Pledges of support for elderly folk

Veteran community leader Abdullah Hussain, who has been volunteering in Bukit Batok since the 1990s, says he has noticed a growing number of elderly folk in the area in recent years.

"You don't see that many young families. Maybe this will change when the new flats are built," he told The Sunday Times.

Two new Build-To-Order projects in the Bukit Batok single-member constituency will be ready by next year, and they may introduce more young families to the estate, where almost eight in 10 of the HDB blocks have been around for at least 30 years.

Community volunteers have stepped up efforts to monitor and engage elderly people who live alone or with an ageing spouse, said Mr Abdullah, 64. "You have to go to them, because they may not know how to come to you for help," he said.

More help for senior citizens is part of the platform offered by both candidates in the by-election - the People's Action Party's Mr Murali Pillai and Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Mr Murali's manifesto includes a healthcare cooperative and an eldercare centre, while Dr Chee has said that, if elected, he will set up a trust fund to give the elderly a monthly stipend to help them with their expenses, and organise social activities such as sewing and gardening for them.

But observers generally see areas with ageing residents as PAP strongholds, as they often receive help from targeted government policies.

One example is the Pioneer Generation (PG) card, which gives citizens aged 67 and above more healthcare subsidies.

A long-time Bukit Batok resident and PG ambassador who visits old folks to explain the benefits they get said at least 4,000 Bukit Batok residents have a PG card. This means at least 15 per cent of voters are aged 67 and above.

One of them is Madam Chua Chee, an 80-year-old cleaner. With the PG subsidies, she now pays just slightly over $3 at the polyclinic. She has diabetes and high blood pressure, and used to pay about $30 for each visit.

Some residents also said that Dr Chee's social programmes are similar to what they currently have.

Madam B.T. Poh, 70, for instance, said that she has attended events such as block parties and movie outings, and taken part in day trips.

With government policies such as the PG package and the Silver Support scheme, "the elderly can see that the Government is demonstrating care", said former Nominated MP Eugene Tan.

He added: "They also see the Government's efforts to reach out to younger families and they can see their children being helped. This is a fundamental concern for the elderly."

Still, there are some residents like 64-year-old mechanic Chong Yun Leong, who holds a different view.

He said: "No matter who wins at the by-election, the Government will continue to take care of us. "

Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline 'Pledges of support for elderly folk'. Print Edition | Subscribe