Women at Sabah old folks home share stories of resilience
Women at Sabah old folks home share stories of resilience

Women at Sabah old folks home share stories of resilience and friendship

KOTA KINABALU: Three women at an old folks home in Papar found comfort in each other’s company despite their different backgrounds.

Teresa Yong recalled spending little time with her daughters while working two jobs to support the family.

Yet, she is not complaining. She said she would do it again for the soon-to-be 80: “My daughters come first.”

“My husband and I both had jobs. And with four daughters to support, we didn’t mind working harder to earn extra income. That was our responsibility as parents,” she said.

Yong said she felt she did not look after her children well.

“As a mother, I have my shortcomings. I was strict with my daughters. I want them to know the meaning of a mother’s true love. We went through a lot. But I don’t regret what I did because I wanted to offer them every possible opportunity.”

Yong said they reaped the rewards of their hard work as their daughters, now aged 40 to 57, grew up into admirable members of society.

“All we wanted was for our girls to stay healthy and live independently. Today, two of my daughters, the eldest and the youngest, live in the United States, while the middle two decided to stay in Sabah,” she said.

Not wanting to burden her children, Yong and her husband agreed to stay at the Holy Family Residence for Senior Citizens in Kampung Purak, Papar.

“My daughters do not trust anyone to care for us, so they suggested we live at the old folk home. My husband was initially reluctant, so they told us to try it for three months. I am still here now,” said Yong.

She said it was convenient for them as they could attend Sunday mass without leaving the premises, enjoy various activities, and have many friends of the same age.

“The best part is that my daughters never fail to come and visit us on weekends and sometimes take us out during special occasions,” she said.

Yong’s husband passed away last December.

“Nowadays, I engage in light exercises like strolling along the home’s corridors or watching my favourite Mandarin movies on my phone. However, I limit my screen time to two hours. Any longer strains my eyes,” she said.

Yong is spending Mothers Day with her daughters and only grandson this year.

“But I am looking forward to my birthday in October because my two other daughters will be coming home to celebrate it with me. Maybe it will be just a simple dinner, but having all four of my girls around is priceless,” she said.

As for Doris Kok, being childless never really bothered her.

“My husband and I were never blessed with our children. We always find ways to fill that void in our lives with activities. For me, it’s badminton,” said the 68-year-old former civil servant.

Kok, who is the youngest at the home, said that she became more active in badminton after her husband’s passing and even represented her office in matches across the country.

““After my husband passed, I moved in with my younger sister to take care of her after she suffered a mild stroke. We lived in Penampang then, so I had a few friends who also played badminton and often had friendly matches,” she said.

Now, she either walks to a nearby lake or chats with her dorm mate, Sally Lee, whom she describes as a single, high-spirited woman.

Lee was 15 when she moved to Sabah from Perak with her sister, who was three years her senior after the latter got married to a Sabahan.

“Ever since then, Sabah has become my home,” said the 72-year-old.

Unlike Yong and Kok, Lee never settles down because she had not “met the right one.”

“I was once engaged, but we broke it off for some reason. There were other suitors after him, but none captured my interest, so I decided to stay single,” she said.

She said she enjoys the company of her four nephews, who sometimes visit with her sister.

Lee said apart from chatting with Kok, she enjoys singing and dancing.

“So, to me, there is no lonely time. What is important is that we stay healthy and happy,” said Lee.

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