Incorporating Ikigai

by | June 21, 2024

Actress Michelle Chong’s father, Steven Chong, embraces the purposeful concept of Ikigai in his daily life.


Michelle Chong and her dad, Steven.

Steven Chong, whom is best known as “Papa Chong” and father of Singaporean actress and comedian Michelle Chong, has had his fair share of medical scares throughout the years. When Michelle was only in her teens but still by his side, the 77-year-old had to undergo triple bypass surgery. He also struggles with Type 2 diabetes. However, with healthy eating of not consuming too much sugary and oily food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, he is managing his conditions.

He has always maintained that family support is crucial to his recovery and sustaining his health. The family stays active together by doing brisk walks and playing table tennis. Lately however, joint pain has affected his enjoyment of his favourite activities, and he pondered if he should give up his passions.

While watching a documentary about blue zones (areas of the world where people live exceptionally long lives), Michelle learned about Okinawans in Japan living long, happy lives by practising Ikigai. Ikigai, derived from the Japanese words “iki” (life) and “gai” (reason), translates to “a reason to live”. The concept of Ikigai encourages one to think about what matters to you, and what brings joy and purpose to your life, whether they be relationships, hobbies or work.

Fascinated, Michelle embraced this philosophy, believing that having a purpose provides motivation and a reason to rise each morning. Excitedly, she shared this with her father, and now both daughter and father incorporate Ikigai into their daily lives. Thus, she was enthused coming across the Ikigai campaign in her own backyard – a Japanese pharmaceutical company based on tenets of creating a healthy and happy life, and that could help Papa Chong’s joint pains.

Ageless Online finds out more about Ikigai from Michelle and how she has managed to help Papa Chong with his joint pains:


Could you kindly share your thoughts on the concept of Ikigai?

I believe it’s the Japanese concept of finding one’s life purpose – a purpose that brings joy and value to your life. It’s a great concept to incorporate into our lives, because when there’s purpose, there’s meaning and something to look forward to each day, and that’s why the Japanese lead such long and productive lives!


How does this concept shape Papa Chong’s healthy lifestyle as a retiree who loves travelling and cooking?

You can sense his passion in whatever he does, like whenever he cooks those big dinners for us, he will do a lot of research and experimenting beforehand, and he is always looking to increase his repertoire of dishes! When we asked him what his Ikigai was, Papa Chong explained that his Ikigai had always been doing everything to the best of his ability. So whether it’s cooking or travelling, he will give his 100 percent because knowing that he has done his best brings him joy and fulfilment.


What does ageing gracefully mean to you and your father, and how do you both strive to achieve this?

For my father and me, ageing gracefully means living with purpose and joy, and having strong family ties. We’ve embraced the concept of Ikigai, which encourages us to focus on what brings us happiness and fulfilment. This approach has become central to our lives, helping us find motivation and meaning in everyday life.

We also prioritise a healthy lifestyle and family togetherness. Our family meets often for meals, celebrations and physical activities such as taking walks or playing table tennis. Our family support system is crucial, providing the strength and encouragement needed particularly during tough times.


Could you briefly share Papa Chong’s experience with joint pain?

At first, it was just mild joint pain and minor inconveniences such as discomfort when climbing up and down the stairs. Then it escalated to not being able to walk for more than 10 minutes, and even getting in and out of the car was tedious. Finally, when Papa Chong was holidaying in Shanghai, his knee hurt so bad he couldn’t get out of the hotel room. Knowing how he’s usually very active and sprightly, it’s quite tough to see him in pain and unable to go about like he used to. His joint issues have also limited his ability to participate in his usual activities. For example, he can’t stand in the kitchen for long.


How have you managed Papa Chong’s joint pain together?

We tried to manage Papa Chong’s joint pain through various approaches. In the beginning when it was not that serious, I got him knee guards and pain relief gel to apply on his joints. But as it got increasingly painful, Papa Chong went to see a doctor who referred him to a physiotherapist. He has attended a couple of sessions so far. While these different methods offered slight and temporary relief, he continued to experience significant pain intermittently. Finding a long-term solution has been challenging, but we remain committed to exploring new options to improve his quality of life.

A Japanese friend also recommended Zeria (a Japanese brand) Chondro Max to us, saying it’s popular with the Japanese for managing joint pain. Japan is renowned for its ageing population that continues to lead active lifestyles, and the fact that the Zeria chondroitin product line-up is one of the top-selling supplements for joint pain in Japan is a testament to its effectiveness. Now that the products are in Singapore, it’s convenient to get them. We’re excited to see how regularly taking Zeria Chondro Max will improve Papa Chong’s day-to-day life and health.


How has your father’s joint pain influenced your perspective on health and wellness, both personally and professionally?

It really underscores the statement that health is wealth. It has also shown me that it’s important to upkeep one’s mobility so as not to affect one’s quality of life. Because having joint pain can prevent you from doing the things you love or even performing simple everyday tasks such as walking up and down the stairs or driving.


As someone endorsing the Ikigai campaign, what message do you hope to convey to other seniors and their families?

By sharing our experiences, we aim to inspire others to find their own Ikigai and approach ageing with grace and purpose. I would also like to urge Singaporeans to not only look after their parents’ health but also their own, and look out for any such health issues early on so that everyone can continue having a good quality of life when they reach their golden years.





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