Seok Hiong’s inquisitive nature gives a clue to his fitness. He has just picked up tennis; prior to that, inline skating and pickle ball. In fact, it is quite difficult keeping track of Seok Hiong’s hobbies, as he is always picking up new ones all the time! This is not to say that Seok Hiong is a fickle man. Far from it. Seven decades of sensible living, and taking responsibility for a career and his family – his wife, three children and six grandchildren – have taught Seok Hiong the value of perseverance and resilience.
“If something looks interesting, I ought at least to explore it,” he explains his approach towards new things. The lively gleam in his eyes shows that he finds almost anything and everything “worth exploring”. Seok Hiong admits it, “I am a very curious person.”
His curiosity led him to say “yes” when his son-in-law offered to teach him tennis. “Once I tried it, I was addicted!” Seok Hiong said with an excited laugh. “Of course, at the beginning I was just picking balls. But I did not feel tired or winded after the first game. I felt energised.”
Seok Hiong knew that the Internet is a rich source for independent learning. On the internet, a person does not have to rely on anybody if he wishes to do research or learn new skills. But there was one snag. Seok Hiong did not grow up with computers. He did not even own a computer. However, knowing next to nothing about computer technology did not deter him.
About two years ago, he got his son-in-law to teach him rudimentary computer skills. They went shopping for a suitable laptop for Seok Hiong. It opened up a whole new world for him. After that, he was seldom without his laptop by his side. “Even when I accompany my wife to watch her favourite drama on television, my laptop will be open in front of me.”
Initially, he was unfamiliar with the workings of a computer, like how to download apps and paying for apps. “Then I will ask whoever I come across to teach me!” Seok Hiong said. He does not feel that asking for IT advice is anything to feel shy or embarrassed about.
Very soon, he was able to master the basics, and now he uses his laptop to watch dramas, read the news, learn the English language and watch how-to videos. For example, when he started picking up tennis, he searched YouTube for Venus Williams and Serena Williams, famous professional tennis players who are sisters and rivals. He liked to follow their matches.
One of the latest things he picked up from the Internet was learning how to bake bread. With modest pride, he declares that he doesn’t have to eat store-bought bread anymore, because he has learned to bake his own.
Love for Music
One of the most important functions afforded by his newly learned IT skills was the unlimited database of traditional and contemporary songs available on the Internet. More than a sportsman or a volunteer worker, Seok Hiong is first and foremost a music lover. His love affair with music is lifelong, and over the years, he has taught himself to play a wide variety of instruments ranging from the harmonica to the guitar, piano, guzheng, yangqin, erhu and zhongruan. On some instruments, Seok Hiong humbly described his skills as being basic, but he passionately tries to master some of them, like the guzheng.
He practises on the guzheng almost every day, sometimes spending one to two hours on the instrument. He also joins a small amateur band of Chinese orchestra players. While brushing up on his personal skills, Seok Hiong is mindful of the bigger picture. “Chinese orchestra music, or hua yue, is not popular in Singapore, so I want to draw attention to it,” he explained. He would like to contribute to the appreciation of Chinese orchestra music in Singapore.
“Besides, did you know that music is very healing?” he asked. “Listening to music can reduce stress, help a person to calm down and even soothe mental illness.”
Ageing Well All-Round
His face grew serious as he explained his motives. “I’m an advocate for lifelong learning. And since I represent the seniors, I must be brave and prove that seniors can learn new things and we can contribute to society.”
Although Seok Hiong is well into his 70s, he lives life with the long term in mind. For Seok Hiong, the 70s is not a time to conserve energy, to start thinking of dying or lose focus on living. To this end, he eats healthily, exercises circumspectly and schedules his days neatly with important activities.
“My life principle is to be resilient, don’t hold grudges and don’t entertain stress. Although I enjoy learning new things, I do not neglect the important things – like family and community. My goals are modest now – I hope my health is preserved so that I can continue to contribute to society, and I hope my family members appreciate and uphold the family unity and harmony.”