“Life-long learning” is just a fancy term to read and listen to.”
“Life-long learning” is just a fancy term to read and listen to,” said Mdm Wan with a cheeky smile when asked about her motivation to work at age 73.
Dressed in a loose-fit mustard yellow blouse and dark coloured pants, Mdm Wan fitted in well with a group of mature job-seekers aged between 40 to 78, during their Career Learning Journey with ISS Singapore, the hiring organisation which provides specialised cleaning services and products for hospitals. As one of their weekly journeys to visit premises of hiring organisations, Mdm Wan was overjoyed to have landed a job on her very first visit.
For some of us at Good Work, her hire came as no surprise as she had already stood out as an enthusiastic learner despite her 40 years of work experience in the cleaning industry. During the visit to SGH, Mdm Wan stuck close to the front to observe cleaning processes and skills that were not previously known to her.
“I have been working all my life and have performed cleaning services in all the places you can think of. Places like the office, restaurant, theatre and inside aeroplanes.” reminisced Mdm Wan. “Except ships. I haven had got to clean inside a ship before!” she chuckled at her own realisation.
"I will only stop working on the day I lose my capability to do so.”
When asked about her motivation to work in her later years, she answered, “Honestly, it’s just to pass time. Plus it’s a bonus to have some money to spend. I will only stop working on the day I lose my capability to do so.”
Dismissing the idea of retirement, Mdm Wan is often described as being “Tee-Kee”, a Hokkien word for being “stubborn.” Directly translated, “tee” refers to “metal” and “kee” is teeth, an expression which defines a person who strictly abides only by his/her own rules. Her desire to stay active has led her to be on the constant look out for new challenges, something that many may have dissuaded her to pursue due to her age.
Sprightly and energetic, she made an impression on the Good Work Team, ISS as well as her fellow learners throughout the career guidance course. Her positive demeanor had even inspired a learner in his 40s who was facing some challenges in his job search, prompting the beginnings of a new friendship.
The conversation with Mdm Wan gave us something to think about “lifelong learning”. While it is a poetic motto to live by, the desire to stay productive is the driving force towards lifelong learning to many elderly Singaporeans. From young to old, opportunities to engage in work, communities or courses have always helped us to lead fulfilling and active lifestyles.
If being “Tee-Kee” means to constantly embrace new challenges for Mdm Wan, then we would like to advocate the importance of being “Tee-Kee” as long as we have the tenacity to #TrySomethingNew.
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