow in making use of online services such as paying bills, booking a ride or making purchases. 


Instructors who conduct courses for seniors must bear in mind that older people learn differently from younger people. Hence, they need to be familiar with geragogy - the theory of how older people learn. For instance, seniors learn at a slower pace, and are more at ease learning with their peers than with much younger students. 


A case in point. Last month SeniorsAloud was among 29 NGOs selected from over 200 applications for a 4-week digital skills course conducted online. The objective was to help upskill NGOs and amplify their social impact. At 73, I was by far the oldest participant. The others were mostly in their 30s and 40s, including the instructors. My team mate Kamil and I took it as a challenge to learn as much as we could. The pace was fast, and the course content was demanding. Fortunately the instructors were very patient and encouraging, providing guidance at every step. We learned a lot especially how to use apps such as Canvas, Slack and Trello. Also Design Thinking and the Business Canvas Model which I had learned before but not applied. It was a good refresher. Digital knowledge needs to be applied to be of any use. It is easy for older learners to forget how to use applications after a lapse of time. 
 

The benefits of empowering seniors with digital tools are enormous. Aside from the convenience of carrying out tasks online and engaging socially online, seniors who run home-based businesses can make use of apps to promote their products or services and have the know-how to reach a wider market. 

So the ball is in the government's court. With seniors, time is of the essense. How many more years do we have to wait for a building or a sustainable programme specially dedicated to re-training and upskilling our warga emas?

(The above letter published in The Star on 13 March 2021 is accessible at this link:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

FOR THE SINGLES ON VALENTINE'S DAY


It's Valentine's Day - again. While couples young and old celebrate the day exchanging gifts and Valentine cards, my thoughts, as always, are with those who will not be sitting down to a romantic candlelight dinner. Reason: they are single. To them, I say, "Happy Single Awareness Day!" I am one of you too. No need to dread this day. Indeed, our numbers are increasing. Today being single for an older woman is no longer a social stigma. If truth be told, women in unhappy marriages envy their single sisters but they do not have the courage to break free. To the happily married ones, a toast to you on this Valentine's Day.


Unless you are married to someone wonderful, it's better to remain single. I am not putting down the institution of marriage. But I seem to be hearing more couples getting divorced than getting married, especially among older couples. Once the children are grown and flown, a couple's marriage is put to the test. Retired couples, in particular, find that being in each other's company 24/7 can either rekindle the old flame of romance and passion, or it can extinguish forever the last embers of a dying marriage.

Which one are you? There's a third one - being single and NOT available. 

It takes a lot of effort, compromise even sacrifice to keep a relationship going. Many young couples don't have the patience to work at it. Gone are the days when wedding vows were taken seriously and couples remained married 'till death do us part'. Even after death, the bereaved spouse stayed faithful to the memory of the dearly beloved. Second marriages were almost unheard of, as were divorces. Indeed, to ask for a divorce would be akin to asking to be ostracized.

Today on Valentine's Day, I dedicate the day to my parents. I remember them as a very loving couple. As a child, I used to listen with fascination to the love stories my mother told me about how my father wooed her. Their courtship days were like chapters taken from a Barbara Cartland novel. My father simply adored my mother, and spending time with her was something he treasured as we saw him only during the weekends. His work as a medical sales representative often took him outstation and away from the family.

My father treated my mother like she was a fragile porcelain doll. He was always eager to please her and make her happy. My mother bore him six children during their 10 years together. I was the eldest. My youngest sister never got to see my dad for he passed away in 1957 after a short period of illness. My mom was heavily pregnant with her sixth child when my dad left her - forever.

My parents - Annie Goh Kwee Foung and Jackie Fu Fook Im (1947)

My mother will be 94 this October. She has never remarried, and has remained a widow all these past 62 years. I am sure she still misses my father, that is, on days when she can remember, when her mind is clear, and her memory is sharp. For my mom has Alzheimer's. The other day when I showed her this picture of my dad and her, I asked if she knew who the couple was. Without any hesitation, she said 'That's me and that's your father. But he's gone now. He was very good to me.'

Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, today is the day we celebrate LOVE. We should be celebrating love every day, in the little things we do, for the people we love. Love doesn't have to cost a cent. Love can be a genuine smile, a warm hug or an affectionate kiss. Or a good deed for someone we don't know but who needs our help.

Spread a little love today, and every day.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, EVERYONE!



(This post is updated from an earlier one posted on Valentine's Day 2019. It is also posted in memory of my beloved mother who left us 10 days ago on 3 Feb 2021. She would have turned 95 in Oct this year.)

Thursday, January 28, 2021

RELIVING THE POP MUSIC OF THE 1960s


During the long months of stay-home, my daily dose of feel-good endorphins came not only from exercising but also from music. I have always enjoyed listening to music across many genres, graduating from jukebox top hit singles during my teenage years, to rock, blues, R&B, country and folk. I remember meticulously copying by hand hundreds of song lyrics into a songbook to sing along to. Those were the pre-Spotify days of radio and vinyl records.

Imagine how excited I was to discover Vintage Radio Sg a few months ago. It enabled me to relive the 1960s pop music scene again. There are four DJs helming the shows, spinning records for in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil for listeners in Singapore, Malaysia, and the diaspora. The radio runs 24/7. I do dancercise to Brian's selections every morning. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of 1950s-70s pop music.What amazes me is that I can remember many of the lyrics even though I last heard the songs more than 50 years ago! Proof that the last thing we lose when our memory fades is music. 

(Click on Vintage Radio Sg and find out more about the shows and other goodies there, all specially curated for seniors. You can download the app on your phone. Doesn't take up much data.)

In my high school days I lived on a music diet of Britain's Top of the Pops, and later Casey Kasem's American Top 40 and Billboard Top 100 on the radio. I never missed Dick Clark's American Bandstand on our family's black and white TV. In my late 20s, I was crazy enough to apply for a DJ position at Tin Mine discotheque, Hilton Hotel. The interview with Juliana's of London included testing my knowledge of popular songs and singers. I did a tryout at deejaying one night. I decided it wasn't for me, and dropped out of the shortlist of applicants.
 

I was a typical teenage, infatuated with the cute idols of those days - Cliff Richard, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka, Johnny Tillotson, Bryan Hyland, and their female counterparts like Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark and Helen Shapiro. 

My friends and I were into the latest dance craze as well. We did the jive, rock and roll, twist, ago-go and rumba to bands like Bill Haley and the Comets, The Shadows, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, The Cascades, The Monkees, the Beatles and so many more. They were the forerunners of today's boy bands and K-Pop groups. 


(Above) Who can ever forget 'Shanty' by The Quests? I was still in high school when it shot to the top of the charts and stayed there for months.

The 1960s music scene also saw the rise of local bands in Malaysia and Singapore doing cover versions of top hits. They had quite a following among university students, and regularly played at tea dances and concerts. Some of them like the Teenage Hunters, the Falcons, and the Quests (above) were so good they did gigs overseas in Germany, Hongkong and Vietnam. 


The recording studios were quick to sign up these bands and singers. Virtually every one of them released 45rpm records of their songs. There were Naomi and the Boys, Keith Locke (later replaced by Vernon Cornelius) and the Quests, the Ventures, the Stylers, the Blue Diamonds, Matthew and the Mandarins and others. There was also a proliferation of Malay and Chinese singers and their back-up bands like Jefrydin and Pop Yeh Yeh, and Rita Chao dubbed Queen of A Go-Go, the dance craze at the time, especially at the popular Sunday afternoon tea dances.



(Above) Matthew and the Mandarins made famous their original country hit 'Singapore Cowboy'.

While some of the 60s era singers and musicians have passed on, those that have remained never gave up their passion for playing music. They continue to perform at fund-raising events, reunions, and corporate functions. Others, like my friend Jimmy Lee, have been keeping the memory of Elvis Presley alive via the Elvis Presley Friendship Club of Singapore. Credit also goes to the Singapore government for promoting 1960s music with free concerts in October in conjunction with International Day of Older Persons.

