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Help the elderly who live alone

I refer to the article, I Noticed A Foul Smell, So I Called 999 (April 17, The Sunday Times).

It is sad that nobody noticed that Mr Soh Ah Seng, 82, had died in his flat. He had lain there for at least two days before someone called the police.

As a volunteer assisting the less fortunate, especially the elderly who live alone, I have these pointers to offer:

1. Some elderly prefer to keep to themselves.

2. Some do not wish to trouble others as they feel "paiseh" (Hokkien for embarrassed).

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3. The visually impaired prefer not to allow any Tom, Dick or Harry into their flat unless they trust the person. Once, a senior, who has since died, told me about a "kind-hearted" neighbour who entered his flat on the pretext of helping him buy food and groceries. But subsequently the senior realised that money hidden under his pillow had been stolen.

4. When visiting the visually impaired, never move any furniture in the flat as this will be an obstacle for them.

5. Volunteers who visit the elderly regularly can consider sticking a chart on the door. For example, a volunteer homecare nurse who visited can just write his or her name and mobile number against the date of visit. A glance at the chart allows us to know how many days the senior has been left alone and who last visited him.

Lim Boh Seng, Jimmy

As our population ages, it is not surprising that there will be more people who die alone. We should study the demography and find ways to prevent that from happening again.

There are many reasons people are not discovered quickly upon passing. They may be childless or their children live far away. They may be physically and mentally disabled or are loners with small social networks. Singapore must ensure there is no erosion of traditional values of caring for the elderly. We need to change the mindset of the young that caring for their elderly parents is a duty and not a choice.

At the same time, Singapore needs to build more nursing homes and residential care facilities to cater to an ageing population.

One of the biggest causes of the elderly dying alone is social isolation. The state could do more to share information with volunteer social workers, police and resident committees so that lonely seniors have a greater support network.

Finally, businesses and charities could do their part to help meet the needs of the elderly, such as providing food delivery services. More should also be done to encourage the sale of products such as mobile phones with pedometers to detect mobility.

Francis Cheng


Poignant ending of Descendants Of The Sun would have better impact

I refer to No-tears Formula (April 16, The Straits Times) discussing the last episode of the hit K-drama Descendents Of The Sun. Much as nobody wishes Captain Yoo Si Jin to die, I cannot help but wonder how it would have been if the drama had a sad ending.

Perhaps he could have lost his life while saving people or his country. This would have given a poignant ending that leaves a deep, lingering impact. That could have made the drama much more memorable.

Cynthia Chew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'Help the elderly who live alone'. Print Edition | Subscribe