Old is gold. The elderly have the time and freedom for meaningful pursuits. City News takes a look at the senior citizens who count themselves in.
|CN PHOTOS OF BILLY LIM AND MABEL LIM: MICHAEL CHAN. OTHERS: COURTESY OF INTERVIEWEES.
A snapshot of Singapore’s population shows that there are approximately 300,000 people aged 65 and above. The number is expected to treble to 900,000 in 20 years’ time. How many of these senior citizens are likely to remain in gainful employment and for how long?
A recent survey by Russell Investments and The Nielson Company on how Singaporeans are planning for their retirement shows that 70 percent of the respondents believe they will need some part-time work to supplement their retirement income. Apart from monetary issues, retirement is a period of one’s life when a person is no longer fully engaged in the pursuit of making a living or in a full time vocation. But retirement isn’t for everyone: there are those who may want a change of vocation, to pursue their passion or simply to relax and enjoy life in their golden years.
A profile of how some Singaporeans who are living in or approaching their golden years shows that a fair number of retirees are still a force to be reckoned with.
Take Billy Lim, a student at the School of Theology. Lim is doing his Advanced Certificate in Theology this year. What makes him stand out from his 690 classmates is his head full of silver hair. Being 80 years of age qualifies him as the oldest student that SOT has ever seen.
Lim has had a colorful career as a civil servant as well as in the private sector before retiring at 62. He has drawn admiration from many of his classmates who feel he outpaces them in terms of energy and enthusiasm. Lim enrolled in SOT in answer to God’s calling for his life after the passing of his wife a few years ago. He is independent and does not live with his children (although his family regularly visits). He does not have domestic help, and is spritely and in the pink of health.
Another retiree enrolled in the SOT this year is Mabel Lim Hong Choo. Not one to sit back in retirement, this purpose-driven retired teacher decided to take a year of sabbatical to study God’s Word and strengthen her faith. After she finishes her course at SOT, she is considering relief teaching as a post-retirement option.
Margaret Lam Chway May is 73 and a retiree from the accounting and finance sector since the age of 60. A fervent Christian, Lam worships in City Harvest’s Dialect Church. In her free time, she does freelance accounting work, but spends most of her time socializing and catching up with friends. Lam
also undertakes voluntary community work, something which she finds extremely fulfilling.
A fellow church member of CHDC is Henry Koh, 70, an ex-tour guide who retired at age 65. He, too, is now relaxing and enjoying life, catching up with friends.
Elizabeth Lim, 52, was the Head of Fuji Xerox Global Services in Singapore and subsequently the Director of FXGS China before her semi-retirement. After coming to the end of her busy career, she is now “enjoying what I like and spending more time with my daughter.” Lim has set up a shop called Paws For Tea at a private residential estate in Lucky Heights to “help others with their well-being by advising them on eating right and exercising.” She also travels around to places like Shanghai to catch up with friends.
Lily Lim pioneered the set-up of ARCA Dance studio in September 2009. A prominent lawyer, who in “1989 left active practice but only gave up my practicing certificate this year,” engages professional dance teachers from overseas (Russia, America, the Philippines) to teach in her studio. Dance courses include the Waltz, Cha Cha, Rhumba and even the Argentine Tango.
These vibrant, driven, energetic individuals bust the myth of the elderly citizen who have retreated from both the workforce and a fulfilling lifestyle. On the contrary, they are actively looking for meaningful ways to put their time to good use. Most of them have launched into activities which they had no chance to entertain previously because they were holding full-time jobs.
One common road that most retirees take is community work, by helping those less fortunate than themselves. There are a host of programs offered by various community centers and organizations, which one may join in, not just to brighten the lives of others, but also to bring color and resonance back into their own worlds.