SM: Find ways to honour seniors

S’poreans need to reflect on how they relate to the elderly in a greying society

Despite yesterday’s rain, at least 500 devotees thronged the Sri Lankaramaya Buddhist Temple in St Michael’s Road in the evening.

The group was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the planting of the Bodhi tree and the laying of a foundation stone in the temple’s compound.

Because the Buddha attained enlightenment more than 2,500 years ago under a Bodhi tree, it is sacred to Buddhists.

Gracing the occasion was Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong who, speaking on the topic of honouring seniors, said that the traditional inter-dependence within the family and between generations has been eroded in the modern world.

This is partly due to public and private institutions providing childcare, education, nursing and hospital-care services, unlike in the past when the young were cared for by the elderly.

MAKING THE ADJUSTMENT

It is timely for us to reflect on how to adapt and adjust to this ‘silver tsunami’. How we should relate to the elderly, leverage on their talents and life experiences and honour them for their contributions.

SM GOH

Children, in increasing numbers, are also studying and working abroad, often leaving their parents and aged relatives behind.

He also added that Singapore’s current median age is 40. In 20 years’ time, it is estimated to hit 50.

He said: “Within the next few years, the world will have more people above the age of 60 than children below the age of five. This has never happened before in human history. But for us in Singapore, it has already happened – more than two decades ago, in 1986.”

“It is therefore timely for us to reflect on how to adapt and adjust to this ‘silver tsunami’,” said SM Goh. “How we should relate to the elderly, leverage on their talents and life experiences and honour them for their contributions.”

He also encouraged Singaporeans to work longer, and to keep physically and mentally active. Employers were also urged to restructure their jobs and move away from the idea of a fixed retirement age.

One way to honour seniors, he said, was to make sure housing estates, recreational areas and shopping malls were made elderly-friendly.

On a personal level, Singaporeans can give up their seats on buses and trains to the frail and elderly, and be more patient to those who walk and talk slowly.

He noted instances of children abandoning their parents in old folks’ homes, adding that though not widespread, this practice must not become a trend.

He said: “How we treat the old today will set the tone for how we ourselves will be treated when we grow old. More importantly, it will tell the world the kind of society that we are.”

mavistoh@sph.com.sg