Active ageing extends beyond doing typical “old people” activities such as tai chi and brisk-walking, as the My Youthful Golden Years 2011 beauty pageant shows.
Contributed By Esther Ang
Twelve “aunties” and “uncles” put their best foot forward on Jan. 29 at St. James Power Station as they sang and danced before a 200-strong audience, proving that one is never too old to have some light-hearted fun.
The event, titled My Youthful Golden Years 2011, was a beauty pageant held for senior citizens. Organized by the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituencies and Bukit Panjang Single Member Constituency Community Centres/Clubs Youth Executive Committees, it is a two-tier initiative aimed at increasing interaction between senior citizens and youth, and to create a platform for senior citizens to embrace active ageing.
The program, which is in its third year running, received overwhelming participation as with the previous years. The Guest-of-Honor, Mr. Christopher De Souza, Member of Parliament for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, commended the contestants for their sportsmanship during the pageant. He also highlighted in his opening speech that Singapore is seeing an aging population and thus there is an increasing need for the gap between the older and younger generation to be bridged.
The event was conceptualized around the belief that beauty and glamour should not be seen as a sole privilege for the young, and being active in one’s golden years is not limited to the conventional activities such as tai chi or karaoke.
This view resonated with 26-year-old Goh Jun Yan who believes that the youth of today are somewhat distanced from their grandparents. There to support Daisy Lee, one of the contestants, Goh said that one of the ways the former can lend support to the latter is by helping them to be more digitally savvy.
To help senior citizens integrate social media into their lives, My Youthful Golden Years 2011 consisted of an online judging component where youth supporters and IT-savvy senior citizens were encouraged to log on to Facebook to vote for contestants by clicking on the “Like” button on the event’s page.
Keeping the objectives of the initiative closely in mind, the program provided opportunities for inter-generational bonding by engaging both the youth and senior citizens in activities such as kite-making and cooking sessions. Senior citizens were also tasked to develop and present ideas on programs they wished to undertake in order to put their lifelong experience to good use and benefit the youth of the community. In addition, participants who made it to the final phase were required to showcase their talents by performing an item on stage besides the mandatory pageant rounds such as the Q&A, catwalk and best-dressed segments.
Unlikely as it may seem for a beauty pageant, the series of activities served as an avenue for senior citizens to partake in meaningful community activities. It also promoted a paradigm shift among the older generation and their families that beauty and active aging do indeed go hand-in-hand.
After a close race among 12 contestants—nine ladies and three gentlemen— Diana Kho, 62, a dance instructor, was crowned Miss Youthful Golden Years 2011 while Lim Hong Lit, a 75-year-old retiree, was awarded the title of Mr. Youthful Golden Years 2011. Lim, whose charisma and cheerful personality could put a man half his age to shame, strongly believes that more interaction with youth is essential as senior citizens play an important role in guiding them to become the future leaders of the nation.
When asked for his view of youth engagement in relation to active aging, one of the judges, Brian Liu, 28, a management consultant and winner of NuYou’s Men We Love 2009 contest, said, “There is a need for the interaction, but more importantly, senior citizens themselves need to motivate and spur each other on. That would be half the battle won already.”
As a final word of encouragement to all participants and drawing a close to the evening, Liu added, “It’s an honor and a joy to be able to see exemplary performances from the courageous participants. They are truly all winners!”