I reckon many of us have had our fair share of gripes about the daily grind, yearning for the days when our lives will revolve around endless leisure and relaxation – that elusive retirement dream.
But in a world where retirement often beckons once we hit a certain age, here are five senior citizens who are defying that script, crumpling it up, and tossing it out the window.
Whether it’s preserving timeless traditions or using their work as the key to keep fit, here’s why they’ve decided to not hang up their hats just yet.
1. Kwek Choong Shoemaker
Nestled in a quaint store on the basement level of Golden Mile Tower, you’re likely to find 85-year-old Mr Soong Kwek Choong meticulously crafting a pair of custom footwear—a skill he has honed over seven decades.
At just 13 years old, Mr Soong learnt the art of shoemaking from his father in order to make a living. It takes him approximately two days to handcraft a single pair of shoes from start to finish.
As one of the dwindling number of shoemakers in Singapore, his handmade Peranakan beaded shoes attract customers from across the globe. To preserve this artisanal tradition, he aspires to continue plying his trade for as long as his steady hands allow.
He said: “Not everyone can do this. Since my eyes are good and my hands are not shaky yet, I want to continue and I’m happy that I can still work.”
Address: Kwek Choong Shoemaker 國忠鞋業, 6001 Beach Rd #B1-72 Golden Mile Tower, Singapore 199589
Phone Number: 6744 5353/9025 6390
2. Jewel’s Shop
When Mr. Bhagwan K. Assundani’s brothers decided to retire from their shared electronics business, the now 70-year-old decided it wasn’t his time.
Despite having limited knowledge about shawls and skirts, he embarked on a new venture and opened the Jewel’s shop at Little India in 2015.
“Indians are big spenders and there are a lot of festivals and celebrations, so I thought this was a safe bet,” he quipped.
Driven by a genuine love for interacting with people from all over the world, Mr Assundani has no plans of retiring anytime soon. For him, running the store is not just a livelihood but a means to stay mentally and physically active.
He said: “Little India has a different energy and its own charm. I like to talk and my hobby is to know about different countries so I love working here.”
Address: Jewel’s Shop Pte Ltd, Little India Arcade 48 Serangoon Road Blk C #01-70, Singapore 217959
Phone Number: 6291 3556/9818 6147
3. Camping & Army Goods
When you step into the Beach Road Army Market where youthful National Servicemen are a common sight, the unlikeliest gem you’ll come across is 83-year-old Madam Lim Gim Peng. From bags and badges to tapes and torches, her store is brimming with army goods from floor to ceiling.
Madam Lim first opened her store 30 years ago, a decision sparked by her youngest son’s enlistment in the army which left an empty nest at home. These days she runs the shop with her husband who takes on the morning shift.
“My children have asked me to retire, but what would I do at home? I will have a lot of free time,” she said.
Madam Lim remains undeterred by her age. When her products became too tricky to hang up high, she decided to rent the unit opposite to house the items. While she admits that business has not been good due to the availability of such products online, she relies on regular customers to keep her store going.
She said: “When I come here, I can still talk to so many people. So I like this job, if I don’t like it how would I have done it for so many years?”
Address: Camping & Army Goods, 505 Beach Road, Golden Mile Food Centre, #02-121/#02-129, 199583
Phone Number: 6296 1326
4. Toko Bin Harun
At the remarkable age of 92, Mr Abu Bakar Shahab has no intentions of retiring. As he has been selling Muslim apparel since he was 11 years old, working is both a norm and a hobby for him.
Starting out selling on the streets and in night markets, he eventually established his first store at Tanjong Katong Complex in 1990. More recently, due to renovations at the complex, he relocated to the 2nd level of the Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre.
“This business is my life and I believe I must fully utilise the energy that god has given to me,” he said, adding that he will continue running the business for as long as he can.
Today, Mr Abu runs the shop with the help of his wife, 68-year-old Madam Minah Sijimon. They not only manage the business together but also relish each other’s company as they work side by side
Address: Toko Bin Harun, Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre, 1 Geylang Serai #02-93, Singapore 402001
Phone Number: 6741 1601/9226 2325
5. Ng Soon Kee Fish & Duck Porridge
Fish and duck might not seem like a typical culinary pairing, but for Mr Ng Park Nang, this unique combination has been his life’s work since he founded his business in 1958.
“I spend most of my time here so this store is my home, and my actual home is just a hotel,” said the 74-year-old.
For over 45 years, Mr Ng and his wife Madam Lim Ah Niah, 73, have been the heart and soul of this establishment. Their humble stall is well-known in the local hawker scene, as evident from the winding queues that persist well beyond the lunch hours.
As age catches up to the elderly couple, Mr Ng officially passed the torch to his successor, Ms Zheng Qiu Ru in September.
However, he remains firmly rooted in the kitchen, not as a boss, but as a devoted cook, determined to help Ms Zheng perfect his award-winning recipe before he retires for good.
He said: “At the end of the day, I’m happy that there’s someone to take over and make sure that this dish will not disappear forever.
Address: Ng Soon Kee Fish & Duck Porridge, 117 Aljunied Avenue 2, #01-11, Geylang East Market & Food Centre, Singapore 380117
Phone Number: 6747 6014
Check out the TikTok video of these seniors passionately painting their stories.
@kindnesssg Slaying through their golden years ✨ #BeGreaterSG #KindnessSG #tiktoksg ♬ original sound – Singapore Kindness Movement