You live better when you work for yourself
"Last time nothing to do, not enough to eat. Must find work to do.
You can’t be happy working for others. It’s not good to work for other people. You live better when you work for yourself. Work from home, you earn a little bit but it is your own hard-earned money.
My grandchildren sayang me. They take care of me so I don’t suffer but I prefer to work, earn my own money, so I don’t have to depend on my family.
I still want to work. Never mind if I become a cleaner. If I don’t work there is no money.
Thinking about my husband, children and grandchildren makes me happy. I am also happy when the government gives me money.
I’m 98…I don't remember. You’re asking what it’s like to be this old? No good. I am too old.. Don’t live until such an old age. The brain does not work well anymore.
Thank you…thank you…thank you for coming and talking."
Madam Tan Swan Eng was born in Hainan, China in 1914. In the 1950s, together with her son, she joined her husband, a chicken rice seller, in Singapore. They had enough money for one child and had to leave their elder daughter behind. Madam Tan enjoyed keeping herself busy by working-from-home.. After retiring as a British amah, she made Chinese knot buttons, sewed, went door-to-door selling roti, and packed items for Singapore Airlines. After a bad fall, Madam Tan was certified bedridden, but she proved doctors wrong when she started walking again. She relaxes by listening to Hainanese opera using the cassette radio she purchased during her last visit to China in 2012.
Text by Adlina Maulod.
Commissioned to take portraits of Singaporean centenarians by the Centre for Ageing Research and Education (CARE) for their recent conference titled 'Are Centenarians the Realisation of Successful Ageing: Insights from a Global Study'.
These portraits also feature as an exhibition together with the conference titled 'SG100: A Celebration of Our Centenarians'. A great honour and deeply humbled by this experience. Big thanks to the CARE team.