The past year have been amazing. We have heard so much from these seniors, each with their own inspiring stories to tell. What will 2016 be like?
Ser Yin, 74, was a seamstress for 30 years. “A lot of people used to come and get me to sew clothes,” she shared. Once, she sewed the trousers of Army uniforms which the Army subbed out.
Work is far from her mind these days, but Lee Yong, 81, once had to support her family on her own at the age of fifty by working at a factory making spare parts.
Luck Joo is 86 years old, and a retired Chinese teacher for primary school students. She vividly remembers the troublemakers she encountered.
After ten years of experience as a hawker dishing up local favourites on Changi Road, Ramlah, 67, stays active and nimble by leading exercise programmes for fellow seniors.
An unassuming, cheerful lady, Saleina is 83 this year, and continues to look after her husband. Despite the demands of her daily duties, she considers herself lucky to have married him.
Not many people can claim to still be in touch with their primary school buddies at 20, let alone at 73! Once a prolific baker on Old Kallang Road, Kok How shares what he's been doing in his free time.
Sixty-five-year-old Kian Chuan is a common sight at Marine Parade Central, playing with his erhu and singing loudly. He shared that he has been doing this for 20 years.
On performing on stage, karaoke competitor Ivy, 55, shares some wisdom from her own experiences: “You must expose yourself in small ways, then you can get ready for other things.”
Babu, 67, estimates that he's taken 60 000 photos from his compact camera to his DSLR, from events and programmes that approach him for his services to street photography. He hopes to continue taking photos for "as long as I can hold the camera."
Dimsum from Guangzhou still tops John’s list of favourite foods, having travelled to many places. Favourite destinations of the 73-year-old include China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, France and England. The father of three shared, “I like travelling because I get to spend time with my family who are usually so busy at work.”
“I saw my friend married and it wasn’t a good [marriage],” explained 88-year-old Wee Chwee and so, she decided on being single. She opened up about her early days that her father was unfaithful and that resulted in quarrels between her father and mother.
Choo Hock, 68, has been living in the Telok Blangah area since he got married in 1975. “When I moved here, there was a lot of secret societies and gangs, and there would be fights once a month,” he shared of the old times. “Some of them I knew well. I would advise them that we all are different but we live in the same neighbourhood, so why fight? And there is nothing to gain if you fight, but they still fought.”
Already making plans for retirement, Dolly, 57, wants to stay active and occupy her time with her favourite activities. Her plans for retirement include taking up a part-time job, volunteering, reading and baking – she admitted that she would probably allocate more time towards baking, as shown by her excitement to take up full-time baking courses.
Rajes’ favourite balloon sculpture is the flower, because “it is the easiest to make”. Having learnt balloon art recently from a colleague, Rajes, 55 hopes to be given more opportunities to volunteer these new skills. She wants to bring joy to people, particularly children, since “children love balloons”.
Showing off their ‘Rock & Roll’ dance moves which had brought them closer to each other in their courtship, Ruby and Patrick will be celebrating their 50 years of marriage next year. They were first introduced to each other when Patrick came looking for his bandmate, who is Ruby's cousin. Sparks flew when the couple started exploring new dances together, such as folk dancing, square dancing and line dancing.
Shirley keeps her hair short because of her active exercise routine. She keeps herself busy with yoga and trekking opportunities, and is an avid traveller. Her trekking hobby, combined with her love for exotic places, has brought her to places such as Bhutan, Kashmir, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Iceland and the Silk Road.
Edward’s style is a mix and match. He can pair an expensive outfit to accessories that are worth a whole lot less, and vice versa. “As long as the design suits me, I can wear an outfit from S$8 to S$8,000 and even, mix and match the styles. I never follow fashion trends and just go with my feel ... and my mood.”
“Don’t ask me what’s my age, I’m ageing every second,” shared 63-year-old Jade, who is currently a teacher at NIE International. Jade’s journey in education began when she was awarded a teaching scholarship in the 1960s. At that time, being a teacher was a means of supporting her parents. Her family was poor, as with most families in Chinatown then, “Being poor means all the more I needed to be hardworking,” she shared. She goes on to note the differences in Singapore then and now.
