Live Well and Be Happy

Life After 50 Seminar

by Siew Ping

Three engaging speakers, each an active ager with a mission and a message – Autumn Life members had the chance to get inspired by them at the Life After 50 Seminar on Saturday 16 September 2017.

Helen Lim, CEO of Silver Spring and a well-known pioneer of the active ageing movement,  Chng Kai Jin, former general manager of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Doris Lung, former managing director of Bausch and Lomb (Singapore and Malaysia) were the stars of the show.  

Each of them focused on a different but equally important aspect of living well after age 50: employment and “elder-preneurship”, keeping the mind engaged and active, and staying healthy through physical activity.   

In between the talks, the audience also got active with DIY meridian therapy.  Trainer Lee Hui Fang led them through simple exercises to stimulate meridian points that can help relieve aches and pains. 

What the three speakers had to say is summed up in one word from each of them during the Q&A session.   Be intentional.  Be contented.  Be active.

Read on ...

Helen Lim captivated the audience with the story of how she got busy not long after her retirement.  Looking at the needs of the retirees and seniors she had come across, she wanted to do something to “put the bounce back in people’s lives”. 

She started up social enterprise Silver Spring to help older job seekers and retirees seeking to re-enter the workforce.  These were people whom she felt had been “biased out” of the market.  Along the way, the tireless 70-year-old has supported groups such as retired nurses and caregivers who had given up their careers.

Helen also champions ‘elder-preneurs’ – seniors who are keen to start their own businesses.   A serial ‘elder-preneur’ herself, she has started up cafes to employ older workers.  She has also set up a travel cooperative that caters to older travellers. Helen feels that the main challenge for seniors thinking of starting their own enterprise is their own mind.

“Start with yourself,” she said.  “Have you done enough to persuade people that you have a brand or something to contribute?” 

The passion for her cause is clearly still undimmed for this champion of ‘silver talent’.  She called for a new perspective and movement for Singapore’s ageing population.

“It’s a silver reservoir,” she said, “not a silver tsunami!”

Chng Kai Jin appreciates his fortune in having had a good career during what he calls Singapore’s “Golden Years”.  He retired happily two years ago, but was headhunted back into a new job recently.  

Kai Jin spoke about a dimension of wellness that many seniors are concerned with - intellectual wellness.

As we age, our brain cells stop growing and cannot be replaced when they die.  The good news, he said, is that we have lots of brain cells and even more synapses. Synapses are like ‘wires’ that connect the brain cells, and we can grow our synapses through brain activities.  Kai Jin himself has a keen interest in two such activities – language learning and playing music.

Upon retirement, he became a full-time student in a German language school in Berlin.  He put in 25 hours a week, excluding homework.  The result – “I can speak German with a Hokkien accent,” he said.

Kai Jin took the audience through a mini German-language lesson.  It illustrated how the mind could get a very good work-out learning a new language.  He clearly believed that the hard work was worthwhile.

“I am my own best investment!” he said.

Kai Jin said tongue-in-cheek that he aimed to make a comeback as a concert pianist - and give a 70th birthday recital.  He had trained to be a concert pianist but could not embark on his preferred career due to a finger ailment. 

Playing music offers both intellectual and emotional benefits.  The student can learn to appreciate the melody, harmony, colour, structure and emotion of music.  The audience sat back to enjoy a beautiful recording of a Chopin nocturne that flowed “like molten gold”.

Doris Lung, who is in her late fifties, calls herself a “normal retiree who enjoys the outdoor”.  Since her retirement about five years ago, she has stayed active and healthy through physical activity.  She enjoys activities like cycling, scuba diving and hiking.

“I don’t agree with Autumn Life,” she said laughingly.  “It’s summer, not autumn!” 

Retirement often comes with mixed feelings of fear, giddiness, fulfilment, satisfaction and eagerness.  To Doris, retirement is also like an entitlement after all the hard work.  It offers a second life for growth and exploration.  Her optimism is palpable, backed by motivational quotes such as “60 is the new middle age” and “growing old is mandatory, feeling old is optional”.

Doris subscribes to the old adage that health is wealth.  

“The best gift to give to my children is to stay healthy,” she said.

Doris advocates an active lifestyle, regular exercise, a balanced diet and social connection.  The combination of activity and bonding with friends leads not just to better health and energy, but also emotional and social benefits.  She also enjoys the opportunity to meet and bond with younger people. 

Doris encouraged the audience to try out different activities to see what appealed to them.  She gave some practical tips for staying motivated: 

- Focus on short-term goals

- Schedule regular workout time

- Keep a log

- Get support (e.g. do it with friends and family)

- Reward yourself

- Think fun and variety


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