Active ageing: how a wealth of life experiences and knowledge made it easier to learn new things

Ms Margaret M Tang may have spent most of her adult life caring for her family and raising her daughter, now a 15-year-old student. But that never stopped her from venturing beyond her home to learn new skills, “resurrecting” her many hobbies.

Ms. Tang even co-founded an informal group of writers, The Rainforest Writers. Once a month, the 10 members of the group, aged 17 to 60, meet online to share their feedback on each other’s work.

The 53-year-old is puzzled when asked what a typical day looks like for her. “I’m not a routine person,” says the former senior systems engineer, who also taught jewelry making.

That’s because the avid learner does a myriad of things, from cooking and potting plants on his balcony to reading and writing short stories. For nine years she also sang with the Singapore Symphony Chorus and worked as a museum guide.

More recently, she made use of the SGUnited Skills program, completing an 11-month social media marketing course at the Singapore Media Academy. With her newly acquired knowledge, the ad hoc voice-over artist, who has done TV commercials and narration, hopes to further her career in the field by better marketing her website.

But it’s not just about learning new skills for your own benefit. Ms. Tang also wants to help others advance in their careers by training them in public speaking, writing and presentation. In addition to this, she hopes to teach English to foreigners so that they are better equipped to work in Singapore.

And despite her already busy schedule both at home and away, Ms. Tang joined the citizens’ input panel for four weekends last September and October. In support of the successful aging action plan update, the Department of Health (MOH), Department of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Department of Labor Organizations (MOM) co-hosted a virtual citizens’ panel to encourage the public to innovate and champion ideas to enable older adults to continue contributing at work or in the community during their senior years.

Yet Ms Tang, who has been married for 27 years and whose husband is retired, does not see herself as an “impressive example” of active ageing.

“I’m just an ordinary man of 53 and 53 isn’t old for me. But I don’t think about feeling young or getting old either. I just care about maintaining my ability to do well. live,” she points out, adding that she avoids junk food and processed foods or soft drinks.

She says those who are in awe of what she does at her age are likely to be prejudiced against older people and feel like how all seniors are like Liang Po Po (a caricature of an old woman made famous by television personality and director Jack Neo).

For her, age is just a number – unless aging has led to a physical or mental health problem – and a 60-year-old who was always active in her youth always will be. at a later age.

“Active aging is about continuing what you’ve been doing and getting better with age. With more life experience and knowledge, I find it easier to learn new things to keep my mind active, whether it’s reading my daughter’s ‘O’ Levels Chemistry textbooks or riding, direct and write the script for a short film.

She also feels lucky to live in Singapore with its many free activities like photography clubs at community centers and online learning resources as well as lectures and workshops at libraries. For digitally savvy free webinars and YouTube videos, “let you learn anything”.

Ms. Tang explains that although she had more experience with technology through her work as a senior systems engineer in the IT industry in her youth, she still has to relearn everything because things have changed dramatically 20 years later.

“It’s actually not difficult to learn software because many share a similar interface. It’s really about removing the barrier of fear. In fact, she says now is the best time for seniors to learn digital skills due to the government’s push towards digitalization during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

For some seniors, Ms. Tang acknowledges that it’s not the fear of technology but also having a shy and introverted personality that keeps them from going out to interact with others and make new friends.

“The more activities you have, the more social groups you will have. It is good to plan and create a circle of support as well as have hobbies when you are younger so that you feel busy even after retirement and age successfully. You can also create your own interest groups by organizing activities. It’s like assembling a Kampong around you. »

The action plan for aging well

  • Launched in 2015 by the Ministerial Committee on Aging (MCA) to chart the way forward for Singaporeans to age with more confidence and grace.
  • In 2017, MCA also launched the “I Feel Young SG” campaign to promote the action plan and encourage active ageing. Visit
  • To meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s seniors, we must continue to respond to a greater diversity of needs, and take into account the new operating environment and lessons learned from Covid-19. Therefore, the MCA is updating the action plan focusing on:
    • Care: We will empower seniors to take charge of their physical and mental well-being through preventive health programs, active aging and care services to stay healthy and pursue their aspirations.
    • Contribution: We will enable older people to continue to contribute their knowledge and expertise and remain resilient, through an improved learning, volunteering and employment landscape
    • Connectivity: We will help seniors age in place in an inclusive built environment, while staying connected to loved ones and society through digital platforms and support networks that embody the “kampung spirit”.

Donald E. Patel