Cabbies who retire 'often feel grief and loss', says research

Dr Chan Mei Leng speaking with taxi driver Lim Chee Pheng during the retirement planning talk at Tan Tock Seng Hospital yesterday. Mr Lim is 74 and plans to retire in August.
Dr Chan Mei Leng speaking with taxi driver Lim Chee Pheng during the retirement planning talk at Tan Tock Seng Hospital yesterday. Mr Lim is 74 and plans to retire in August.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Planning ahead can help ease transition: Doc

Retirement often leaves taxi drivers suffering "an emotional shock" and feeling "unwanted", with too much time on their hands.

These and other findings were made by Dr Chan Mei Leng, a principal occupational therapist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), based on her research involving 38 cabbies.

"Many of them might think they are mentally and physically prepared (for retirement), but when the time comes, they feel grief and loss," she said.

Her research in 2012 prompted her to host a talk yesterday to help older taxi drivers prepare for retirement.

The talk was attended by 27 taxi drivers over the age of 65. Held at TTSH, it was jointly organised by the hospital and the National Taxi Association.

It is among various initiatives by the National Healthcare Group to engage the community.

"Taxi drivers work longer than other groups, so their worker identity is very strong. Full retirement is something that many of them don't even consider," said Dr Chan.

She said the talk was a way to help older cabbies develop a "satisfying lifestyle" after they retire.

The minimum retirement age here is 62, but taxi drivers can work up to 75 as long as they pass certain tests, including tests for driving, cognitive skills and vision.

Dr Chan said TTSH's occupational therapy department, where the tests are held, sees nearly 1,000 cabbies a year.

At the talk, drivers were asked to fill in a timetable setting out their daily activities, to help them envision what life after retirement would be like.

They were also asked to look at the roles they play in life - for example, as a worker or friend.

Dr Chan said: "We want them to be prepared for emotional change and know how to handle it. If mental health suffers, so does physical health."

Taxi driver Lim Chee Pheng, 74, who attended the talk, said he plans to retire in August.

"Normally, I'm busy driving everywhere, so I don't have time to think about retirement," he said. \He works seven days a week, starting at 6am.

He hopes to make a smooth transition to retirement by finding a less demanding job, such as office-cleaning.

"It's good for your mind when you have something to occupy your time," he said.

linettel@sph.com.sg

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