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VWOs have a role in eldercare

Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong dissected two very important issues concerning growing old in Singapore - what choices we have and whether we can afford them ("When I'm 64... what kind of Singapore can I grow old in?"; Aug 7).

She is not alone in wanting to live in familiar surroundings in her old age.

Studies have found that most elderly people prefer to "age in place" - to live in their own homes, in their own neighbourhoods and among friends and people they know - than to live in an institution among strangers and have to conform to regimented routines.

This finding is also borne out in the interactions my colleagues and I have with seniors.

This is about choice - being able to decide where they live, and how to live. Whether seniors are able to exercise this choice depends largely on their physical well-being, the availability of caregiving, as well as their financial means.

To be old, sick and poor is a triple whammy. We cannot avoid old age, but we can do something early in our lives to minimise ill health and poverty. Any scheme that ensures financial security for our seniors will be welcome.

Not too long ago, if one was frail and unable to take care of oneself, one had no choice but to move into an institution.

But organisations are coming forward to provide support for seniors to age in place.

Volunteers and staff at Lions Befrienders understand the desire of seniors to live in familiar surroundings.

We are, therefore, gearing ourselves up to provide home-nursing and home-care support to seniors who live alone, in addition to our ongoing befriending services for seniors who have no family support and live in HDB rental flats.

On the issue of affordability, young Singaporeans would do well for themselves and their families to take retirement planning very seriously.

Many of the seniors we serve have no savings, no Central Provident Fund money left, and no other sources of funds apart from public assistance from the Government.

To be old, sick and poor is a triple whammy. We cannot avoid old age, but we can do something early in our lives to minimise ill health and poverty. Any scheme that ensures financial security for our seniors will be welcome.

In response to Ms Chua's question, "Will you heed me, will you change for me, before I'm 64?", I would say that even if government policies do not change in time, voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) like ours will be ready to care for future seniors.

Chey Chor Khoon (Dr)

Executive Director

Lions Befrienders Service Association (Singapore)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'VWOs have a role in eldercare'. Print Edition | Subscribe