I attended all three of the above Elvis Tribute concerts in Singapore. Click on the links below to enjoy the videos I took of the performances. 

Then there are those, both musicians and fans alike, who gather at each other's homes to jam and sing all those favorites of yesteryears. These get-togethers are always fun. Research studies show that music is therapeutic. It helps to improve wellbeing and reduces the risks of Alzheimer's.


D-Asiatics (above) playing a cover version of 'Midnight in Malaysia' made popular by Boy and His Rollin' Kids.


(Above) Mike Ho & Company: Chow on drums, Paul on rhythm, Jimmy Rampas on bass guitar playing The Shadows classic instrumental 'Apache'.


(Above) Alfred Ho was the winner of Malaysia's first national talentime contest in 1971, and was in Asia Got Talent 2017. All three judges loved his singing. He was busking weekly at KLCC LRT station until the MCO shutdown forced him to stop in March 2020. He has since retired but his CDs are still available on sale at RM30 a copy. You can reach him at 012-3461232. 

Music keeps us feeling young, energetic and socially connected. If we can't play an instrument, we can sing, or dance to music. Music feeds the soul and nourishes it. We need music in our lives. Period.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

At 72, she made her first documentary to advocate against ageism

 

If there is one thing that gerontologist Lily Fu wants to achieve in her life at the moment, it is to debunk ageist stereotypes and create an awareness of the immense potential and possibilities of older persons.

Yes, she’s also not too keen on terms like “the elderly” and instead replaces it with “older persons” or “older adults”.

Olders, she believes, can get on with life like the best of them - they can learn, they can dance and they can most definitely enjoy a fruitful, fulfilled life.

And, she’s a fine example to go by.

At 72, Fu has just completed making her debut documentary, with a grant from the Freedom Film Festival. Titled Meniti Senja, the full-length documentary addresses the alarming rise in cases of elderly persons being abandoned at aged care homes in Malaysia.

“The protagonist of the documentary is Muji Sulaiman, a retired nurse who started an aged-care home back in the 1990s, ” says Fu, 72.

“Muji’s story is absolutely amazing. As a nurse, she saw first hand how so many older people were abandoned by their family at the hospitals.

"She decided to take them into her home - after all she was a single mother with room in her house to spare, ” she shares.

Word got around about Muji’s efforts and she found herself with more and more older people at her doorstep.

She was then offered a space - an old mosque - to house her abandoned wards.That was how Muji set set up Al-Ikhlas, her aged-care home in Puchong, Selangor, about ten years ago.

Fu hopes her documentary can help highlight the issues faced by older people, many of whom are
abandoned and alone.

Fu was compelled to venture into documentary making because she believes it’s the medium to raise awareness about the issues of the older population, and to advocate for better services and provisions for them.

“So many of them are abandoned and alone, and the issue just don’t get covered enough. The media has highlighted the issue but they are often one-off reports when some news breaks and then things go quiet again.

“With a documentary, it can be online and shared over and over again and, hopefully, spark discussion and action.

"And because it’s a full-length film, we can explore the issues in greater depth, ” shares Fu who is the founder of Seniors Aloud, an online platform for seniors with over 1,000 members.

The challenge ahead

When she read about the Freedom Film Festival grant in March this year, Fu decided to submit her idea for the documentary.

“I submitted my pitch, and I made it to the final selection. Then, I had to do an online pitch in front of the judges and we got the result immediately.

"I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found out I was selected. When you think of filmmakers, they are either experienced people or young people. And there I was, a 72-year-old who hasn’t done this before, ” relates Fu.

“But the Freedom Film Festival has been absolutely supportive. Whenever I faced a challenge, they were always quick to help me through it.

“Even though they provided us with workshops to hone our skills in filming, there was no way I could manage shooting the documentary on my own - a three minute video, no problem, but not this.

