Happiness keeps the heart young — even at 80.
She is a sweet lady with a name as sweet as honey. And she will tell you she is far from being old.
A happy-go-lucky senior, Honey Tan Siew Geok’s looks belie her age.
Friends tell her, her actions and lifestyle are that of someone who is two decades younger.
Tan’s vibrant personality shines through as she tells you that life is worth living if you spread happiness wherever you go.
Tan recently celebrated her 80th birthday in style; her children threw her a big birthday bash at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Two of her children – and their families – flew in from the United States and Hong Kong for the dinner and dance. Everyone had a great time.
And when the hit song, Y.M.C.A. was played, her grandchildren took to the dance floor, too.
In fact, her children and grandchildren had fun line dancing.
Tan said she did not want a traditional celebration for her birthday.
“My birthday cake did not have the Chinese character for longevity. Nor did it have a giant peach which symbolises longevity,” said Tan.
Instead, the 4kg black sesame chiffon cake with hazelnut paste, was in the shape of a diamond.
Her children’s friends know her too well not to call her Aunty.
“That would indicate I’m unavailable,” joked Tan. Her husband, Frankie Loh, had passed away 18 years ago.
Tan has five children – two sons and three daughters – and is a doting grandmother of 10. It may come as a surprise to some that Tan’s grandchildren do not call her por-por (Cantonese for grandmother). They call her by her name – Honey Tan.
Perhaps the title of “grandma” may make her feel rather old – and this is one grandmother who is ever young at heart.
Tan takes pride in looking her best. For her, to look good is to feel good.
She is always immaculately groomed and well-dressed when she appears in public.
“I’m used to dressing up in pretty clothes when I go out. It makes me happy. Nobody dares say anything about my make-up and (flamboyant) dressing,” said the congenial Tan.
When her husband, a businessman, was alive, she trusted his taste when he bought clothes for her.
“Now my children buy pretty clothes for me and I wear them,” said Tan.
But life is not just about looking good. Tan also believes in giving back to society, and serves as president of the Genting Klang Senior Citizens Association in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.
“I joined the club about 10 years ago and was encouraged to head the association after the first president, (the late) Long Heng Kow, stepped down,” said Tan.
The club has over 100 members and meetings are held on Wednesday and Friday.
Members learn karaoke, English and Malay, and even calligraphy.
“I organise activities for members and ensure there are enough funds to keep the club going,” said Tan.
Cheng Boon Chow, 76, deputy president of the association, is glad to have Tan on board.
“Once a year, the association holds an anniversary cum fundraising dinner. But the funds raised are barely enough to run the association. Tan is our major fundraiser as she has many friends,” said Cheng.
Tan is also a member of another senior citizens club in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
Tan looks forward to the weekly dancing sessions at YMCA in Brickfields.
Whether it is the cha-cha or rumba, this ballroom dancer shows one can still be nimble at 80.
A fiercely independent woman, Tan drives herself everywhere for her many social activities.
Tan enjoys meeting up with family members over lunch or dinner.
“Simple get-togethers make my mum so happy,” shared Amy Loh, Tan’s youngest daughter.
Loh speaks fondly of her mother.
“She’s the most influential figure in our lives. She taught us to keep on loving through thick and thin. And encourages us to go after our dreams.”
“It’s very important to be happy so that we can make others happy. Happiness is infectious. We must not harbour negative thoughts or others would feel unhappy. Negative feelings only breed contempt and unhappiness,” said Tan.
And to show that she walks the talk, Tan’s parting gift to all the guests at her 80th birthday bash, was a sparkling diamond-shaped souvenir.
“It’s a little souvenir to make everyone happy,” added Tan.