Consider aspirations of older people, too

A group of elderly people in North Bridge Road.
A group of elderly people in North Bridge Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

Many older Singaporeans today are educated, active in employment and are relatively well travelled.

This scenario does not seem to indicate financial inadequacy among the elderly. However, adequacy is a normative concept. What may be deemed adequate for one may not be so for another.

Hence, even with government programmes and initiatives, the inadequacy gap remains.

In addition to looking at elderly people's change in expenditure habits over time, as suggested by Mr Kwan Jin Yao (Address financial inadequacy among the elderly, May 15), the study he cites should also explore their aspirations and examine if this correlates with the change in spending.

Wants are secondary compared with needs. However, being old does not mean that one should not aspire for more than what one needs.

Having aspirations will undoubtedly add to the cost of living, but it will also add pride and dignity to an individual. It adds to a person's sense of security and being.

One example is giving hongbao at weddings. Even among the vulnerable and low-income, being able to give this blessing is something people want.

Incorporating aspirations and wants into the research and policy design will enable us to understand the effects of elderly people's aspirations and how these help them to relate to their social circle and environment.

At the same time, it is a stimulus for the future cohort of older people to start thinking about how they want to age and be prepared for it.

Susana Harding

Senior Director, International Longevity Centre Singapore

Tsao Foundation

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Consider aspirations of older people, too'. Print Edition | Subscribe