"So, they helped source for a cinematographer, so that I could focus on the narrative, source for a protagonist and handle other aspects of the documentary, ” she adds.

Muji Sulaiman, the protagonist of the video, was a nurse who saw how many elderly were abandoned at the
hospital she worked in. She took a few back to her home and years later, started her aged-care home.

Because of the pandemic and the movement control order that was enforced in March, the direction of Fu’s documentary shifted from her original pitch.

“When we first started the title was Unwanted and my focus was the homeless older people who were abandoned and neglected in KL. I spent months on the streets, so much so that the community actually opened up to me and some even thought I was there for food.

"But with the MCO, there was no way we could access them the way we needed to for the documentary.

“So, I focused on older people in an aged care facility and I focused on just one home so that it could be more comprehensive and insightful.

"I found Al Ikhlas online. But because we couldn’t go there during the MCO, I used the time to do research. It was only during the recovery MCO that we could visit the home, meet Muji and the older people living in her home.

"Most of them could not speak, so she related their stories on their behalf, ” says Fu, who enlisted her daughter, Belle Lee’s help because of her experience in TV and film.

“She has a degree in TV and film production and has produced TV programmes before, which was a boon. She was also someone I could bounce off ideas with, ” says Fu.

With the documentary, Fu’s aim is to share the stories of the older people in the home without judging or placing blame on anyone.

“We want to give a very balanced view and highlight the issues faced by them without taking any stand. I think one of the things we wanted to get through is that sometimes, children have no choice but to place their parents in homes.

Working children, those who cannot afford to care for their parents themselves or those who may be living abroad... we understand the reasons.

“And Muji shares the same sentiment: it is ok if you cannot look after them, she will. But please visit them. There was a resident who shared that he has 10 children and he was just waiting for them to come and visit. It is very depressing, actually, ” says Fu.

A message to everyone

Meniti Senja is in the last stage of post-production and is scheduled to be screened, online, during the Freedom Film Festival, from Dec 10 till 13.“The festival, which was originally scheduled for September, will go nationwide after the MCO ends.

Fu wants older people to be given opportunities, either for work or upskilling programmes,
so that they can continue to be independent and contribute to society.

“It has been very challenging. Apart from the technical aspects, I also learnt that from the start till the end, things can change.

"From the story to the language - it was supposed to be in English but is now in Bahasa Malaysia - there will be developments because of external circumstances or input from others and so on. But I am happy with it and it has given me the confidence to, hopefully, do another one, ” she says.

Fu hopes the documentary can move people to action: the government for better policies and services for older people; the younger generation so that they can plan and set aside money not just for their retirement but to care for their aged parents, and also society so that they don’t simply disregard seniors, and include them in jobs or learning opportunities.

“I am glad that the government has paid some attention to older people in the Budget 2021 but more needs to be done.

"We mustn’t wait until 2035 when we become an ageing population because if we do, we will be in trouble. We need better infrastructure and more nursing homes to cater for the growing older population, ” says Fu frankly.

She also hopes the younger generation – who will decide whether to care for their seniors or abandon them – get to see what the situation is like for neglected seniors.

“Financial planners advise you to set aside money for your children and your retirement but they hardly ever talk about the need to set aside money to care for your elderly parents or relatives, ” she says.

And her message to her peers is to change their own perceptions of ageing.

“We should all be thinking not just of enjoying longer lifespans but longer lifespans in good health, ” she emphasises.

“Currently, society has a very negative perception of older people and it’s time we changed that. And the change has to start with us. Those of us who are 60 and above must not think of ourselves as “old already” or “too old to dance” or “too old to study”.

“If we want people to change the way they perceive older people, we have to change the way we think about ourselves. Don’t practise ageism on ourselves, ” she says. 

This article was first published in The Star on 2 December 2020 at the link below:

https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/family/2020/12/02/at-72-she-made-her-first-documentary-to-advocate-against-ageism