Adapting to new challenges


  • Metro News
  • Tuesday, 09 Jun 2020

Tarmidah watches YouTube for videos on gardening and growing her own crops.

AS THE country moves into the recovery phase starting tomorrow, the movement control order (MCO) is being eased, which will see more economic sectors resuming business and the streets as well as commercial hubs coming back to life.

But when the MCO was first put in place on March 18 to break the chain of Covid-19 infection, followed by the conditional MCO that was effective from May 4, Malaysians of all ages and from all walks of life had been affected by the restrictions.

Everyone, without exception, has had to learn to adapt to the new normal.

While children might not understand why they were suddenly not allowed to go outdoors or even leave their house, they could adapt quickly, helped along by electronic devices and online lessons.

One segment of society, however, would have faced more difficulty adjusting as they were used to their daily routine that included morning exercise with neighbours at the park for some and gathering for afternoon tea with friends.

It is even more vital for the elderly to be house-bound as they are in the high-risk category amid this pandemic.

Retirees Andiyappan Chiniah, 70, Yap Bee Chin, 60, and Tarmidah Mastuti, 62, tell StarMetro how they occupy their time indoors and provide a few words of wisdom for these trying times.

Keeping busy

As a taxi driver, Andiyappan utilised the MCO period to rest at home and spend time with his family.

“I experienced curfew during the May 13 incident. The current MCO restrictions are more moderate compared to the curfew, so it was easy for me to comply with.

“I spent most of my time on my hobby, gardening. I also washed my fish tank and cleaned the car porch.

“Before this, I did not have the chance to help my wife with any house chores but the MCO period had given me plenty of time at home and to help her as well, ” he chuckled.

Being very conscious about the pandemic, he said that he observed a traditional practice.

“I keep a pail of turmeric water with neem leaves outside the house. I wash my hands and legs before entering the house and then go shower directly.”

Yap, on the other hand, spent the down time trying out new recipes.

In pre-MCO days, she would be frequently out of the house as she taught arts and crafts and table-tennis at an autism centre.

During her time confined at home, she cooked daily and learned to make coconut milk desserts and brownies.

Andiyappan making the most of the MCO by improving his backyard and garden.Andiyappan making the most of the MCO by improving his backyard and garden.

“My family loved the new recipes and always asked for more!”

She left the house only to run errands such as buying groceries and breakfast for her family.

“Every trip outside requires a shower as soon as I get back and have sanitised all the products I bought, regardless of whether they are from hawker centres or supermarkets, ” said the retired fashion designer.

“It is always better to be extra careful.

“I understand that we need to work together to fight the pandemic, ” she added.

Meanwhile, Tarmidah said she had always preferred to stay at home rather than go out without a reason.

“There really wasn’t much of a need or temptation for me to go out.

“I normally have many things to occupy myself with at home.

“Since the MCO started, I have spent my time reading and enhancing my knowledge about my religion, cooking and gardening.

“My favourite activity so far is reading science books and watching YouTube videos about gardening.

“I even did some research about growing my own crops for a healthier living.”

Charitable hearts

Being house-bound, however, did not stop Yap from helping others in need. She made a few donations to charitable organisations.

“I donated to the frontliners by giving free meals through a restaurant in Sarawak. I found their information online and decided to contribute.

“It is a small effort but giving brings much joy and warmth to both the receiver and giver, ” she said.

Tarmidah shares the same sentiment. The retired school headmistress helped her husband with gathering donations and distributing food and face masks to the needy in their residential area. It made her happy that she could help.

“Although it is not much, we helped out with what we could.

“We bought basic provisions such as rice, flour, salt and sugar. We also donated a small sum of money as a little gift.

Andiyappan described the work he had done so far as merely being a Good Samaritan.

Yap has been mastering new recipes while confined to the house due to the MCO.Yap has been mastering new recipes while confined to the house due to the MCO.

“I offer my taxi service to the needy and do not charge them any fare. Two of my regular passengers are poor kidney patients, so I usually fetch them to and from their dialysis appointments.”

He has also given his tenant a discount on the house rent over the MCO period as Andiyappan knows his tenant is struggling financially due to this pandemic.

In addition, he donated necessities to three underprivileged families that he knew.

With 27 years’ experience as an ambulance driver at Kajang Hospital, he wished that he could be in the front line helping in the battle against Covid-19.

“Though I am still young at heart and willing to serve, my age does not permit it. Being a senior citizen, I am categorised in the high-risk group, ” he said sadly.

Verify news

Even as the trio filled their lives with enriching activities throughout the MCO, they made sure to keep themselves up to date on the latest Covid-19 news.

Tarmidah said she did not easily believe news or information that went viral on social media because of her sceptical nature and she would actively avoid spreading fake news.

“It is always important to verify the accuracy of news and information before passing it on, ” she said firmly.

Andiyappan avoids social media altogether and does not own social media accounts.

“At my age, I only keep up with news in mainstream media.

“I advised my children and grandchildren to not blindly believe any news posted on social media.

“It is best to watch the news on television or read the newspaper to get the correct information.

“We should never blindly believe news without verification, ” he added.

Yap, who learned to use social media from her children not too long ago, confessed that she used to think the information she received in WhatsApp was true, until her children told her that a lot of it was fake.

“They regularly remind me to always verify the information I receive on WhatsApp and to not simply spread information.

“And they taught me how to check the validity of my messages.

“I think a likely reason why elderly people are prone to forwarding false news is because they lack knowledge on how technology works.

She said the elderly should listen to the younger generation and seek clarification when it came to news received on social media platforms.

“The young people may seem busy but I believe that they will help if we ask, ” said Yap.

Parting words

“Be kind and patient with the old folks as sometimes they cannot hear or speak well, ” said Yap.

She encouraged the younger generation to help their elderly neighbours who might have trouble getting groceries or transportation.

“Do know that, deep down in our hearts, we are very grateful for every bit of help given to us.”

She added, “We should never take our lives and freedom for granted.”

Andiyappan believed that Malaysians should avoid being too judgmental of the government’s decisions during the MCO.

“They are trying all the ways to stop the virus from spreading further and ensure the country recovers from the economic impact at the same time.

“Everyone’s participation is equally important to overcome this situation. And not only during MCO, we should maintain it post-MCO too.

“It is important that everyone plays their role by taking care of their hygiene. Wear a face mask, wash hands frequently, keep social distance and avoid mass gathering, ” he urged.

Tarmidah advised everyone, especially the young ones, to follow the given rules.

“Be extra cautious of your surroundings and of what is going on.

“Stay home and only go out when really necessary.”

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