Other than his legacy when it comes to nation building, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is also a model of successful ageing.
Successful ageing is not about looking young and being free of illness.
Growing old successfully means understanding that we are mortal and displaying a well-formed character: firm, resilient and unyielding, with an unfailing sense of proportion and experience to offer to those who are younger.
Nevertheless, maintaining functional independence is important for successful ageing.
Research in the US tracking seniors found that the prevalence of having no disability in the year prior to death at 80 is about 22 per cent.
More importantly, physical activity is a key factor predicting non-disability before death.
While light exercise may confer psychological and social benefits in seniors, aerobic activity and strength training of adequate intensity and frequency are needed to slow the ageing-related decrements in functional capacity and to confer other physical health benefits.
Mr Lee kept working up to his hospitalisation last month and remained physically active as long as possible.
He had a habit of daily exercise. At 89, he could still sit up and did not need a walking stick.
He had a daily routine of treadmill exercise totalling 45 minutes; he would also swim 20 to 25 minutes.
He attributed his physical condition to such discipline.
Indeed, his daughter Lee Wei Ling said that they shared the same temperament of being strong-willed; this trait probably helped Mr Lee keep to a disciplined exercise routine.
Such discipline should also mean knowing when to rest for recuperation.
We would all do well to learn from Mr Lee's determination and discipline to keep well and productive, both physically and mentally, for as long as we can.
Wee Shiou Liang (Dr)
This article was first published on Mar 27, 2015.
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