Let's make our city one for all ages

I read with great interest Dr Chan Lai Gwen's letter urging young and middle-aged people to start forming solid relationships in life to serve as a support network for their old age ("Build ties with loved ones before it's too late"; Monday).

Singapore is fast becoming an ageing society.

Part of the reason for this is our good fortune to live in a First World society with top-notch healthcare, meaning that Singaporeans will live longer than ever before.

Indeed, the Ministry of Health has warned many times of the "silver tsunami" that is approaching, and has, accordingly, put in place many well-intentioned policies to prepare our society and economy for this.

Yet, this realisation still seems lost on many Singaporeans today, particularly the young, who continue to live as if they are going to live forever, and ignore the limited time they have with their elders.

This phenomenon is not new, nor is it unique to Singapore.

Many First World countries have ageing societies. Our Government has done well so far in emulating the successes of these ageing societies and learning from their mistakes.

But health, in the end, is a personal responsibility.

We must all do our part and be mindful of our growing elderly population. We should be so lucky to live to see the ripe age some of our pioneers have reached.

As a primary care physician, I am always heartened when I see an elderly patient accompanied by younger family members.

Sadly, for every well-adjusted pioneer ageing in place with a supportive family, there is often a sad story of a neglected geriatric struggling to make ends meet.

In this, I agree with Dr Chan's point that "young people need to understand this (message) before they get consumed by the pursuit of personal ambition at the expense of the things that really matter".

We need to accept the changing face of our population.

The sooner we come to terms with this, and strive to make Singapore truly a city for all ages, the better - for our elderly and for ourselves.

Aaron Singh (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Let's make our city one for all ages'. Print Edition | Subscribe