Saturday, August 30, 2008
MANY agree that senior citizens can still contribute to the workforce after retirement.
According to Assoc Prof Dr Tengku Aizan Hamid, director of Universiti Putra Malaysia's Gerontology Institute, physically and mentally fit retirees and pensioners should be given job opportunities, depending on the job scope, experience and suitability.
One area that could benefit from this “ready-made” workforce is the service industry.
“Non-labour intensive jobs, such as the service industry would be appropriate for retirees. We can take advantage of their extensive experience and understanding of the local language, culture and religion,” she notes.
She believes that local retirees could perform some of the jobs currently held by migrant workers. With their experience and maturity, they are a valuable resource for the workforce, she says.
“Retirees still have a lot to offer. With their skills and experience, it is a waste not to tap into them as a manpower resource for the job market,” she says.
However, she highlighted, it is important to remember that the retirees are a diversified group and cannot be asked to fill in all the gaps in the job market. It would be dangerous to pigeonhole the retirees based on stereotypical assumptions, she cautioned.
Other jobs that would be good for an older workforce include information services, tourism, management and consultancy.
Their experience would be valuable to help new enterprises and businesses to jump start. In fact all jobs are suitable for them as long as they can fit into the system,” opines Dr Tengku Aizan
Pensioner Zainal Ariffin, 60, shares many retirees and pensioners would like to earn some extra income but there were limited job opportunities for them.
“They can work at administrative or management level or even take care of lifts at offices. A job will help retirees and pensioners supplement their pensions or their savings,” he says.
Penang Senior Citizens Association president Lawrence Cheah said earlier that the Government and private sector should make use of the expertise of retirees and pensioners.
“In Malaysia, employers are reluctant to hire retirees unlike in Western countries where they are employed for their expertise. The misconception here is that they would be too old (to work) and should stay at home. If they are still healthy, capable and interested in working, they should be employed,” Cheah said.
He said retirees or pensioners in Singapore were retrained in their field of expertise before rejoining the work force while in Cambodia, retired traditional artists or sculptors in an academy of arts trained people who were maimed or jobless.
Dr Tengku Aizan concurs, “The investment in the retraining, lifelong education and learning will enable many retirees to participate in the new K-based economy.
“It is also important to remember that the role of retirees in the formal and informal sector can be expanded as some of them are highly educated professionals in their fields.”
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
By GABEY GOH
MALAY MAIL August 12, 2008
THE digital divide is getting smaller as more and more senior citizens take that first tentative step into the world wide web, to explore, express and learn.
Surveys have revealed that senior citizens aged 65 and above make up the fastest growing age group online, but as the number of users grows, the amount of content to cater for them remains a step or two behind.
This is where people such as Lily Fu, a 60-year-old grandmother of four, come in. She launched her blog, SeniorsAloud (seniorsaloud.blogspot.com) in May with one goal in mind.
"I wanted to provide senior citizens with an avenue to network online and share their life experiences. We believe in active ageing, and in living our golden years with passion and purpose," writes the part-time university tutor and English Language trainer. With a host of guest bloggers, topics relevant to the elderly are frenetically discussed to give the senior citizens a voice on the web.
When did you start using the internet?
I was first introduced to the Internet in 1994 when I was visiting my daughter in Canada. One night, I saw her emailing and chatting with her university friends online. I was amazed. What a great way to keep in touch – so much faster than by conventional mail, and far cheaper than paying for long distance calls.
Soon after, I bought my first desktop. As a high school teacher then, I was interested in using the Internet to supplement my English classes. I started a chat-room on IRC for my students in 1996. I believe we were among the early schools with an online presence. I’m quite proud of that.
How did you start to blog?
When I first read about blogging in 1999, I was keen on starting a blog for those over 50 years of age, being in that age group myself. I wrote to a newspaper about it, hoping to get positive feedback. My letter was published but there was no response at all! I guess most seniors in those days were not internet-savvy yet. Now, almost 10 years on, I believe the time is right to start a blog for seniors.
In 2007, a friend, Samuel Goh (motivationinmotion.blogspot.com), who was already a blogger, invited me to an Internet marketing seminar. I started a blog in order to apply what I had learned. SeniorsAloud is my second blog and the first article was posted on May 10, 2008, just three months ago. So it’s quite new, but the response this time around is much more encouraging. As the word gets out, I’m sure the blog will receive even more visitors.
