The one that didn’t get away

by | October 2, 2010

He may have lost one title but he has gained another. He doesn’t have to lick his wounds anymore.

BY: Eleanor Yap


Jim Then, 64, was one of the finalists for the Mr & Ms Singapore Senior 2010 pageant by the People’s Association in late August. It was his first time being in a senior pageant. However, he didn’t walk away with the top prize but that doesn’t matter now as he was named the Active Agers-POSB Active Award 2010 winner today!

A training manager at the Centre For Seniors, he counts himself as being active in keeping himself healthy and he volunteers at the National Council of Social Service and the Kampong Chai Chee Senior Activity Centre. You can understand why this grandfather of four and father of three was bound to win an award soon enough:


Can you share your disappointment in not winning the Mr Singapore Senior Award?

The ‘feel’ of being disappointed in not winning a major contest was a new experience for me. I felt sorry to disappoint my supporters who expected me to win, especially my family, for example, the great cheering of my five-year-old granddaughter! Overall it was a great experience for me at this stage of my life journey; to be in the final out of 170 contestants from 60 constituencies and showing my children and grandchildren my courage and confidence.


So winning one of the Active Agers awards must be pretty sweet for you?

Winning this award means there will more to be contributed in years ahead.  This recognition serves more as a motivation for me to continue the work that I strongly believe in.


You were in investment and futures for 13 years. What made you go into a second career in social service and at 55?

My experience in life, regardless of success or failure, should not be left on shelves but revealed and shared with other seniors. I remembered Minister Heng Chee How (Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office) once told me: “You move from financial futures to human futures.”


As a result of this second career, in 2000, you went on to get a Diploma in Counselling from the University of Edith Cowan, and subsequently a BA in Psychology at the age of 55. And at 61, you got your Masters in Social Science (Counselling) from the University of South Australia in 2006. I understand you are currently enrolled in Nanyang Polytechnic pursuing a specialist diploma in Health and Promotion. How is it going back to school at a later age?

The motivation to learn is from my passion and plan to do more for seniors. I go to school three evenings a week after work from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. I just try to compromise with less sleep in the one year! Studying at a later age doesn’t bother me as the studying involves my work.


Can you share your passion of helping people journey through rough patches and being a role model of healthy living and continuous learning? Why is this important to you? 

Growing up from a low-income family and being a counsellor/social worker for seven years in at the SBL Family Service Centre, I had the experience dealing with people from different generation, social and cultural backgrounds with various difficulties in their life journey. I said to myself: “Can I help?”


Since you have stacked up a number of diplomas, lifelong learning is important to you. How also will your latest diploma help you in your life journey? Will you stop any time soon?

Learning in itself compliments my counselling knowledge and experience and it allows me to develop holistic programmes for seniors. Lifelong learning has really enriched me. It is good for my mental health and self-worth.  If there is a need, I will not stop learning and not necessarily for a diploma.


How are you a role model in healthy living? Anything else that you do?

I brisk walk three to four times a week for 45 minutes each time.  On top of that, I also do a nature walk or swim on the weekends with my family. Eat well, eat right and eat safely is important to me in staying healthy. Besides work, I still have people coming to me for assistance if they encounter difficulties in their life journey. I counsel them for free.


Can you share what your career path is and where you see yourself heading?

It is not about career, it is about what will add meaning and joy to my life journey.


Most people want to take it easy in their 60s but you keep on going, going and going. What is your motivation? Do you see yourself slowing down anytime soon?

I don’t count the days or watch the dates! I let my body and soul tell me when to slow down.


In all your talks/workshops that you often conduct in your job responsibility with Centre For Seniors, can you highlight five important advice you would like to share with other seniors?

If one wishes to enjoy their golden years, you should maintain a healthy body, a sharp mind, sufficient cash, letting go of unmet expectation and be grateful!


Let’s talk about finance, which relates to the award you received. How have you done your own financial planning and what advice can you give to other seniors? Any tips?

I had my house fully paid, kept my cash in a foreign currency account and another amount in a savings account for at least two years.  I had kept some investment in Great China Fund and Great India Fund.

Some advice? Do your homework and only invest in what you understand otherwise keep the money in the bank so it can earn interest. The priority is to stretch or manage the money to live through a decent life and not to grow rich.


What do you feel are the problems associated with money and seniors? What are some myths about financial planning?

Seniors feel that getting older, they don’t need financial planning and that it’s for the rich only. Some other myths about seniors’ financial planning: It is a complex matter and needs professional advice. If you not rich, forget about financial planning.


What book are you currently reading? 

“The Ultra Mind Solution” by Dr Mark Hayman. It’s about understanding and managing anxiety and other emotional issues. It’s relevant to what I am doing.


Do you have a bucket list and how far have you achieved the items on it? Is there a need for seniors to have a ‘bucket list’? 

Having the important basics to celebrate one’s golden years is what I suggest to my fellow seniors. Staying healthy and financially sufficient to live an active and joyful life in through the golden years with the people around everyday should be the main goal of seniors.



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