Feeling inspired… 86-year-old Chin Kong Yin (left) is a role model for her daughter Jessie Chong, 56.
IMAGINE signing up for a beauty pageant when one has never set foot onstage before, learning to sing when one can’t read or write, and climbing trees to do stretching exercises – as mind-blowing as they may sound, these are some of the amazing feats Madam Chin Kong Yin, 86, has achieved.
The age-defying senior’s zest for life and courage to try new things have greatly inspired her daughter Jessie Chong, 56. Having stumbled upon the I Feel Young SG Facebook page recently, Jessie reached out to us to share her mum’s story in hopes of encouraging other seniors.
Embracing her inner child
A typical day for Madam Chin begins at dawn with a swim, followed by a workout at her favourite hangout – a broad majestic tree just under the apartment block near Siglap where she and Jessie’s family live. She wraps a resistance band around the tree trunk to perform various stretches. The agile senior shared that this has been her exercise routine for many years. In her younger days, she even climbed the tree! These days, due to her advanced age, Jessie has stopped her from climbing it.
“I remember that I was in my 50s when my body started to ache every now and then. When I saw the tree, it reminded me of my childhood days. So I started clinging onto it like a child and used it to stretch myself. I felt much better after that,” she explained.
In the spotlight… Madam Chin showing off old newspaper clippings about her tree-climbing feat.
Monkey swing… Madam Chin demonstrating her unusual flexibility workout.
Reminiscing her kampung days, the great-grandmother of four attributes her gung-ho character to the environment she grew up in. Born into a family of nine brothers and a sister in Port Dickson, Malaysia, she used to play with boys most of the time.
“Growing up, I was known as the infamous samseng (gangster) woman in my kampung. I would run around, climb trees and even jump into the sea to swim,” she recalled with a laugh.
Chasing her passion
Madam Chin never had the opportunity to go to school during her childhood. Being illiterate, she never imagined that one day, after her retirement, she would learn how to sing.
“At first, I questioned myself: How can someone like me who boh tak-chek (uneducated) learn singing? I can’t read the song lyrics. If I want to register for a singing course, I can’t even write my own name!” said Madam Chin.
Yet, she was determined to pursue her passion for singing. So she turned to the television as her teacher. She would watch karaoke on-screen repeatedly, listen to the songs attentively, and practise singing along.
Madam Chin’s hard work paid off; she participated and won the top prize in a singing competition for seniors held by her local community club. After gaining confidence, she also started attending singing sessions organised by her Residents’ Committee every Sunday.
A shining example
To match her sunny personality, Madam Chin loves to wear clothes that ‘bling’ and she’s certainly not afraid to show them off!
With Jessie’s encouragement, she signed up for a “Most Beautiful Grandma” beauty pageant in 2005, even though she had no prior stage experience. When the organiser asked her to perform a catwalk on stage in glittering fashion, the bubbly senior gamely agreed without hesitation. Talk about bold!
Her confidence and can-do spirit inspired Jessie to follow in her mum’s footsteps; the former regional bank director participated in a beauty pageant in 2018 and was crowned Classic Mrs Singapore Globe.Pretty woman… Madam Chin was 71 years old when she sashayed down the runway for the first time in her life.
Ageless beauty queens… Jessie and her mum Madam Chin participating in a grassroots Mother’s Day charity event in May 2019 to promote mental wellbeing.
“To me, pageantry is not just about beauty. It is about outreach, advocacy and journeying through life with clarity. I’m thankful that my Classic Mrs Singapore Globe 2018 title has given me a bigger platform to advocate for something close to my heart – mental wellbeing,” said Jessie.
“As a former corporate banker, I had witnessed many people suffering silently due to the social stigma associated with mental illness. Upon returning from the international pageant, I reached out to various voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to volunteer, promote awareness of mental health and normalise such conversations,” added the mother of two.
In 2019, desiring to equip herself with the necessary skillsets to join the helping profession, Jessie took a leap of faith and quit her banking career to take up a master’s degree in counselling psychology.
“After 30 years in the corporate world, I feel it is time to listen to my heart and give back to society,” she said.
“I want to lead the second half of my life with better clarity and a more fulfilling purpose. I am thankful that I was recently given the opportunity to pursue my passion and join a VWO in the mental wellness space.”
Don’t worry, be happy
Jessie’s determination to follow her heart was influenced by Madam Chin’s positivity.
“I have to admit that I can’t do a lot of things that my mum can, such as swimming or singing. But her positivity has definitely rubbed off on me – I’ve learnt to be optimistic like her, despite experiencing dark clouds at times. I don’t have to search far and wide for a famous inspirational figure. My mum is my heroine,” said Jessie.
When asked what motivates Madam Chin to stay positive, the wise octogenarian quickly turned the question around: “Do you prefer to be happy or sad? The answer is obvious. Since we all want to be happy, we shouldn’t overthink too much. If you want to do something, just go ahead and do it! Do what you love, and love what you do.”
Know a senior like Madam Chin who embraces active ageing and possesses the “I Feel Young” spirit? We would love to feature him or her on our page too!
Drop us a message on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us why you think we should feature him or her.
Article published on 20/12/2021