What were your reasons?
It’s a known fact that many countries, including Malaysia, are seeing an ageing population. The average life span has increased. For males and females, it’s 73 and 76 respectively. In 2007, according to statistics from the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), the elderly, or those who have touched 60, make up seven per cent of the population. There are issues concerning the elderly that need to be addressed, like health care, financial management, and housing.
There are also more seniors now with access to the internet and thus a blog would be a great avenue to reach out to these seniors, while also encouraging those who are apprehensive about the internet to take the first baby steps into this whole new realm. It literally opens up a new world, and even those seniors who are homebound can still have an active social and intellectual life via the internet.
On a personal level, I know of retirees who have difficulty adjusting to a life without a 9-5 job. They feel a tremendous loss of self-esteem. Some have lost their spouse and feel lonely and depressed.
SeniorsAloud is intended to be a community-based blog where seniors and retirees can network and share their rich life experiences. It is also a channel for them to speak out on issues that affect them, whether it is the lack of elderly-friendly public facilities, or the discrimination leveled at them. It takes a senior to understand another senior and provide moral support for one another.
What have you achieved through blogging?
The blog is only three months old, so it’s still too early to talk about achievements. But to date, the feedback has been very encouraging. "Inspiring" is the word visitors often used after reading the posts. One visitor in her 30s wrote in an email that the post about "Grandparenting – A Pleasure or Pressure?" helped her to better understand her parents.
I’ve always wanted to give something back to society. SeniorsAloud is the perfect vehicle for me to accomplish this. I can blog at home and still keep an eye on my grandchildren and my elderly mother. And the best thing is that it’s free! So there’s absolutely nothing to regret. Of course, blogging can be quite time-consuming, but I enjoy the challenge of keeping the blog current.
Has blogging changed your life?
I now carry my camera everywhere I go. I’ve learned to be bold in approaching people and telling them about my blog. You can say blogging has given me new confidence and a new direction in life. Through it, I’ve been fortunate to connect with many seniors who have been most supportive in contributing to the blog content.
The "Blogosphere". What does it mean to you?
The Blogosphere adds a whole new dimension to information gathering – almost anything and everything under the sun probably has been the subject of a blog. That said, one of the challenges of the internet, including blogs, is to sift through all the information out there – sometimes there is an information overload. Nonetheless, it’s always better to have too many options than none at all!
I’ve got several bookmarked under "Favourites", so I won’t commit to singling out any particular one. It’d be like asking me who is my absolute favourite among all my grandchildren. I love them all.
If there were someone you could influence to blog. who would they be?
Definitely all those above 50! This is the fastest growing age group on the Internet, but certainly not in Malaysia. I still meet a lot of seniors who say they are too old to pick up computer skills, or they are simply not interested. Blogging is fun, mentally stimulating and who knows, it may help ward off Alzheimer’s!
When I’m in my 80s or 90s, provided I don’t have arthritis in my fingers, I intend to carry on blogging. I’ll take blogging anytime over knitting in a rocking chair!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Only two days earlier, the Sunday Star had carried a cover article on “Throw Momma From the Train” by Dr Esther G. Ebenezer. According to Dr Ebenezer, the abuser is most likely the person with whom the elderly person resides, 80% being spouses and children or a close relative of the victim.
Unlike child abuse, elder abuse is rarely discussed in the open. We all know it exists, but not many want to talk about it; even fewer are willing to report it.
Reading both reports put me in a soul-searching mode. Am I guilty of elder abuse? Do I treat my mother with the respect that is due to her? Am I a filial daughter? I had to confront myself with all these questions and find the answers.
This includes hitting, pinching and manhandling the elderly victim. Self-verdict: Absolutely not guilty.
This covers taking away the elder’s funds for ‘safe keeping’, forging her signature for monetary gain, forcing her to transfer or bequeath property, or misappropriating funds held in joint accounts or in trust. Self-verdict: 100% not guilty.
This refers to any act inflicted on the elderly person that causes her to suffer mentally or emotionally. Examples include name-calling, insulting, threatening and isolating her from others. Probably the worst is deliberately ignoring the elder, or giving her the silent treatment. Self-verdict: 95% not guilty.
