A soaring time among the skyscrapers

Madam Goh (inset) with 60 seniors from Clementi's Lion Befrienders Senior's Activity Centre at the 13th-storey sky garden of the Straits Trading Building (above).

SINGAPORE - As A Samsui woman, she donned a red cloth hat as she toiled at dusty construction sites in the 1960s.

Now 71, Madam Goh, who declined to give her full name, sported a red T-shirt as she celebrated the nation's 48th birthday on Friday against a backdrop of soaring skyscrapers.

The hale and hearty woman has been involved in the building of schools, residential areas and places of worship all over the island.

Madam Goh was joined by 60 seniors from Clementi's Lion Befrienders Senior's Activity Centre at the 13th-storey sky garden of the Straits Trading Building.

They enjoyed dinner, which was served by 13 Japanese youngsters on the Lions Youth Exchange Programme who also joined in the celebrations. The seniors, who live in one- and two-room rental flats in Clementi, were taken in two chartered buses to the building at Raffles Place.

This is the closest most of them have come to watching the parade, on a large projection screen at the building's sky garden, which overlooks Marina Bay and the Singapore Flyer.

"Most of them would be cooped up at home watching the parade on TV otherwise. Some might not even have a television at home," said Mr David Lee, 56, the district governor of Lions Clubs International.

"We thought that it would be wonderful for the elderly to enjoy the ambience of the celebrations and be in close proximity to the parade."

The event was organised by Lions Clubs of Singapore Central and sponsored by Arcc Holdings, The Straits Trading Company and Konica Minolta Business Solutions.

Mr Teo Tianci, an 80-year-old who used to own a construction company, stood out among the old folk during the party.

His mane was in national colours - his white hair was tinted red specially for National Day.

"I enjoy watching the parade every year, especially the weaponry and military displays.

"Singapore has one of the most advanced military in the world," the sprightly Mr Teo said with pride, as helicopters flew past with the national flag.

Flag

Another retiree, Madam Kua Kong Peng, 76, occasionally waving her flag, was glued to the screen with her husband, 86.

"My husband and I took the bus to watch the parade six years ago. It was easy to get there, but so difficult to get out because it was so crowded," she recalled with a laugh.

"We are old now and getting to the parade would be hard. So I'm really glad to be able to watch it here today."

Despite their aches and ailments, all the seniors stood up for the national anthem and pledge.

Looking at Singapore's night sky from her seat, Madam Goh said she's grateful for her lot in life.

She lives with her husband, 76, in a two-room rental flat, paying about $50 a month. After retiring from the Samsui trade, she worked on a ship as a cleaner before quitting in 2006 because of a bad arm.

The wizened woman recalled the perils of her previous job.

"I was carrying a heavy load on a bamboo pole balanced on my shoulder and I was on a wooden plank five storeys above the ground. The living conditions are much better now. The Government has helped us a lot," she said.


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