“I approach seniors and give them encouragement and trust to use our machines,” shared Philip, who works as an ‘Active Neighbour’ in POSB Kampong Ubi. The 68-year old directs queues and guides seniors on how to withdraw and deposit money from ATMs. But his day doesn’t end when he gets off from work at 4.30pm; Philip is a part-time line-dancing instructor, and has been doing it for more than 15 years!
Sixty-one-year-young and mother of two, Pat shared this simple advice to other seniors – “Never retire, but RETYRE”. “When you were younger and wanted to do something but couldn’t because of other priorities, do it now,” she said. What is Pat busy with these days?
Khim’s classical CD collection, which numbers in the hundreds, is her prized collection. There are CDs (even in collection boxes) outside of her bedroom as well as inside. She can tell how many times she has listened to them. Khim, 65, who has two children and two grandchildren, smiled that once she got them, she has listened to them at least once. How does she keep track of the number of times she listens to each album?
“I like teaching as I can be a channel of positive influence to others by walking the talk. Apart from sharing principles and applications, I am really teaching them how to think more holistically. They can then make better decisions and choices, and at the same time their lives can be more creatively interesting and fun.” Read how Henry, 68, keeps his classes "creative" in Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
If Siew Moi and Ah Kau look familiar, you might have seen them in a provision store around Geylang and Upper Boon Keng. The pair has been running the store for over 30 years! The married couple of 53 years also volunteer together at a voluntary welfare organisation for older persons. What's their secret to a strong and lasting relationship?
"I love playing music and I am glad I can still continue doing something I love and getting paid for it, and without any bosses," shares 60-year-old Peter, who diligently heads to his "office" at the underground linkway from Takashimaya and Lucky Plaza daily. Apart from having a repertoire of 300 songs of 70s and 80s music, Peter decides when certain songs are played according to the time of the day.
"Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!" The man in the Christmas hat is Cheah, who handles the daily operations of a store in Tampines under a friend’s request. Discover how the 61-year-old embraces learning with new languages in his daily interactions with customers.
Sixty-two-year-old Le, an expat from the US living in Singapore, recently took part in the Children Cancer Foundation’s Hair for Hope where she got her “long and nice” hair shaved off. Despite being in Singapore for only two years, she has been giving back to the local community. Discover her love for volunteering here!
An unfortunate incident almost left Mala, 58, half-paralysed for life. With support from family and friends, she has overcome the situation and now volunteers regularly. Read how she has turned this receiving of support into giving here.
Richard, 53, travels from Jurong East to his workplace at Tampines everyday. He has been doing this for 15 years! Find out what motivates him.
Long-time friends, both in their 50s, they told us they were hungry but decided to have a conversation before they go “makan” at a fast-food restaurant. But the sun was blazing where they were seated so we had to ask – “Why not get a seat and have the chat in an air-conditioned area instead?” Their reply?
This senior mans a portable ice cream vehicle in Bedok. A reticent man, he told us that he has worked this line for a “long time” and that he knocks off at 7pm. Despite the little words exchanged, he managed to smile for this photograph. Say hello to him near the library.
Shall we dance? Grandmother of two, Sim Peng, 72, participated in an intergeneration dance pair competition with 19-year-old Raudhah Zahirah. Find out how their chemistry put them on the lead to become the top three winning dance pairs.
Ellen, 64, showing off her funky hairstyle. The mother of two shared that she had two aspirations in her youth – one to teach and another to write. She has achieved one of them so far.
“Trust me, I’m still working on it. There is no age restriction for fulfilling your dreams.”
Mee Joon, 64, who had breast cancer three years ago and has been cancer-free so far, goes to the library to learn new things.
Ah Keow, 71, started working at the young age of 13 in a petrol pump. The mother of two only studied till primary school, but picked up English along the way, learning while her son did his homework.
Sharon feels family time as well as social time high on her priorities, and social media helps her to manage it. "Facebook has allowed me to see and get updates on their activities. My sons know what I am doing without even telling them!”
Malay, Chinese, and Hokkien are just some of the languages Letchimi, 58, has picked up as a volunteer at a seniors activity centre. The grandmother of seven still finds the time to learn about other cultures through dance.
Think driving a bus is boring? Think again! Kee Sia, 87, encountered drama and romance as he made his rounds as a bus conductor in the 1950s. It is only serendipity, he believes, that has brought him to where he is today.