Why only 95%? On deeper introspection, I realize that I must have sometimes used a harsher tone of voice than necessary when trying to deal with my mother's stubbornness. This is my failing, and it's inexcusable. It becomes a whole lot easier to understand and accept my mother’s old world views and way of doing things when I apply the Golden Rule. How do I want my children to treat me when I am 80? Children, even adult ones, follow by example. It’s up to us, as parents, to lead by example. How we treat our elderly parents will determine how our children will treat us in our twilight years.
That was when it hit me – Gee; age IS catching up with me! I went home and had a good, honest look in the mirror. I used to have very long hair, now I’m just longing for more hair. As for the rest, well, let’s say, everything’s starting to wear out, fall out, or spread out. Gravity has become my worst enemy. I still have everything I had 30 years ago, but they are all a bit lower and slower. Not so long ago, I was crazy about the Rolling Stones. Now I am more concerned about kidney stones.
My knees are not what they used to be. My personal trainer tells me to do knee lifts with weights. I tell him, just sitting down and standing up is weight-lifting already. Maybe I should hang out more with people much older and heavier than me. That way I would feel young and slim. But on second thoughts, I would be bored to tears. They would be talking more about pension rather than passion.
The wild oats I sowed in my younger days have turned to instant oats for breakfast. A night out used to mean hitting the pubs or discos in Damansara Jaya till the wee hours of the morning. Now a night out means sitting out on the balcony, looking at the stars, and sipping tea till maybe 10 pm.
These days, it takes me twice as long to look half as good. But thank goodness for photo enhancing software, I can now look younger and younger as I age. This was taken a few years ago, and this, early this year. At this rate, when I reach 80, I’d probably look as young as this.
Well, since I can’t fight time, I might as well look on the bright side of ageing. Every extra candle on my birthday cake means I can still count my blessings for another year. Or looking at it another way – I’m increasing in value! See – titanium in my teeth, silver in my hair, and gas in my stomach! That’s reason enough to celebrate, don’t you think?
As a senior citizen, I enjoy special benefits. My grandson and I love going to the cinema. We get to watch movies for only RM7 each. Only thing is it can be quite embarrassing sometimes. My friends tell me the last movie they saw was The Da Vinci Code, and I tell them mine was Chicken Little!
Since my grandson can’t always be my escort, I have been thinking quite seriously about putting a personal ad in the papers: Spunky grandma, 58, looking for male companion 60 and above. Must have real hair, own teeth and a strong heart. Able to walk without aid or Tongkat Ali. And still able to turn off the lights for romantic reasons, rather than to save electricity. Do you think I am asking for too much?
I often wonder what is it about ageing that makes most of us panic, whether we are 30, 40, 50 or 60. Some say that age is strictly a case of mind over matter – if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Whether we are born in Malaysia, Alaska or Timbuktu, we all have expiry dates. We can’t run away from it. Personally, I follow the 5 Ls – Live, Love, Laugh, Learn, and Leave a legacy. That’s my recipe for ageing happily and gracefully.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
First, let me confess I don’t have money to spare, and neither do I have an MBA or even a HFB (Head For Business). But this one thing I do know – the 50+ age group is growing. Unlike their parents when they were in this age group, the current crop of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are generally more educated, have more purchasing power, and are more discerning in what they buy. So there’s a ready and growing market for products and services that cater to them. Yet as consumers, they are largely ignored in this country.
Consider the following:
Have you ever seen mature-looking mannequins in shop windows? Or real-life mature models on the catwalk showing off the latest fashion for baby boomers who feel 20, look 30, but are 50 or 60? This is probably because fashion retailers here are confused by what the numbers represent! Think Madonna, Tina Turner, Helen Mirren (above), and Mrs Jagjeet. Think Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and my Richard Gere look-alike cousin Lawrence. These are the faces of the new senior citizens.
I have yet to come across a pharmacy that has the whole shop or at least an entire section dedicated to medical aids and products for senior citizens. It’d be so much easier for them to look for what they want. No tiny price tags or fine print on the labels, please. We can't be carrying magnifying glasses on our shopping trips. By the way, there's one supplement I can't find in any local pharmacy. I've to get my supply of Centrum Silver from Singapore because pharmacies here don’t stock it. I wonder why.
Are there any nightspots in town where baby boomers can enjoy listening to live bands playing only music from the 50s and 60s? As a high school kid, I listened to Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Paul Anka and the Drifters. Then along came the Woodstock era. I discovered the music of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, The Band, The Incredible String Band, Jefferson Airplane and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Now, let me repeat - where can I go to listen to bands who play such music? Please tell.
