In the genes

by | March 17, 2014

Her children are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and she is 107! Her son says the women in the family tend to live long!


Swee Yeng and her son, Foo Jong Peng.

She is born the same year as entertainment mogul, Sir Run Run Shaw and not only does she have five generations under her, her grandson has already become a grandfather. Leong Swee Yeng, 107, who originally hailed from Malaysia, shared some glimpses of her past with the help of translation from her 70-year-old son, Foo Jong Peng:



She worked very hard when young. Her husband (whom she was match-made to) owned a rubber plantation in Johor, which they ran together. Though she never got a chance to go to school for long, she was very strict about schooling that most of her nine children (two of whom have since passed away) went to higher education. Interestingly, her mother went to school and enjoyed finer things in life like wine, but she wasn’t as supportive of schooling with her own daughter.

Life was especially tough during the Japanese Occupation. Swee Yeng and her husband would only eat sweet potatoes and they would hide regularly in a bomb shelter, which they built. The bomb shelter could fit 30 to 40 people and some neighbours came in too. A kerosene lamp was used to light the shelter. She said that during those tough times, she never did get a chance to see a Japanese.

To make extra income for her family, Swee Yeng would make saris and planted brinjals, maize and long beans. She also made jute out of clothing and kept a pig farm.



She used to cycle a lot until the age of 80, when her children asked her to stop as they felt it might be too dangerous. She would cycle miles to work. When she arrived, she would have to find a stone, which would allow her to get off her bicycle with ease.

A family photo taken during the Chinese New Year reunion, 2012.

She also had a knack for sewing; she would make purses for all her grandchildren, as well as blankets and tablecloths. She even once made a real-life grasshopper using coconut leaves for her great-granddaughter. When Swee Yeng was younger, she would make cloth shoes as a job before she got married. Even in her 80s, she continued to make things including bak chang. Said her son Jong Peng: “It was very good. One day alone, she could get in orders of as many as 1,000 pieces and she would work mornings to evenings making them. Orders would come in from as far away as Mua and Malacca!”



Her mental calculation is still very good today and can immediately give an answer. In the past, she never relied on any calculating tools like an abacus.



An article from Malacca which mentioned Swee Yeng receiving an award for being one of the oldest in Malacca.

Her mother lived a ripe age of 126 and her husband passed away from a heart attack at the age of 76. Said Jong Peng, “My mother’s genes are very good and the women in the family tend to live long lives.” Her grandchildren numbers around 30, her great-grandchildren are about 20, and great-great-grandchildren are about five (the family did not do a count until now).

She reportedly has no chronic illness but had an artery blockage two months ago from complaining of pain.



Lately, she likes Yakult and ice cream. She likes making Hainanese kueh kueh, and likes the occasional roasted pork.

Mostly she likes to eat kampong chicken, not commercial chicken. She likes sweet potatoes and especially its leaves. She doesn’t take coffee, only Nestlé condensed milk, brown rice, no milo, no candies, no spicy or sour foods, and takes home-cooked meals with no preservatives.

Going against the studies of the need to take eight glasses of water a day, Swee Yeng drinks very little of it (of a small plastic container, not even half of the water was taken which was filled four days ago). She also takes Ensure to get liquids into her.



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