The Straits Times
Published on Feb 21, 2013

Don't lose focus on the elderly


SINGAPORE is experiencing big generational shifts. The ageing population and declining birth rate have changed the look of the population pyramid.

In 1980, the median age in Singapore was 24; in 2000, it was 34. Last year, the figure rose to 38.

Over the next 10 years, the growing number of older Singaporeans will hollow out the workforce and leave a significant void.

The rise in the elderly resident population can potentially create divisions between the young and the old. Declining numbers of working-age people have to provide for the growing number of seniors in the community.

Will the younger generation be willing or even able to bear the emotional and financial burdens of supporting the needs of their elders? Are we all ready - as individuals, families, a community and a nation - to accept the societal and economic effects of a rapidly ageing population?

What Singapore truly needs now is a pool of energetic, dynamic individuals who are willing to help the ageing population.

Surely there are ways to bridge the gap between the young and the old. Remember: We will all become old one day.

It would be more fruitful for younger Singaporeans to come forward to respond to the problems of the aged.

Besides the usual community engagement programmes organised by schools, there should be more initiatives where the young can provide services for the elderly. They could serve as volunteers, provide companionship to the elderly, or start inter-generational projects to facilitate understanding of the older generation.

Although not all initiatives will achieve the goal of inter-generational understanding and dialogue, the effort taken to foster bonds will bear positive outcomes.

The Government has to institute the right mix of formal and informal schemes to cater for the older generation.

Azman Adnan