READING SPECIAL

The Next Chapter

What: A monthly, free book club for senior citizens who discuss books covering topics such as ageing, health, retirement, relationships and financial issues

Where: Activity Room, Yishun Public Library

When: Every last Tuesday of the month at 10.30am Info: Go to www.nlb.gov.sg/ or e-mail readsingapore@nlb.gov.sg

The Next Chapter is a book club that does not shy away from dealing with heavy issues such as death.

 

It meets every last Tuesday of the month at Yishun Public Library and the club members are in their 50s and 60s.

The book that they discussed during their inaugural gathering in September last year was The End Of Your Life Book Club, American author Will Schwalbe's memoir about his mother's death from pancreatic cancer.

"People ask why we are talking about the end of life," says club founder Hasanah Mohamed Sohdi, 54, a childcare teacher.

"But look at it this way. If you talk about death, you are also talking about life, how you have lived your life. Ageing gracefully and meaningfully helps us prepare for that time and to embrace it rather than be afraid of it."

While the club has 30 members, each session, which lasts from 10.30am to noon, usually attracts between 10 and 18 attendees. Membership is free and details on books and sessions are put up at the library branch and on the National Library Board website.

Madam Hasanah, who worked as a librarian in the 1980s and 1990s, says she started the club because she could not find one that suited her schedule.

"I love attending book clubs meetings and the library has several, but I can't attend most of them because of my working hours. There were also no book clubs catering to seniors living in the north, so I approached the library and it helped me start one."

Many of the members live within walking distance of the library, including married couple Richard Lam, 66, and Shirley Chui, 68.

"This is the first book club that we joined," says Mr Lam, a former public relations executive who now works as a part-time administration staff member.

"We normally read motivational and self-improvement books, but since we joined The Next Chapter, we've been reading more books that help seniors cope with life much better."

The couple bring up Shattered: We Heal, a book that deals with mental issues. The discussion about the book was educational because the authors, Dr Radiah Salim and Ms Yohanna Abdullah, were invited as guests to the session.

"The discussion got very lively," says Ms Chui, a business trainer. "It was also very enlightening as we never knew about the state of mental depression in Singapore and how it has affected so many people here."

The Next Chapter also counts among its ranks voracious readers such as Madam Shamimah Mujtaba, 60, a brain gym consultant who trains people to develop learning ability through exercises. She reads an average of 50 books a month and is the founder of another local book club, The Singapore Literature Book Club.

She says: "When you read a book, it's solitary - you finish, close the book and that's it. But when you go to the club meetings, you discuss it with others and you hear different people giving different insights."

Madam Hasanah says membership is growing steadily and she welcomes new members.

"Being older doesn't mean we become useless or contribute less," says Madam Hasanah, who is married to a senior service controller and has a 28-year-old daughter.

"This is just another phase and we can still have a meaningful life. So we discuss books that are of interest to us."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'The Next Chapter'. Print Edition | Subscribe