Wednesday, December 29, 2021


You can be in a room full of people, and still feel lonely. The same can be said of the elderly living in a house full of family members. When your adult children have little time for you, and your grandchildren prefer to spend time with their friends or their digital devices, you are left pretty much with yourself for company, more so if your spouse is no longer around. That is why an increasing number of seniors prefer to age in a retirement village/home than to age at home with their family. 

What goes on in her mind as she sits there alone?

This sense of loneliness can engulf the elderly person, and precipitate into bouts of depression. Over time, she is likely to develop thoughts of ending her life. After all, why prolong this life of misery where no one cares about your existence?

What are the signs and causes of depression in the elderly?

Some common signs:
  1. overwhelming feeling of sadness, anxiety and pessimism
  2. lack of interest in the world around her
  3. withdrawal from family and friends
  4. loss of appetite accompanied by weight loss
  5. inability to sleep well
Some common causes:
  1. poor health; chronic diseases e.g. diabetes, hypertension
  2. disability resulting in loss of mobility and independence
  3. anxiety resulting from financial insecurity
  4. family disharmony and/or neglect
  5. fear of dying, especially when many of their friends have passed on
The good news is that, unlike dementia, depression can be prevented and treated more effectively. Family members should not dismiss signs of depression in their elderly parents as part and parcel of ageing.

How can we prevent depression?

Studies have shown that those who remain employed longer or who volunteer to help with community service organizations enjoy better mental health. Being with others, talking to them and staying engaged go a long way towards warding off depression.

The choice is ours to make. No point wallowing in self-pity. If our family members are too busy to take us out or spend time at home with us, it's up to us to look up our own friends and organize activities. We have to be pro-active. If we are house-bound, we can invite our friends over for coffee or a game of mahjong. There is always a solution if we care enough to seek it.

At SeniorsAloud community, we realised the need and importance for older people to be socially connected and active. So we have started seven activity groups to cater to the various interests of our members. Except for Seniors Keep-in-Touch which has certain criteria for joining, members may request to be added to any one or more of the groups. We hope with this initiative, we can support one another as we enter the third chapter of life's journey.

If you (or your elderly parents) are experiencing social isolation and loneliness, here are some suggestions:
  1. Get familiar with the public transport system. Learn how to use apps to book a cab. Or arrange for someone to provide transport for you.
  2. Adopt a pet or take up gardening. Looking after a dog or a plant helps to reduce the sense of loneliness.
  3. Join social or religious groups that organize regular activities to promote fellowship among the members.
  4. Learn to use the internet (whatsapp, Zoom) for social networking and staying in touch with family and friends.
  5. Above all, have a sense of purpose. It could be learning something new, volunteering for community service, or embarking on a project. 

Oftentimes older people decline invitations to go out, not because they prefer to remain alone at home, but more so because they may have a health problem that makes it inconvenient for them to go out. For example, they may suffer from incontinence, failing memory or poor hearing, all of which can cause some awkwardness in a social setting. Soon they develop a reluctance to go out and socialize.

Blessed are couples that have each other in their old age. But there will come a time when one will go first before the other. When that day comes, loneliness will set in. Their children should be alert to this. They should ensure their surviving parent gets extra care and attention to prevent the onset of loneliness and social isolation.

Ultimately, as I have always stressed in all my talks and articles, let's be responsible for ourselves, whether it is our health, finances or mental well-being. We cannot take for granted our children will look after us, or assume the government will provide for us. The former may be unable to do so, and the latter is always 'short of funds'. But do start early to prepare for our old age. It takes time to lay a good foundation for our future retirement. This message goes out to our adult children and to the younger generations.

Monday, November 22, 2021


With multi-generational families no longer living under one roof, the role of grandparents has taken on renewed significance. What would busy working young parents do without grandmas (and grandpas) stepping in to help with the little ones? Well, there's always the daycare centres or a nanny/domestic helper to look after them. But nothing compares with having your own blood and kin aka your mother to care for the children. 

After reading 'Grannies are good for you' in The Star', I felt prompted to write this article. It mentioned a study done that confirms what I have personally experienced all these years - that grandparenting creates a 'cherished intergenerational bond' and a 'cognitive empathy'. When grandmas look at photos of their grandchild, they feel what the child is feeling - joy or distress. This is not the case when grandmas look at photos of an unknown child. What was new to me was the hypothesis that women live longer and go through menopause so that they would be around longer to care for their grandchildren, replacing their child-bearing years with child-caring years. Well, that does make sense.  

A grandma's bundles of joy over the years.

I consider myself a hands-on grandma. I helped take care of Max, Reiya and Ryder when they were born till they were toddlers, and have continued to spend time with them in their growing up years till today. It was different with Allie and Hana as they grew up in Singapore. But we bonded during my visits and family vacations together. Whenever I was in Singapore, I would walk them to their primary school, accompany them for their swim lessons and track practice at the stadium. On Sundays, I would attend church services with them and their parents.

