Thursday, November 30, 2023


Most bus stops do not display bus routes and schedule on the notice-boards. If we see any, the info is likely outdated. -

Most of my senior friends still drive. They tell me they would be helpless without wheels. They wouldn’t have a clue how to get from Puchong to Sunway, or from Kajang to Putra Heights in the Klang Valley, for example.

They would also lose the freedom of going where they want and when they want.

They may still have a choice now. But what happens when they reach their 80s or 90s as they surely will one day? Their reflexes then may be slower, their vision no longer as sharp and their memory of directions may be fading. Would they still be driving or hanging up their car keys for good?

Already many seniors avoid driving at night as they easily get confused especially when driving to a place for the first time.

Who can tell whether or when the government may make it mandatory for older drivers to undergo a medical test to renew their driving license? Countries like Japan and Australia have already imposed such a ruling for drivers aged 75 and above. In Singapore taxi drivers must retire at age 75.

Why not be prepared for that eventuality by taking the bus or train the next time you have an appointment or go shopping? Leave your car at home and take public transport. You will find it’s not that difficult or inconvenient.

Think positively. You would save on fuel, parking fees and toll, and help reduce traffic congestion on the roads. Think of the health benefits. You would be fitter from walking more. You would also be getting more Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Just bring along an umbrella or a hat and a bottle of water, and you are good to go.

Oh, before you set out, wear a pair of good walking shoes.

Improved public services

Our public transport system has improved over the years. Remember the unpleasant rides in the late 1970s on those stuffy, over-crowded pink mini-buses with their daredevil F1 wannabee drivers?

What a relief these buses were discontinued in 1998. Today we enjoy comfortable rides on airconditioned buses and on LRT and MRT trains. The coaches are clean, well-lit and spacious. With the recent addition of Ladies Only coaches, women passengers need not worry about being harassed or molested during peak hours when coaches are jam-packed.

There are also free intracity shuttle buses in KL and PJ. With an expanding network of the rail system, connectivity has improved tremendously, allowing for seamless travel within the Klang Valley

The only complaint I have about taking the trains is the lack of respect shown to senior citizens.

The priority seats meant for seniors, OKU and pregnant women are usually occupied by younger passengers. They are so busy on their mobile phones they couldn’t care less if an elderly passenger was standing right in front of them! Few would offer to give up their seat.

The biggest plus point for senior citizens is without doubt the 50% discount on all fares. They can apply for a warga emas card at Pasar Seni LRT station, and get it on the spot for immediate use.

Similar to the last car I owned. Before that I drove a Volvo 121. Seems like eons ago. Pre-Proton time so all the cars I drove were foreign cars. Expensive to maintain.

I haven’t driven since I sold my Chrysler Alpine in 1998. I depend mainly on public transport, rides from my good Samaritan friends and my two legs to get me to where I want to go.

Room for improvement

As a 75-year-old senior with 25 years of experience taking trains and buses on a daily basis, let me assure seniors out there that they can definitely survive without a car. I can understand their reluctance to opt for public transport when they still have a choice. Their biggest grouse is the dismal lack of information on bus routes. The buses are the weak link in an otherwise efficient public transport system.

I have often found myself clueless at bus-stops in places that I don’t often visit. Most bus stops do not display bus routes and schedule on the notice-boards. If we see any, the info is likely outdated.

Not an iota of infomation about the buses serving this bus-stop.

Instead, we see advertisements and notices of rooms to let, job vacancies, money lenders and the like. There is also the problem of last-mile connectivity.

Having a bus schedule doesn’t necessarily mean the bus drivers keep to the times stated. If we are lucky, we get to board our bus just as it is about to depart from the station. If we miss it, we may have to wait anything from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.

Instead of getting worked up, I view this positively as time to relax. I have learned to be super patient. It’s good for the heart not to be stressed over things beyond our control.

The newer bus-stops now have a laminated QR-code posted on the notice-board. Commuters are supposed to scan it to view the bus route. Whoever introduced this certainly did not have senior citizens in mind. Not every senior is digital-savvy or owns a smart phone.

Some elderly also may find the bus steps too high and they struggle to board the bus. The bus drivers are supposed to stop close to the pavement so it’s easy for seniors to step from the pavement onto the bus or vice versa. Instead, the drivers stop away from the pavement.

During heavy rain, passengers have to wade through puddles of water to get on or off the bus. Furthermore, not all buses are wheelchair accessible. I have seen only two occasions when the bus driver got off the bus to assist an OKU in a wheelchair board the bus at a bus-stop.

This is the bus-stop from where I board the bus almost daily to KLCC to transfer to the LRT line. It has remained in this deplorable condition for the past 10 years!

With our population heading towards aged nation status by 2030, it is imperative for the government to address these shortcomings in our public transport system. Every family has elderly members. When their physical limitations and needs are addressed, everyone benefits. Make it easy for our older citizens to travel on public transport.

Do I ever miss driving? Absolutely not! The horrendous traffic jams, parking problems, road bullies and most of all, the high cost of maintaining a car, are enough to deter me from seeking out a good used car dealer.

As I advance in age, the thought of getting behind the wheels again is fast fading. I have let my driving license expire this year. No regrets.

Lily Fu is a gerontologist who advocates for seniors. She is founder of SeniorsAloud, an online platform for seniors to get connected and enjoy social activities for ageing well.

