What does retirement mean to you? If you’re thinking rocking chairs, knitting needles, gardening tools and TV remotes, you’re way off. Older adults in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s are ditching stereotypes on what the golden years should be like.
More and more seniors are pushing conventions aside and reinventing life after retirement. After all, age is really about how you feel and people’s personalities don’t change because they get older.
They run, they dance, they CrossFit, they hike, they lift weights, they do yoga and tai chi. Seniors nowadays are exploring various options to keep themselves active, fit and healthy.
Surjeet Kaur (also known as Mrs Jagjeet), 78, is Malaysia’s first qualified Nordic walking instructor. The former Star Education columnist not only coaches “anyone who is interested”, she organises walking trips both locally and abroad.
“Nordic walking is great for seniors because we need low-impact activity,” she says. “I used to be an avid trekker, but after a trek to the Everest Base Camp (in the Himalayas) some years ago, I collapsed. The cartilage in my right knee was completely gone.
“I thought that was the end of my exercising, but then I discovered Nordic walking. Now I teach people because I want to encourage our seniors to keep fit.”
She adds that, “Anyone can Nordic walk. My 85-year-old husband walks with us and he’s faster than me. I have had those with crutches and walking sticks too.”
Nordic walking, she explains further, is akin to using the cross trainer at the gym. “Except this is outside, and it’s really important for seniors not to be cooped up but to move about in the outdoors.”
Annapoorni Sivasamy, a former assistant manager at an insurance company, may have retired but she hasn’t stopped working. Six years ago, the 62-year-old turned her quilting hobby into a business.
Annapoorni was keen to earn for herself by doing something she loved, but she wasn’t sure if she could do it. The idea of selling her craft-work was daunting because she didn’t know if anyone would pay for her hand-stitched pieces.
“I was nervous,” says the mother of three. “I didn’t know if my work was good enough or if people would like it. But it’s been six years since I sold my first piece, and it has been exhilarating to see photos of my work on social media and read comments about how people like it.
“It’s also pushed me to learn new things. I now make bags and purses too.”
Though she’s participated in bazaars, most of her orders come through recommendations. “It feels good, like I’ve achieved something,” she says. “I’ve gained a lot more confidence in myself.”
Tang Muk Sing, 86, loves learning new skills so much that he’s landed a job as an administrative assistant at the University of the Third Age (U3A) in Serdang, Selangor.
“I started working there six years ago” he says. “I joined U3A a decade ago because I wanted to attend some courses offered here. I started with computer classes, then art, then other classes to keep myself alert.”
Tang, who lives in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, drives to work. “I work flexible hours, but orientation season work can get hectic. It’s important to keep productive and active,” says Tang, who continues to take up short courses.
U3A started in 2007 as a programme under Univeristi Putra Malaysia’s Institue of Gerontology to provide lifelong learning courses for Malaysians over 50. There are more than 30 courses on a variety of subjects including health, computing, photography, music, dance, singing, cooking, exercise and languages.
Lifelong membership for those over 55 is RM150, while associate membership is RM25 a year. For details, go to their official website.