PETALING JAYA: For many seniors, their post-retirement years are spent relaxing at home, with all strenuous physical work, left to others.
However, some seniors prefer to spend their golden years pursuing their wildest dreams, some of which even much younger people never dare to dream.
Among them is 73-year-old granny, Suzie Oliver, a Batu Pahat resident. When she is not doting over her grandchildren, she is off on adventures of her own.
There are not many grandmothers who can boast of having a six-pack abdomen, but Oliver is called the “Iron Lady” by her friends for a reason.
Just this September, she struck climbing Mount Everest off her bucket list, when she scaled the world’s tallest mountain and reached its base camp.
Having just returned from adventuring overseas, Oliver spoke with FMT Lifestyle over the phone about how she became the country’s toughest granny.
“My expectations for older people are higher than most folks,” she said. “I believe age is just a number and our souls are young!”
Back in the day, Oliver used to serve as a missionary, travelling a fair bit. However, she could have never anticipated being at peak fitness in her golden years.
“No! Not at all!” she laughed when asked if she was physically active back in the day. She admitted: “I never exercised then.”
So, what changed? It all started when her daughter invited her to participate in a Singapore marathon back in 2007.
“It was a 10km marathon, and it sounded easy. So, I said to my daughter, ‘Let’s do it!’” She trained for the big event by walking and jogging.
She enjoyed her gym workouts so much, she kept at it, even after the marathon. “The people at the gym were fit, young and in good shape. That’s what I wanted. That’s what motivated me,” she said.
“You can be 70 and have a body that looks like it’s 20,” she added.
According to Oliver, most of the younger gym-goers were surprised to see her working out alongside them. “I think I was more gung-ho than them!”
She also went beyond gym visits, as she frequently took up physical challenges and even participated in a Spartan race in Singapore.
In a way, she said, she was making up for lost time by seeking challenges that she had never sought her entire life.
In addition to exercise, Oliver keeps fit with a healthy diet, believing strongly that “what you put into your body will stay there.”
Speaking about her Mount Everest hike, she said that while it was tough, she was just as tough and did not suffer for the expected aches and pain of climbing.
In preparation for the Everest expedition, she trained herself by hiking up Mount Yong Belar and Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.
“I did the ‘small’ mountains for fun. But I climbed Everest because it has been on my bucket list for years now.
“After reaching the 4,000m mark, you feel your breaths turn shallow. You walk five minutes, rest one second. This is until your body gets used to it.”
Giving up was never on her mind on the slopes of Everest, she said. She even challenged: “If you ask me to go again, I will!”
In fact, she is already making plans to return to the mountain, and climb beyond the base camp. Her current target is to reach the 6,300-metre mark, three quarters of Everest’s height.
Her advice for folks, young and old, aiming to climb a mountain is to take it slow. “Don’t rush. It’s not a race. You’re doing it for yourself. Follow your own pace and go.”
And what advice does she have for fellow seniors back home in Malaysia? Start walking. “The day you stop walking, that’s when the sickness starts coming in.”
While it takes time and money to stay healthy, the cost for treating illnesses outweighs it by far, she said.
“You can do it. It’s not about age,” she said. “Encourage each other to stay healthy, young, fit and beautiful.”