She's simply happy to be 100

PHOTO: She's simply happy to be 100

SINGAPORE - Her hearing isn't great, and her legs are weakening too.

She doesn't have much appetite either, often finishing only a small portion of her meals.

But you will never hear Madam Chua Sua Teh complaining about her age.

Indeed, the 100-year-old woman can still play a mean game of Wii bowling.

Despite the usual effects of ageing, Madam Chua is simply happy that she has hit the 100-year mark this year.

She told The New Paper last Thursday in Teochew: "I don't worry myself with thoughts about death or illness, I simply live one day at a time, and make the most out of it."

Madam Chua is a good example of how the elderly can live to a ripe old age when there's good family and community support.

Even though she has been living alone in her Bendemeer one-room flat since the death of her husband 21 years ago, her family has not neglected her.

Celebration

Earlier this year, her children had celebrated her 100th birthday with a buffet lunch. Said the centenarian, who has 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren: "I went to the home of one of my children in the morning to celebrate, then went back home in the afternoon."

Madam Chua, who is happy to live alone, often goes down to the Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre on the ground floor of her block.

Volunteers said Madam Chua is a regular there, visiting the centre at least three times a week.

Madam Chua said: "I'm not lonely, as everyone at the activity centre is my friend."

And even with her advanced age, she would rather continue living alone than with her children as she does not want to inconvenience them. But her children have employed a domestic helper, who has yet to arrive, to take care of her in light of her weakening legs.

Not that she has requests to make to her children. She said: "Even for my funeral, I'll just let my children do what they want to do, I won't request that they do anything special."

'Loneliness affects longevity'

'Loneliness affects longevity'

Turning a century old is an admirable feat.

And it is usually through strong family and community support that makes a person live that old, said social workers.

Mrs Judy Wee, 51, case manager of Peace Connect Seniors Activity Centre, has been working with the elderly living alone for several years.

The centre is an elderly service provider for those living in the surrounding rental blocks in Kampong Glam.

She said: "Most of the centenarians live that long because they have someone or something to hold on for."

Mrs Wee told The New Paper that several elderly persons are in a situation similar to that of Madam Lam Lee, the 109-year-old who died on July 7, alone.

Mrs Wee related the case of a 94-year-old woman, whose only daughter had moved overseas for work. The widow, who suffers from dementia, had almost set fire to her home several times.

Another 92-year-old man with dementia has refused to see any doctor or take medication given to him. His only son has never contacted him. Said Mrs Wee: "It's unfortunate to see the elderly feel lonely when they live alone, as their children are away most of the time for work."

Emotional support

But it is the emotional support from their loved ones that is most crucial to these elderly persons. Ms Tan Lay Geok, senior counsellor at Singapore Counselling Centre, said: "As they get older, they desire to be in the companionship of family members."

These seniors yearn to impart their life experiences to their younger generation.

She added that the elderly may also have weaker social support as their friends may have died and they might not have the mobility to get around much any more.

The Lions Befrienders is a voluntary welfare organisation that reaches out to seniors who live alone or have limited family support. A spokesman said: "Loneliness affects longevity. The trend of the elderly living alone is increasing, and this is in line with Singapore's ageing population.

"It is worrisome as we have come across seniors who feel extremely lonely, and this may sometimes develop into something more serious, such as depression or suicidal thoughts.

"It has an adverse effect on their psycho-emotional health and this in turn affects their life span."


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