(The above article was published in The Star under the 'Grey Matters' column on Wed 22 Nov 2023. It is accessible at

Thursday, November 2, 2023


The new generation of seniors are ready to venture forth to where their predecessors had feared to go. -

Each year, on Oct 1, we celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons. The entire month is packed with events and activities, and media coverage of everything related to seniors.

It is an annual reminder that we are growing older, that there are challenges to be met and to prepare for.

Not that we need reminding. The mirror does that for us daily.

Not that long ago, no one (not even the government) knew or cared about what Oct 1 meant. But when the alarm bells rang to warn of an impending “silver tsunami”, suddenly we see nursing homes, senior living residences sprouting up everywhere.

Conferences, talks, exhibitions on ageing well, retirement planning, healthcare are held practically every other week. It is as if the panic button had been activated, and there is a rush to get ready before the country’s growing ageing population aged 65 and above reaches 15% or six million by 2040.

While the government is speeding up building an elderly-friendly ecosystem, what can we, the seniors, do for ourselves? How do we prepare for our old age to ensure we have more years of good health and fewer years of disabilities?

Amazing Seniors' Jasmin (far left) and Low (far right) with Timeless Inspiration Awards and Community Leadership Awardees (from left) Ras Adiba, Ivy, Khadijah, Lat (in brown) and Fu. (The Star)

One of the open secrets to ageing well and being able to remain fit and do most of the things we enjoyed doing in our younger days is to start laying the foundation early.

If you have missed out on an early start, it’s never too late to begin adopting a healthy lifestyle. A daily exercise regime helps to strengthen our immune system and protect our body against frailty. If you don’t have the discipline to exercise on your own, join a line dance class or an outdoors group that goes hiking or brisk walking regularly.

Community Leadership Award
recipient Lily Fu founder of
SeniorsAloud community. (The Star)
The social connection in group activities is an added benefit. Having supportive friends helps to keep our spirits up and drives away any hint of depression especially for seniors living alone.

The current generation of older people – the baby boomers, born during the post-WW2 boom years 1946 to 1964, is the first wave of retirees who have had the benefit of education and gainful employment.

They are now reaping the rewards of years of hard work, enjoying financial security and living life to the fullest. 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 parents’ generation.

And their numbers are growing, worldwide. 

We need not look further for evidence of this new breed of seniors than in the recently concluded three-day Senior Festival organised by Amazing Seniors.

The Talent Quest event was an excellent showcase of the new seniors. Looking at them singing and dancing with gusto on stage, the young ones in the audience couldn’t help but be amazed at the energy and the spirit of fun these seniors displayed. Who could believe the models in the fashion show were seniors with the oldest at 85?

The seniors in the Malay dances and those on the ukeleles showed that older people can learn from scratch anything if they have the interest and passion to do so.

SeniorsAloud members taking part in a fun fashion show for the first-time. Most are in their 60s, with the oldest at 85.

The new old are breaking all the rules on how we should age. Who says Grandmas are not supposed to look glamorous? Where does it say Grandpas shouldn’t have fun? Which handbook or religious book are these do’s and don’ts coming from?

Where does it say that older people should behave a certain way? The retirement years are for enjoying life. We deserve a well-earned rest after years of work.

What a terrible waste of precious time if we spend it counting the days and preparing religiously to hear that last boarding call for our final departure. If we are always afraid of death and ageing, and spend our time getting ready to depart, our lives will truly be grey.

Looking ahead with anticipation

We need to face ageing with positivity. So go out there. Try new experiences as long as they are not a risk to life or limb. The new generation of seniors are ready to venture forth to where their predecessors had feared to go.

They are saying no to social stigmas that dictate how older people should behave, or face public ridicule, scorn, even ostracism.

They are shattering the long-held perception of older people as frail, senile and economically unproductive, and a drain on the country’s resources.

Those who do not have the means, such as time, money and education to age well envy those who are ‘privileged’.

But why envy? Envy gets us nowhere. Take action. Anyone and everyone can age well.

Seniors love the outdoors to keep fit and active.

Getting our body moving is free. So are fresh air and sunlight. Thoughts are free too. Think positive. Think hope. You will be surprised what a huge dose of positivity and good habits can do for our health and wellbeing.

It’s a cliche but it needs repeating – change begins with us.

Our health is our responsibility. We know what to do, but we don’t do it. A lack of motivation makes us complacent until a serious health issue triggers an immediate response – an emergency trip to the doctor or the hospital.

Change takes time, but older people don’t have the luxury of time. So just do it. Live healthy, live well, live long.

I used to be amused at cartoons and jokes that poke fun at old people, depicting them as senile and
forgetful, like taking ages to cross a road and holding up traffic, or using Tipp-Ex to erase typos on the computer screen.

These images only reinforce the negative perception of older people as unfit for re-employment, and a drain on the nation’s resources. Such depictions of older people are in poor taste.

It explains why ageism is still being practised especially in the job market, and older people continue to be overlooked or discriminated against.

As the country moves into an era that will see a huge demographic shift, it is pertinent that we change how society looks at older people. It’s time we see them through new lens that focus on their strengths, their experience and their talents.

Hopefully, the new old will herald a more positive perception of our senior citizens as vibrant and still capable of contributing much to the economy and to nation-building.

Lily Fu is a gerontologist who advocates for seniors. She is founder of SeniorsAloud, an online platform for seniors to get connected and enjoy social activities for ageing well.

(The above article was first published in The Star print edition on Wed 25 Oct 2023 under the Grey Matters column. Access the link here.)