With Allie and Hana in Singapore, Hongkong and KL.

I speak for my friends who are also grannies when I say looking at photos or videos of our grandchildren gives us immense joy. This has been the case during the past year and a half when the pandemic SOP meant we were unable to see our grandchildren except in photos or on the screen via Zoom. So do allow me to indulge a little with these photos below. 

Little milestones - from discovering their shadow to their first day at kindie. 

Like my friends who are grandmas, our grandchildren are a source of joy, fun and pride. Children grow up so fast. Before you know it, they are preteens, and then full-fledged teenagers. Indeed Max is a young man now at 21. They have their own friends and school activities, and we spend less time together now. Max and Allie have left for university, Hana will follow suit next year and Reiya has only a couple of years more to graduate from high school. Almost an empty nest for my daughters in KL and Singapore. That’s why the fleeting moments spent with my grandchildren are precious. 

My three grandsweeties - from little girls to teenagers, and very soon, to young ladies.

The boys - the youngest and the oldest among my grandchildren. Max is a six-footer, and Ryder will likely be one too. Max, 21, is finishing his final year in university. Ryder, 7, still has a long way to go. 

Bonding with my grandsons over a game of chess after Ryder had explained the rules to me.

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 adult children did theirs, they say. On the other hand, there are doting grandparents who do a great job minding their grandchildren. They are also fortunate to have children who are very appreciative of their help. When both sides adopt an open and trusting relationship with reasonable compromising, they create the ideal home environment for the little ones.

How fast the years have passed! For grandmas everywhere, photos of their grandchildren will always bring them smiles, pride and happy memories.  

Some seniors I know tell me they do not want to live too long. They would rather depart in their 70s if they no longer enjoy good health or financial support, or are miserable because of strained family reIationships. This is exactly why we have to prepare early for our retirement years to ensure we remain active, mobile and financially independent. Relationships with our adult children need to be cultivated and strengthened as they are the ones who will provide moral and financial support, and make major decisions for us.

We cuddled them when they were little, they will hug us when they are older, and even give us a lift-hug too!

I'll be 74 in 2022. God willing, I want to be around to see all my grandchildren do well and find their purpose in life. For this to happen, I will have to look after myself, be responsible for my health, and live within my means. With long life and good health, I will be around not so much to look after my great grandchildren in my old age, but to just be there to see them growing up. The cycle of life. 

Friday, October 1, 2021


Did you know that the United Nations designated 1 October as the International Day of Older Persons? I bet the day came and went like any other day for most senior citizens – uneventful and forgettable. The local media did not deem the day important enough to devote some space to it in their columns. Only The Star carried a small mention with a link to a pathetic video hastily put together presumably to meet its corporate social responsibility agenda. Just goes to show how little attention is paid to this fast-growing segment of society.

To mark this auspicious day, it wouldn't hurt to have our prime minister send us greetings and wish us well in a televised message!

Today, world-wide, there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and over; this total will double by 2025 and will reach virtually two billion by 2050 - the vast majority of them in the developing world.
Here's my wish list for older persons:

1. Elderly-friendly traffic lights where the green light for pedestrians stays on a little longer to enable older (and slower) persons to cross busy roads safely.

2. More benches at shopping malls where the elderly can rest their tired feet. KLCC is the least shopper-friendly in this aspect.

3. Bigger print on price tags and food labels - the better to see if the product is safe for consumption!
4. Priority counters / queues for senior citizens at banks, cashiers, taxi stands, ticket counters.

5. Wider aisles in supermarkets.

6. Non-slip floors, non-trip pathways and steps in public buildings.

7. Club house cum community centre with full facilities for senior citizens. By the way, there's one nearing completion in Ampang.

8. Restaurants that offer elderly-friendly menus. Think easily digestible, healthy food that have less salt, less sugar, and less fat.

9. Toilets and urinals with hand rails.

10. Mobile phones with large letters and numbers for easy dialling, and light enough for the pocket.

And the list goes on..........

(Footnote; This article was posted on 2 Oct 2008 when I was a beginner blogger. For the next few years since then I would post a lament on 1 Oct that the day was not celebrated in our country. I am glad that in recent years this has changed. Today as I pen this footnote on International Day of Older Persons 2021, there are many events and activities specially organised by both the govt, NGOs and the private sector to celebrate the occasion. The King and Queen have also wish all our warga emas good health as the country marks this auspicious day.)

Thursday, September 23, 2021


Coming up the driveway to Little Sisters of the Poor / St Francis Xavier Home for the Elderly in Cheras, KL

It was back in the 1970s that I first heard of Little Sisters of the Poor (LSP). I had imagined it to be a place where the elderly poor would spend their final years looked after by caring nuns who had dedicated their lives to God and to charity work. Being much younger then, I had little interest and absolutely no reason at all to visit the place.

