Post-90, and living independently

Madam Yian Siew Yeng (left), 94, and Madam Then Sip Inn, 95, both live on their own and have active lifestyles, visiting the market and doing the housework themselves.
Madam Yian Siew Yeng (above), 94, and Madam Then Sip Inn, 95, both live on their own and have active lifestyles, visiting the market and doing the housework themselves.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Madam Yian Siew Yeng (left), 94, and Madam Then Sip Inn, 95, both live on their own and have active lifestyles, visiting the market and doing the housework themselves.
Madam Yian Siew Yeng, 94, and Madam Then Sip Inn (above), 95, both live on their own and have active lifestyles, visiting the market and doing the housework themselves.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Madam Yian Siew Yeng, 94, and Madam Then Sip Inn, 95, are two good examples of why chronological age can be deceiving.

Both women live on their own, although they enjoy visits from their children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

They go to the wet market and do housework themselves but do need some help occasionally, such as with plumbing or when electrical appliances need repair.

They get such help from the Lions Befrienders, a voluntary welfare organisation that has staff or volunteers who visit such seniors once a week to ensure everything is fine.

Madam Yian is more active, going out most days. She takes the bus and the train to places such as Chinatown, Bedok and Bishan.

The spritely 94-year-old, who still sports a full head of hair, walks without the need of any aid, and travels at least twice a year.

Madam Yian said she keeps fit by spending her morning at Xin Yuan Community Care, located at her block of flats in Toa Payoh North, doing over an hour of exercise with other seniors. The centre provides porridge, so it saves her the hassle of cooking, she said.

When she does cook, she likes exotic foods such as frog legs, which she buys from the wet market. They are expensive, at $10 for three frogs, she said in Cantonese.

Her week-long holiday to Bandung in Indonesia in April was organised by Xin Yuan, with about 20 seniors paying about $1,100 each for an all-inclusive holiday accompanied by a therapist and nurses.

Madam Then, who is a year older at 95, is less adventurous after a fall earlier this year. She also promised her son, since that fall, that she will not go gallivanting alone. Until last year, she would visit the temple in Waterloo Street every week.

Now, she walks half a kilometre to the market most days in the week, with the help of a walking stick.

She cooks her own food - her favourite is fish soup with stock from boiling fish bones until the water turns milky white. She also cleans her rental flat and washes and irons her own clothes.

She has four children but does not want to live with any of them, as she values her independence.

Furthermore, she said in Hakka: "There is so much housework to do if I stay with them. I can't see something that needs doing and not do it."

Salma Khalik

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Post-90, and living independently'. Print Edition | Subscribe