This lovely couple met back in the days when policemen wore shorts - Ivy, 73, was training to be a nurse, and James, 75, was a dashing young policeman. After decades together, they still enjoy each other's company.
For Ah Moy, 73, volunteering is a way to get close to people and continue to stay active. Hoping to be a lifelong volunteer, she does her best to exercise regularly and keep fit. “Sweating feels very good!”
Attend enough local charity events and a rather familiar sight might soon be etched in your memory. Follow the breadcrumb trail of colourful balloons, past the snake-like queue of eager excited faces, and Ek Thong will be at the end – or perhaps, more accurately, the beginning – of it.
Adeline never left Singapore. Born in Hawaii, the 90-year-old shared that “God called me to come to Asia as a missionary in my late 20s”. She obeyed the call and came to Singapore first for a year to set up a kindergarten. Next, she went to Malaysia for five years to start a church in the village and later travelled to Indonesia for another five years, to start a church.
Hua Yong and her husband started their own business after World War II, selling household goods like tablecloths, bedspreads and table runners from China to department store CK Tang and also to foreigners. Seeing the influx of foreigners coming to Singapore, she and her husband couldn’t ignore the opportunity to earn a living. Besides their shop at Sembawang, the 86-year-old mother of four recounted that she would take on the saleswoman role of the business.
Matchmaking was common practice back in the old days. Eighty-nine-year-old Kum Pheng’s mother was working in Singapore as an amah and later, she asked him to come to Singapore from Hong Kong to work. He was the youngest in the family of four. “I didn’t want to come here originally.”
“Badminton happened by accident,” said 65-year-old Daniel. He only played when younger but didn't continue after. His wife however, enjoyed the game. She kept asking him to join her. Of those times she asked, he changed his tune and took it up. However, his wife has turned her attention to other activities including yoga. Besides badminton, he started doing yoga with his wife but after reading about losing muscle mass as one ages, he thought lifting weights would be a better option to maintain his muscle. “Now I don't have time for yoga. I left my wife again!”
In a sea of Chinese-speakers who are unable to converse in English at VWO O'Joy Care Services, grandfather of five Choong Hiong, 86, is a rare find. He speaks fluent English as well as Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese and Malay. “In the old days, before World War II, I didn’t take any Chinese courses."
Eighty-six-year-old Soh Hua feels she is the happiest now, even though her leg is weak but she has a clean bill of health. However, times were tough when she was younger. She recalled that when she was about 16 years old, she would go to the hills in China to chop firewood for her family. Once she encountered footprints of a tiger and its faeces.
At 69 years old, Rowena is an extremely busy person. Now retired, the grandmother of five is carving out time for herself by participating in a number of activities including Latin dancing, pencil drawing and sketching, singing in a choir, playing the ukulele, cooking and baking. Rowena has her days planned out so that she lives life to the fullest everyday. She shares, “I cannot live day by day. I don’t know what is in it for me day by day.”
Mary, 71, believes that it is important for seniors to have good social networks. The grandmother of one lost her husband in 1995 and her two children are both working/living overseas. “You must give freedom to your children to live their own lives which may not be very Chinese [in values]. It is nice to have but it is not a must. That is why I joined the Toastmasters International Movement (TIM).”
Ah Lian was one of a few female bus drivers to join SBS back in the 1970s. Today, there are a lot more female drivers, she said. The mother of three and grandmother of eight shared that before she started driving, she was given clothes to sew at home but the money just wasn't enough. How were things like in Singapore in the 1970s?
“Caregiving is very stressful”, shared Bana, who will soon be 77. She is currently looking after her 75-year-old sister who is blind and cannot walk because of swollen feet. And with her own spinal problems, she has had to scale down her activities including running a Laughter Club, which she has done since 2000.
Getting rid of boredom was the factor which sparked off Yau Sing and Siew Choo’s route to volunteerism – “We have Meals-on-Wheels on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Hokkien Christian Fellowship on Wednesdays. On Thursdays and Fridays, we would visit the hospital to talk to the people there, or find our friends to talk to,” shared Yau Sing, 75. The couple also gave us a sneak peek to their past – they were babysitters. Find out how they took care of six to seven children in a day.