Near impossible to find an aged care facility in the city centre with so much greenery and open spaces.

Decades later and now the founder of a seniors community, I had good reasons to pay a visit. Over the years LSP has gained a solid reputation as the 'gold standard' for aged care facilities. It has become the yardstick to measure other similar facilities.

So when the opportunity came last August to visit LSP with a group of academicians from UPM, I grabbed it. The visit was certainly an eye-opener. To say I was impressed by what I saw is putting it mildly. I was awestruck!

Let me take you on a virtual tour of LSP.

The dining hall. Great idea to use protection for the legs of the chairs to prevent scratching the floor and also to reduce noise.
The reading room.
The hair salon. Notice the gleaming floors at LSP. Unbelievable!
The physiotherapy room.
The sewing room. Note also the natural lighting in all the rooms.
The shop where items made by the residents and volunteers are sold.
Lounges are everywhere for residents and visitors to rest their tired feet or simply to sit down for a chat and relax.
The tea room.
The kitchen - spick and span and spotlessly clean.
The laundry room. Adjacent to it is where clothes are sorted and folded.
There are hand rails all along the corridors, and in the lifts. Note too the wall phones on every level.
A peek into one of the rooms with attached bathroom and toilet.
Benches on every level. Facilities at LSP are without doubt elderly-centred.
At the cafeteria listening to Sister share about LSP.
The main hall where the residents were enjoying some performances when we dropped in.
Colourful drawings by the residents.
Fun activities to keep the residents happily occupied.
Daily programme of activities for the month.
Group photo in the garden at the end of our visit.

It would be a challenge for most existing aged care centres to come close to LSP in terms of size, facilities and dedicated staff. Work becomes a devotion when one is serving God. Throw in cleanliness, efficiency and integrity, and you can understand why there is a long waiting list for admission to LSP.

Little Sisters of the Poor celebrated its golden anniversary last December 2015. What a remarkable achievement! Pope Francis sent a special apostolic blessing to mark the auspicious occasion. I was gifted a copy of the commemorative book.

With the proposed Aged Healthcare Act to be introduced next year, the elderly in old folks home, aged care centres and nursing homes in Malaysia can look forward to better care and better facilities. Aged care centres that fail to meet the stipulated standards will face stiff penalties. They will also have to be licensed and registered.

It's been a long time coming. 

(An update: The above article was written in 2016 and reposted here. Since 2016, there has been a mushrooming of aged care centres all over the country, particularly in the Klang Valley. This is due in part to our growing ageing population as well as other socio-economic changes. The newer care homes are a huge improvement over the early ones which I visited between 2011-2016. Those were run mainly by people who had a heart to do good but had little experience or resources on how to manage an aged care facility. Today many of these centres are well-managed, have trained staff and volunteers and age-friendly facilities. They are a far cry from the old folks homes of past years. There is still room for further improvement. A challenge indeed as these homes depend largely on charity, public support and dedicated volunteers, and as everyone knows, these are always in short supply.

Footnote: Aged care centres are different from nursing homes. The former are open to mobile, independent senior citizens who require no or minimal assistance in activities of daily living (ADL). 

Monday, August 23, 2021


The early 1960s were my coming of age years. I was in high school then till 1964 when I completed my Form 5. I was a typical teenager, enamoured of all things British or American, especially the pop music scene of those days. I learned to dance the twist, the locomotion and the limbo. My grades took a dip when I discovered Billboard Top Hits, UK's Top of the Pops and our own Top 10. I followed all the song request programmes on radio, and was familiar with the names of the popular DJs of the time, names like Vicky Skelchy, Alan Zachariah and Constance Haslam. They played chart-topping songs broadcasted over RTM and Rediffusion. I had my own collection of LPs and EPs, those black vinyl records that I would play over and over again on the turn-table. We had no TV or CD players then.

If I had some money saved, I would buy Tigerbeat. It was the #1 teen magazine then. I would cut out pictures of my favourite teen idols like Ricky Nelson, Cliff Richard and Dusty Springfield, and paste them into my voluminous song-book containing hundreds of lyrics all hand-written. We had no computers then.

Just the other day I was browsing Youtube when I came across these vintage songs from the 1960s. In those days, songs were sung with emotion and lyrics held meaning. A far cry from the majority of today's top hits. 

My taste in music is eclectic. I enjoy folk, country, blues, rock, and even gospel but pop was where I started. Here's a very small selection of songs from some of my teenage idols for your listening pleasure. I hope they trigger some happy memories of the good old days when the world was our oyster to explore and discover. 



Then came 1969, and Woodstock. My taste in music changed, but that's another story for another day.....

(Updated from an earlier article posted in 2012.)