Learning > Inspiration

Bucket lists that never end: At 65, she started mountain trekking

Lee Siew Hua on 13 Jul 2019

The Straits Times


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SINGAPORE - Age does not mean the death of dreams.


These three inspiring seniors are ticking items off their bucket lists in travel, business and thought leadership.


Accountant Khoo Kah Yin, 68, loves trekking on mountains and her adventurous pursuit started just three years ago.


Veteran chef and artist Aziza Ali, 69, is launching a line of shawls this year - a fresh facet of her long entrepreneurial journey.


Dr Hong Hai, 75, a multi-hyphenate who has been a Member of Parliament, corporate chief and Chinese physician, is about to start a free seminar series on health and happiness for seniors.


And they are hardly done. Constantly crafting new plans, whether for pleasure or work, these imaginative veterans are a picture of possibility for Singaporeans of any age.




Mrs Khoo Kah Yin started skiing at 60 and mountain trekking at 65. The accountant, now 68, still works four days a week and also has her hands full as a pastor's wife.


Tanned from her outdoorsy life and elegant in corporate apparel, her life is a whirl of pleasure and performance.


She had not planned to ski when she holidayed with friends on the wintry slopes of Hokkaido in her sixth decade. But her companions were persuasive so she strapped on skis on the second day.


Then the novice found herself stranded at the top of a beginners' slope with her mates. They had expected to see their instructor, but clearly something was lost in translation.


Staring down the 1km slope, she could not see the bottom. There was little choice but to take the plunge. "I might as well do it, I thought. I fell, of course, but I just got up."


As she persevered with the sport, she mastered new skills, from balancing and turning to reducing speed and studying the slope.


Now, skiing is exhilarating and she enjoys a trip every January or February.


Next, she discovered her love of trekking. She has trekked multiple days on Mont Blanc on the French-Italian border, conquered gruelling Mount Rinjani in Indonesia and ascended Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.


She trains for high-altitude treks by climbing 10 storeys of her office stairs at lunchtime, repeating the drill 10 times.


She also walks up Bukit Timah Hill and works out at the gym, where her personal trainer has motivated her to complete 150 burpees in five minutes.


"It's discipline and determination,'' says Mrs Khoo.


Her hard work pays off when she explores high places. The appeal is everywhere in the remote vistas, the fresh air and the relaxed dinners at the end of each day.


Skiing and trekking at her age has been transformative for her because she is learning afresh.


"Many people think you can't do it in your 60s, but actually, you can.


"Do it with care and wisdom. When I trek, I learn to make decisions at every step, whether to step on this rock or that,'' she says.


She is also more aware about the right kind of exercise. Building and maintaining muscle is vital, for instance. The food-lover is also convinced that it makes more sense to consume the right food rather than go on a diet.


Her athletic pursuits have also taught her to stay humble.


"It is more dangerous to be arrogant. Skiing is a high-risk sport and you have to follow instructions,'' adds Mrs Khoo, who was active in her younger days too.


In school, she was in the track and field team and played both netball and basketball. In later decades, she swam and ran half-marathons.


At work, Mrs Khoo, the group chief financial officer of Acorn Marketing and Research Consultants, supervises 16 accountants in 11 Asian countries.


The certified public accountant was 50 when she joined the company, after work stints at Coopers (now PwC) and Goodwood Park Hotel.


She took a break from the corporate world when she taught principles of accounting at Catholic Junior College.


"I never retired. I want to keep my mind active,'' she says.


As she is a pastor's wife, she has her share of church work such as counselling and flower arrangements. She swipes her smartphone to show a gorgeous display of hydrangeas and artichokes. She also volunteers with an organisation working with prisoners and their families.


She and her 72-year-old husband do not have children, so that has become an extra motivation to take care of body, mind and soul.


She is happy to power on. Eyes sparkling, she says she wishes to learn to cycle and ascend more mountains.


"Kilimanjaro is my dream," she says.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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