Lay foundation for our twilight years now

Ageing is by no means a new topic of discussion in Singapore.

Since the launch of the Pioneer Generation Package in 2014, the national conversation has been dominated by talk of how best to support the baby boomers as they progress into their twilight years.

What has yet to permeate society are campaigns that remind those on the cusp of seniority - Generation X - that when their time as the elders of society arrives, they do not have to be passive recipients of government eldercare aid. Rather, they can actively shape how they are going to spend those latter years.

Not only can such preparations be made now, but there are also compelling reasons why we should do so.

According to the World Health Organisation, a core tenant of active ageing is the maintenance of autonomy.

Unfortunately, physical and cognitive declines greatly diminish the extent to which the elderly can make fully informed decisions about how they would like to spend their days.

The American Association for Retired Persons advises that individuals ensure relevant legal documents are completed and accessible.

These include living wills - which determine the medical treatment given to people suffering from a terminal illness or a life-threatening injury - and paperwork that designates financial and health proxies who will carry out our wishes should we be incapacitated.

Singapore has seen a surge in the number of people getting their end-of-life paperwork completed.

In 2015, 8,360 people applied for Lasting Power of Attorney, compared with 655 people in 2011.

While the rising number is an encouraging sign of increased proactive ageing, the proportion of people making such preparations is still worryingly low.

Perhaps community centres could offer programmes for those approaching retirement to inform them of the necessary legal documentation they should prepare.

The Ministry of Health, drawing on the influence of social networks, could also run campaigns encouraging those who have sorted out their legal paperwork to speak out about their importance.

In case we cannot do it then, we should do it now. All of us need to take the process of ageing into our own hands and lay the foundation for our future selves to enjoy.

Together as a nation, we can celebrate ageing proactivity and autonomy.

Erica Tai Shu Fang (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'Lay foundation for our twilight years now'. Print Edition | Subscribe