Sixty-eight-year-old Bee Kia, who was a former weightlifter with the Singapore National Team, believes in keeping fit and watching his diet. “I want to continue having an active lifestyle – especially with the arrival of my first grandchild Sybylle, as I babysit on weekends.” How does he maintain his fit body and a healthy lifestyle?
Mee, 88, has hopped from one household to another with only one mission in mind: To cook for her grandchildren. Under her care, six of her grandchildren have enjoyed her cooking, which includes paper chicken and minced meat egg. Is she aiming to become one of the greatest grandmothers in the world?
Eighty-five-year-old Marie-Louise has had a love affair with Singapore for a long time. She shared that at the age of 10, in the Spring or Summer of 1938, a tall, handsome stranger came to her home in Switzerland to visit. Read the full story here!
“If I had to go tonight, don’t worry, it is okay,” said Bob, a 73-year-old resident at the AWWA Community Home for Senior Citizens in Ang Mo Kio. The professed "bachelor boy" shares that even with 10 cents in his pocket, he is a happy man. Find out why here.
“Don’t age meaninglessly”, suggested KK. The 67- year-old has been in the shipyard business for over 10 years. This experience has taught him how important connections are. Read what advice he has to give about bonding with the younger generation.
Relocating her stall to Bedok under a friend’s recommendation five years ago, this senior sells wanton noodles near the library. At home, her son will help her to wrap the dumplings, in which she would take this time to connect with her granddaughter. In her free time, she travels. Can you guess which country she has been to for eight times? And oh! Did we forget to mention that she has a secret? Shhh! Find out here!
Meet Phillip, 57, also known as one of the strongest men in the company he works in. His strength in carrying heavy objects can be compared to that of his younger counterparts. On first look, you wouldn't believe what Philip has worked as before his current job!
Meet Faridah, 55, who mans the mobile library kiosk at Eunos Community Centre (CC). She puts in 20 days each month including weekends and loves her six-hour shifts.
The grandmother of three said: “Working keeps my mind active, which is so very important as we age. It’s nice to meet new people too.”
“We have known each other since our kampung days. We moved to Bedok together.”
Did you know that you can find many varieties of medical herbs in the field behind these ladies? They have provided us with the most interesting advice we have ever heard. Read about it here!
Thiam Geok, 76, was a housewife while her husband was the breadwinner, driving a taxi for 40 years. She recalled that he was one of the first cabbies which only had a fan.
To send her son to university, Kim Hiang, 78, sold bread door-to-door for eight years. Before that, she sold lor mee at a hawker centre, and shares the ingredients she adds to create its traditional taste.
Morris was a flag-bearer for his company’s marching troupe at Singapore's very first National Day Parade – he thinks of it as one of the proudest moments of his life.
Ah Sai, 73, spends most of his day managing the garden outside the Macpherson Thye Hua Kwan Senior Activity Centre. Having hobbies, he shares, might actually help to prevent heart attack!
Geok Choo, 60+, is an active volunteer and member of the Residents' Committee. A senior who wanted to remain anonymous said of her, "She really is a good person."
Ah Chye, 77, has a collection of 12-inch figurines that help him tell unique stories about Singapore's history. He loves to share stories in the hopes of making others laugh and giving them some good company.
“I got bullied by gangsters when I was younger. I got sick of it so I joined the Police Force,” shared 74-year-old Gregory. “Everyday I had to fight with them, sometimes up to seven gangsters at a time. I had to train myself to fight.”
Ngot You has spent her life being a housewife and caring for her four children. The 78-year-old grandmother of four was introduced at the age of 18 to sarong cloth weaving. “It is a really good exercise for the legs and hands,” she shared. However, she stopped working after two years and decided to be an amah. Interestingly enough, she worked side-by-side with her mother-in-law for the same employer, but both did different things.
When Dolly got divorced after seven years of marriage and no children, she made a choice not to remarry. “I didn’t want to be tied down,” said the 84-year-old. This also opened up an opportunity for her to travel long-distance to places like Italy, England, Scotland and Australia, without any family commitments. She opined, “I liked seeing the world and I really cannot keep still.”
“They are my family,” Doreen, 63, calls her once-stray cats, some of whom she has had since they were young. “I am their maid. They will literally call me when they are done their business and it is time for me to clear their litter.” A retiree and single, she rents her extra room in her flat so she can use the money to buy medicines for cats in the community and also to buy food to give to the seniors who do not have a lot of funds but still feed the community cats.
