The autumn years

Tea and chitchat with four women in their 70s

10 Jun 2019 / 16:53 H.

“There is only one way to live life ... to the fullest,” agree four friends Tan May Ling, Lee Yoke Ying, Hoh Swee Ling and Teresa Goh, and mind you, in their septuagenarian years. The ex-Convent Bukit Nanas “girls” catch up regularly among themselves and the larger posse of CBNers. Whether over lunch or just dessert, they are happy to congregate, enjoying each others’ company, updating one another on their families, their health, their travels and lives. HER! catches up with these “fabulous four” over tete-a-tete.

What’s there not to love about life?

“I have my exercise group, I go for Pilates, Gyrotonic and Rolfing. There are many ways to make yourself healthy, so just do it,” says May Ling. Nothing is mundane to May Ling, even her fortnightly visits to the Chinese sinseh is seen as something pleasurable. With excitement in her voice, bounce in her step and sparkle in her eyes, the ex-lecturer says it’s all about enjoying life these days. “No more obligations, I’ve got all the time. I enjoy my life as there are just a few more years before ‘other things’ may crop up.” A firm believer that wisdom comes with age, May Ling doesn’t deny that undesirable symptoms and ailments can also be expected in one’s twilight years. “Still, I cherish this time. I have friends, some who have passed on, so I know how precious time is. That’s why my friends and I, we just do what we feel is most precious; the important things.” The mother of two and grandmother to four keeps abreast with the times. “Now with mobile phones and apps, people can be on the go travelling yet still keep in touch with their family. We have more options now. You can connect with family via phone or WhatsApp. Grab also helps. Technology is really an advantage,” says she (and her friends), happy with their smart contraptions and apps. All are glad to be independent, fairly healthy and mobile, and grateful to be born in this era. “Those days, I feel women were confined by their own thinking and confined to their family. They had no chance to travel and were dependent on their husbands and their children who were overly protective; there was also cultural restrictions. Life now is different; we are so free, we do what we want. We don’t even have to tell our children where we’re going,” shares May Ling, one with a cheerful disposition, who goes about in her bright red “beetle”.

It’s all in the perspective

Renowned among the marathon running crowd - Teresa Goh echoes the same sentiments. She has and still is a role model for both the young and young-at-heat, but more to those from her generation, having run her first full marathon after she turned 60. “I like outdoor activities and took up running for health reasons. I did my first marathon at the age of 61, and my last at 74 - an average of three per year,” she shares. Now Teresa prefers trekking and walking, and travels the globe to indulge in these activity-based leisure pursuits. One who is living proof to have defied the odds where running marathons are concerned, Teresa is but of course, grateful to be able to. “Good health at this age is something to be really thankful for,” she says. Quite the lady of leisure who still contributes to the economy; she along with her three (and other) friends, believe that today’s health awareness and technology has paved a way for seniors to live a different lifestyle. “I definitely have it better than those in previous generations who were less independent and more home-bound; I have more freedom,” says the independent and capable grandma who still drives herself around, yet is thankful for today’s mobile apps that bring convenience to many lives, “especially seniors who are immobile or can’t drive anymore”.

Thank God for now

“It’s time for me to relax now. Yeah, I am happy and contented. I enjoy myself. Those days (working days), I was too busy. I missed out on my exercise, activities and games,” says Yoke Ying. She reminisces her heyday before marriage and shares how active she was “playing netball, badminton, table tennis and almost all the racquet games.” Now at this age, she still sees the glass half full and claims that the best thing in life now, is herself at this age. “I am still healthy and can ‘run around’, eat good food ... and I do not have any regrets in life. Do what you want, no need to regret, past is past. Best not to have any regrets. Mistakes are definitely made but never mind, just learn from these and move on. Nowadays, if I want to go to church or go wherever I want, I have the freedom,” says the carefree mother of three. Having worked as an accounts administrator for years, Yoke Ying can’t help but advise young ones to save, but only so they can spend it later. “Once you’re in your older years, spend on what you want. Don’t worry about keeping money for the young ones; spend it on yourself, on what you need or to better yourself; don’t be so tight-fisted like the many senior citizens I hear of who are always saving money for their children’s future instead of spending it on themselves.”

To life and friendships

For Swee Ling, life now is about travelling. A frequent flyer to Melbourne, she says that Korea is next on her list. But her interests does not end there as Swee Ling also does tai chi and has plans to learn line dancing (if not already). She retorts to Yoke Ying’s comment on saving though and shares her view. “I agree that the younger generation should save, especially for a rainy day, but also in case one falls ill or contracts some health ailment. For those in my age, I think we should just live comfortably enough. There’s no need to live a luxurious life,” says the mother of three children and three grandchildren. For Swee Ling, family togetherness is important, it has always been; she lost her mother when she was just an eight-month-old baby. Hence, Swee Ling treasures each and every moment, especially the time she spends with her children and grandkids. “Happiness is being with your loved ones (her friends included). And to live life every day as if it is the last day of your life and cherish it; and your relationships with family and friends! It’s important to live now, in the present, and to discover what else is in God’s plan. There is always a reason for everything and a reason for long life too,” she adds.

All four, each different, yet all agree to disagree. Still, they have a positive take on life while in their 70s. From running marathons and traversing the globe in between the odd bouts of seeing to the grandkids, regular checks-ups and the routine stuff, they do not allow their age to hold them back. Their mantra:“Just love your life, now! Don’t try to turn back the clock or regret because everything else in the past is best left behind. Life is about being grateful, appreciating family, relationships, friendships ... and food! And above all, cherishing simple things and learning something new.” On how they’ve kept their friendship since 1961, they say, “We care for after each other!”


Life of discovery and learning

The autumn of one’s life can be an exciting time to learn and discover, especially as one will have less obligations and fewer responsibilities. A time also referred to as the “third age” or “golden era”, it is explained as a period when life presents richer possibilities that bring a lot of self-fulfillment, even with physical, emotional and cognitive limitations. Check out what the “University of the Third Age Malaysia” ( has to offer.

From left: May Ling, Teresa, Swee Ling and Yoke Ying at one of their favourite hang-outs.

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