Betty, 91 – Teaches English in Asia

Few countries in the world can compete with Malaysia for natural beauty, the warmth of its people and diversity of cultures…not to mention the amazingly low cost of living (my live-in maid costs $400 a month). I feel blessed and wish that I had moved here years ago.

Betty Cotton loves telling her friends about Malaysia, too—especially Penang. Betty moved to the island by herself in 2007, lock stock and barrel, and never thought that she would be able to turn living here into a part-time business.

Betty teaches English by telling stories. She insists that it is a great way to get the nuances of the language across, and her students agree. And she has a lot of stories to tell, too, having lived in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. She says that talking to her students about her life (including growing up in China and Japan) gives them a broader outlook on life.

“I love seeing the reaction when I tell my students that I moved to Penang by myself when I was 85 years old.” She laughs and looks directly at me. “Did you know that I’m 91 this year? And still teaching.” I tell her I think she’s amazing, and mean it.

She insists that she is busier in Penang than she ever have been. Most evenings she’s in George Town, sitting at a café with friends, attending art gallery openings or listening to a new author give a book reading.

Betty took a lot of photographs when she was younger, all in black and white, and there is a timeless quality about them. The ones hanging in her house of India and Bali stand out, and could have been taken yesterday. She tells me that she’s been approached to show them at a gallery in town.

“At 91! Me, with my own exhibition, isn’t that incredible!”

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