At 90, Swee Ing still stays as active as she can. The grandmother of 16 grandchildren as well as 14 great-grandchildren, she still cycles even today. "As I have been cycling since age 16 or 17, it is more out of habit," she says. "When I walk, I am too slow so I prefer to cycle. Plus it is more stable."
Living with her second son, she gets up early every morning to do qigong for 30 minutes in her neighbourhood. Besides catching a nap, she also meets up with friends, does shopping, makes alterations on her clothes and watches TV. Once a week, she does a movement session for one hour at voluntary welfare organisation, O'Joy Care Services.
Hailing from China, Swee Ing went to Malaya when she was two years old. Later, after getting married, her husband came to Singapore to work and after accumulating enough money, she came over with her children and mother-in-law. Her husband worked in a factory making furniture. When she cooked food for the family, she would often make extra for her husband's boss including red or green bean soup, or bread and coffee for tea breaks.
And when she cooked, her mother-in-law would have a watchful eye on the children. With relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law can sometimes be tenuous, it was not the case with her mother-in-law. She remembered that when she did the laundry, her mother-in-law would always help with the hanging. "She lived till 93 and she really sayang me," said Swee Ing.
After tolling for many years being a dutiful housewife and caring for her children, she later did things for herself. When she was in her 60s, her friend dragged her to an elderly centre near her home to pick up folk dancing. She continued to practice for 10 years at the centre and even performed at various events. Also, during the same time, she learned cha-cha for a year at a community centre. "Dancing boosted my confidence level," she said. However, all her dancing had to stop when her friend moved to Hougang.
She still remembers those times well. She was always relegated to dancing the male role as her friend often insisted on dancing the female role. As such, at the centres, everyone wanted a piece of her as when they practiced, they often needed a male role. She laughed, "Nobody wanted me to leave!"
Though she is proud of her dancing, she is most proud of three children. "My second daughter managed to get a scholarship and my other children received awards." She also couldn't stop talking about her grandchildren, including her son's twins. "They have both grown up and really love me. They would give me an ang-pow every year during Chinese New Year addressed to 'my beloved grandmother'." She also talked about her first grandson who is a pilot at Singapore Airlines. "To me, family is important," shared Swee Ing. She has no regrets in her life and advised others, "Forgive and forget, and don't be so calculative."