Take a needs-based approach to eldercare

Before we can discuss the issue of care for the elderly, we need a change of mindset and a new approach ("Aged care issue needs an airing"; Wednesday).

The people aged between 65 and 95 are diverse and have different requirements. We should not regard them as one homogeneous group.

At one extreme are those who are still mentally and physically as good as anyone below 65. At the other extreme are those dying and requiring full-time institutional care.

The logical way is to categorise them into groups based on their differing degrees of care.

For instance, one group can consist of those who have cognitive deficiencies, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Another group can be made up of those who are mentally and physically strong, but need emotional and social support. Many elderly Singaporeans are in this group.

Many of them would like to continue to live independent lives, but are alone, with no children, or are widowed or never married.

What they need are not hospices but retirement villages, where there are amenities for daily living and which allow them to socialise and mutually help others who live in the community.

This type of accommodation is not uncommon in developed countries, however, there seems to be only one such facility here so far ("First 'retirement village' opens next month"; Nov 8, 2015).

We need more of such living arrangements for the growing number of seniors here.

It would be nice if the Government could provide the land for such retirement homes at a low cost, to make it affordable for these retirees.

Perhaps retirees could use their Central Provident Fund monies to purchase such units.

Let us cater to these lonely elderly people who are able to live independently in retirement villages, and socially integrate them to enliven their sunset years.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Take a needs-based approach to eldercare'. Print Edition | Subscribe