Ageing is not just about positive thinking. "It's about having a positive attitude towards ageing," said Daisy Chee, 79, a former secretary.
She was always single and when she retired at 60 to spend more time doing what she likes, she bought a country club membership, unlike some others, who may sell theirs to use the cash for retirement. "I also love fishing and could go anytime, instead of having to take leave to do it," said Ms Chee, who has chartered a boat with her friends to go on fishing trips.
Since retiring, she has volunteered at a hospital, been a photographer, joined several societies, and tried a whole range of activities, including swimming.
Most recently, she volunteered at the Council for Third Age's Kopi and Toast programme, a mentoring scheme for new or recent retirees that started in late 2013.
The "Kopi" part of the scheme refers to the one who is enjoying retired life. He will help the "Toast", which refers to the person who has just retired and is at a loss about what to do.
Ms Chee introduced her mentee to photography, and helped her to buy a camera since she did not have a hobby.
Proponents of positive ageing encourage people to be fully engaged in life as people grow old.
Said Ms Chee: "Ageing is all in the mind. I tell people to be positive. Lots of people say they cannot do this or that. But I learnt how to use the computer only after I retired."
Of course, one has to prepare for retirement, she said. She started saving the day she started working, at 19. She also invested in equities and profited from a property sale in the 1990s.
She is also a self-professed health nut who enjoys cooking healthy meals for herself. "Wealth cannot make you happy if your health is not good," she said.
Indeed, studies have shown that physical health and social resources have direct effects on positive aspects of subjective well-being, said Associate Professor Reshma Merchant, head and senior consultant at the general medicine division of the National University Hospital. She said: "Many factors associated with ageing successfully are within our control and modifiable from early 40s and beyond."
These include social engagement, regular exercise, a nutritious diet, adaptive coping skills and early detection and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, she added.
Ms Soh Swee Ping, chief executive of active ageing agency Council for Third Age, said: "There will be physical deterioration as we age but it doesn't mean that you cannot be the person you used to be."
Ms Chee said the key is not to limit yourself. "Don't let age hold you back. Nothing is impossible."
Support and empower seniors even as they grow older
While many seniors are engaged actively in society, some will need help as they become frail, said Associate Professor Corinne Ghoh, co-director of The Next Age Institute at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
She said: "The challenge lies in how families and older people can be better supported and empowered in the caregiving journey, so that the older person can continue to age in a familial environment, and not lose his sense of autonomy and self-esteem."
Denying seniors the opportunities to participate in day-to-day activities and lead active lives will damage their well-being. The challenge is for providers of eldercare services to adopt a caregiving approach that will empower the seniors, she said.
This article was first published on Sept 29, 2015.
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