Dollars and sense

PHOTO: Dollars and sense

Retired... and she acts for love

Actress Eleanor Song, 67

She loves the theatre. Since retiring in 2005, the former stockbroker has turned to acting to fulfil her life-long love for the stage.

She says: "It's a dream come true, being able to do something I've always secretly wanted to do, but never had a chance.

"For me, theatre is life, life acted out on stage. It's a visual picture bringing awareness to life's complexities."

Madam Song acted in last year's play October, and this year's Family Duet. Next year, she will appear in the play Take Me Or Leave Me!, as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.

She lives in a private two-room apartment. She has three children with their own families, who look after her.

She doesn't consider acting as "working".

She says: "After retirement, I travelled, baked and took courses in flower arrangement.

"But those theatre workshops were the most meaningful.

"I get so much joy from entertaining people."

But she says whether or not to work after retirement really depends on the individual.

"If one is in good health and wants to work for some income or out of boredom, why not?

"But if retirees have children who want to pamper them and let them enjoy their twilight years in comfort, why not?"

In her case, working gives her a bit of "pocket money", she acknowledges, declining to reveal how much she earns.

"My family is looking after me, so I don't depend on it.

"But the money is useful for my daily expenses, like transport, meals and clothes."

Her days are now spent attending rehearsals, memorising lines, and following the instructions of her directors.

It's a lot of work, no?

She replies with a smile: "You are as old as you think you are.

"And I can always not act my age."

Never retired... and he works for love of it

Beach patrol officer

Quek Chee Boon, 62

He might not strut around with a hot bod ala Baywatch. But Mr Quek Chee Boon, 62, is still at the top of his game.

In eight minutes, the senior supervisor for Sentosa's beach operations can swim 200m and run twice that distance.

He says: "Obviously, the younger lifeguards are faster. But because of my experience, I can assess a potential crisis more quickly.

"I know what to look out for and can decide whether people need help or not."

He has been with Sentosa for 35 years, joining when he was just 27.

He says: "To become a lifeguard, I had to have a Bronze Medallion certification (from the Singapore Lifesaving Society). I had to fulfil a lot of criteria, like be able to swim a certain distance continuously, perform rescue techniques and be able to tow someone for a certain distance for a certain amount of time.

"Truthfully, I know maybe only three lifeguards who are over 55 years old. Most lifeguards are 40 to 50 years old.

"A lifeguard's job is not easy at any age - it involves lives and anything can happen."

These days, you might see Mr Quek in a buggy, patrolling Siloso, Palawan or Tanjong Beach.

He might also be seated at a beach tower, looking out for damage to beach property or potential dangers.

In addition, he trains and supervises other lifeguards, giving them tips on what to watch out for and how to stay safe.

He says: "I feel I can still contribute. I share my experiences with the younger lifeguards, and they learn faster from real-life stories.

"I also get to meet new people every day, and I don't feel so lonely."

He will keep working until he can't, he says.

"I'm the sort that cannot stay at home. If I shut my mind off and live a sedentary lifestyle, sooner or later I'll be gone.

"And even after all these years, I still love the sun, sand and sea."

Retired once... then lands dream job in F&B

Restaurant manager

Jenny Toh, 64

She serves with a smile.

She oversees 12 wait and kitchen staff at the Wishbone family restaurant in Bukit Timah Plaza, and ensures it runs smoothly every day.

Tables must be set beautifully, she says. Food must be stored properly.

If the restaurant is under-staffed, she waits tables. If the kitchen needs helps, she is glad to shell prawns or even wash dishes.

She says: "All my life, I've wanted to make customers happy. I've always wanted to run my own restaurant, so this is a dream come true.

"This is my 'happy retirement' job."

The former service quality trainer retired in 2011. Five months ago, she applied for her current position.

She took a diploma in restaurant management from a Swiss institution in the 1970s, and worked as a waitress and a manager of a children's playground in her younger days.

She says: "So many twists and turns happened in my life. Many times, I choose the most practical path.

"But now, I really want to do something I feel passionate about - which is in the food and beverage industry.

"Not every senior can get this job, unless they have the background.

"I was lucky in that way."

As a part-timer, Madam Toh works 16 hours a week, usually during peak periods. She is single and lives alone.

But her enthusiasm has seen her put in extra hours voluntarily.

She says: "The smile on a customer's face is priceless."

Aside from her restaurant work, she is also a freelance trainer at U Live, a National Trades Union Congress group of active agers. She teaches seniors how to motivate and mentor their peers and family.

She says: "It's important to mix with people of all ages.

"I know all about hashtags and emoticons because I learn it from the young people at work.

"Mixing with young people keeps me young."


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