Clad in a casual singlet but armed with a radiant toothy grin and amazing dexterity, "Mr Oh", as he prefers to be called, has been wowing the weekend Orchard Road crowd for the past six years. Termed as a ‘hulachain’, the equipment that this sprightly 72-year-old keeps spinning round and round his waist comprises of heavy wooden balls strung together by Mr Oh himself.
When Ang Ee was in her 20s and married, she shared that she would clean the houses of British soldiers as they would usually come to Singapore for two years and then leave. The 85-year-old remembers, “I would have to polish the floor every two weeks with oil. There were no mops and I had to get down on the floor and clean. It was hard work.”
What does it take to become an official football referee in Singapore? “You have to go for a fitness test to get your referee badge. The fitness test involves high intensity tests where you have to do 40m sprints for six times, each below 6.2 seconds, followed by interval runs where we run 150m in 35 seconds then walk 50m in 40 seconds for eight laps,” shared Patrick. At 65, Patrick is the oldest football referee in Singapore under the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), although FAS usually recruits referees under 36 years.
“In order to help the seniors, you must have the passion, patience, understanding and study their likes and dislikes during interaction time with them in order to serve and win their confidence and trust in you,” shared Hock Kee. The 66-year-old has been an active grassroots leader in Bedok Community Centre for over 30 years and has a deep passion to assist the elderly.
Laurence has a photo of himself with his aspirations for the next part of his life printed on it – it reads, “To go where no man has gone before ... ladies’ toilet!” At 67, he’s still jovial, energetic and active, and has had a long and illustrious career. Find out about Laurence’s acting experiences!
Susan, homemaker and full-time grandmother, is 74-years-old and receives cards from relatives and friends in other parts of the world on her birthdays. She tries her best not to dwell on the past, and believes in enjoying every moment and to live in the present. "When you're my age, there's nothing to regret – to have lived this long is good enough for me."
“Change the light bulb, change the light bulb. Mop the floor, mop the floor.” If you are thinking this is in the context of a household, think again. For Helen, these are the instructions of how to do an Indian dance. The 84-year-old is known amongst her friends as the “dancing queen”. Guess what are her favourite dance moves!
“I’m retired but not tired,” shared William. The 69-year-old now spends his days “waking up late, reading the Bible, and counselling people”. He is also a good man to ask for travelling advice, having worked for the Singapore Airlines (SIA) for 31 years! Find out from William which country serves the best food!
Saini, 70, believes wholeheartedly in working and warns: “Don’t stay at home, very boring. You don’t talk to others … like going to die.” The grandfather of seven used to stay at home until his wife urged him to do something. On his nephew’s suggestion, he applied to SMRT last year. “I thought that my education was not high, why would they hire me?”
Vincent is a believer in new experiences and includes them wherever he can in his life. The 60-year-old left his comfortable job in civil service in search of this, and has worked in both public and private sectors. Find out what advice he has for seniors living in a fast-paced society.
If Bernard looks familiar, you might know him for his competitive fighting spirit in the swimming arena. A dream chaser, he also encourages his children to do the same. Hear what the 67-year-old have to say about providing the right parental support for children to chase their dreams.
Mother of four, Janet, 51, uses the online weather forecast to tell whether she should keep her clothes before bad weather! Learn more about how she uses the internet to her benefit!
Lao Wu, as affectionately known among his friends, 56, looks after a portable mobile stall selling drinks and snacks. Every morning, he diligently pushes his cart and goods from his house to the sheltered pavement near Bedok interchange; everything takes about an hour to set up. Although he admits it get tiring at times, the proud father of two is more than willing to do it because, see more.
Linda, 66, believes wholeheartedly in learning. This year alone, she has taken 12 days off work to volunteer and take all kinds of classes. “You have to stay relevant.” This is how she keeps herself occupied.
This is Jack, 54, going about his routine carwash on Sundays. It is an enormous seven-seater Toyota.
He explains, “It’s because I have four children.”
“Do you go out as a family often?”
“All the time.”
This man owns a barber shop which has operated for 40 years. Thousands of hairstyles have been created and recreated through his skilful hands.
“I have five grandchildren.”
“Do you cut their hair too?”
His face lights up with pride. “As long as they let me, I will.”