Malaysian publishers, take note. Singapore has PRIME – a magazine that caters to readers aged 45+. There are lots of magazines on parenting, but not one on grandparenting. Don’t we matter? What about cook books catering to the special dietary needs of the elderly? Or a Sports Illustrated type magazine for them, featuring sports that they can still indulge in, with super sports stars they can relate to.
Events / Exhibitions
Exhibitions on real estate, furniture, automobiles, flowers, etc, are held regularly, but none on healthy, active ageing. Are we not important enough? How about companies sponsoring a 2-day Sports / Games Tournament for veterans? Golf isn't the only age-appropriate ball game for us. Anyway, most of us can't afford the golf shoes, much less a whole bag of clubs. Let's not even mention club membership.
Why aren’t there any developers willing to invest in providing housing with special features and facilities for healthy, active retirees? Think non-slip flooring, hand rails in the right places, easy to open windows and elderly-friendly furniture. And, definitely vast open spaces for recreational activities. This is the kind of community housing that is lacking in Malaysia. Right now, there're only nursing homes and old folks homes. Not much of a choice, is there? I'm sure there are many among us who don't mind paying a bit more for quality homes and quality living.
Anyone reading this who has the funds to invest in the booming boomer market, please give me a call. We can talk business. Trust me, I haven't even started on the best money-making ventures yet. Seriously.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Our trekking days to mighty Mount Kinabalu began a year ago as a pre-trip to the Himalayan Everest Base Trek last October. We felt the only way to assault the apparently formidable peak of South East Asia’s highest mountain was to have proper training.
So, I courageously plotted out a training programme. Our plan was simple though the training was not! Weekly, we climbed the arduous 372 steps of Batu Caves, Bukit Kiara hills and rough terrain in the forest, and, Gasing Hill in Petaling Jaya. We were to climb Gunung Kinabalu end August 2004!
Arriving at Kinabalu Park, we checked into a lodge for the night to acclimatize ourselves. Next morning, we registered ourselves at the Kinabalu Park Office, got our name tags, a guide, and a porter. We were each then given an important document to read before moving to Timpohan Gate – the starting point. The very first sentence alarmed me. I took a glimpse of it, and secretly gazing at my spouse (not knowing he too was given a similar document) hid it from his sight. It created doubts in my mind. It was a dampener. The thought ‘Why wasn’t it sent to me much earlier?’ came racing into my mind.
Soon we were off. Our trek to Laban Rata – some 11,000 ft had begun. We met trekkers from all over the globe. You must not climb this mountain if you are a heart patient distracted me. I felt chained and certainly apprehensive. I had to cast such negative thoughts out of my mind.
I knew I was now concealing a secret from my husband. I wasn’t going to tell him what was impeding my movement. Suddenly as we neared Station Layang-Layang, the fourth or fifth station (or pondok – a small wooden rest shelter) the cold wind almost blew us off our feet and we were drenched. I was literally trembling. Some teenagers were told “Baring! Baring cepat!” The chilly wind was incredibly too violent and dangerous.
At Laban Rata, to our shock, we were given cold rooms further away from the main resthouse. What a disappointment, and we had no sleeping bags. Dismayed, we settled down quickly. The louvres in some of the windows were missing. We could hear the howling wind and the pelting of the rain on our windows as we tried to catch some much-needed sleep.
As I heard the wind and felt chilly, sans quilts, the document tortured me. I looked at my spouse lying in bed and wondered whether it was a right move to attempt the Summit. The document had put fears in me. Six years ago, he had suffered a heart attack and had undergone a by-pass. Little did I know that he too was harbouring similar thoughts. I was only told later that he had hid that document from me too.
If you are in the Klang Valley, climb the 372-Batu Cave steps several times.
Read about AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness.
Kinabalu Nature Resorts Sdn. Bhd
Saturday, August 2, 2008
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 die. 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.
To these senior citizens in their 50s and 60s, age is just a number
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.
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-saved 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, ok. But if they dress or act to please others, then they are allowing others to dictate how they should be living their golden years.
Ladies from the Malaysian Menopause Society turn models for a fashion show
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 arthritis. They become frail and sickly, and dependent on others.
They give up making an effort to keep in touch with old friends or making 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 the government. A close second is dwelling on the past with regret. No wonder they end up lonely, cranky, depressed and bitter. What a 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:
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.
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