Vital to help seniors feel connected with society

Immediate help and professional treatment can arrest the disturbing trend of more elderly people committing suicide ("More seniors in S'pore taking own lives"; Thursday).

Given that most suicide cases among the elderly stem from social isolation and physical and mental health concerns, it is vital for social institutions to reach out to them.

Suicide can be prevented if signs and symptoms of suicidal behaviour are identified and pre-emptive measures taken accordingly.

Research has shown that those who maintain strong bonds with family, friends or neighbours have lower suicide and illness rates.

It is, thus, imperative that we give seniors a more purposeful and, perhaps, even a more enriching social role, as only by expanding their involvement and interaction at the personal and societal levels can their physical and mental instability be effectively confronted. This, in turn, can significantly reduce the incidence of social and medical problems, such as dependency, depression and psychosis.

Our rapidly ageing society means that more elderly folk are living alone and also, sadly, dying alone by taking their own lives.

Grassroots organisations should team up with relevant government agencies to check in on senior citizens, thus, increasing their amount of human contact and improving their lives.

As ageing parents tend to feel isolated and lonely, it is extremely important that young families stay in touch with the former and visit them regularly, or better still, live with them.

The love and warmth of family members cannot and will not be replaced by any other social institution or the Government.

Above all, we should drive home the important message that suicide is not the way to end one's pain and struggles; instead, we should take steps to stay safe and start enjoying life again.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Vital to help seniors feel connected with society'. Print Edition | Subscribe