Facilities for elderly won't work if they don't leave house

Singapore is a rapidly ageing society, where there are about 450,000 people aged 65 and above, forming 13 per cent of the citizen population.

The figure is expected to increase to 900,000 by 2030, which means more elderly people will be living alone and, sadly, dying alone (Seniors who live alone risk social isolation; May 2).

More facilities have been provided to make the lives of seniors more meaningful and pleasant, such as covered walkways, convenient bus services, eldercare services and wellness centres.

But all this will come to naught if the seniors refuse to come out to socialise, exercise and interact with others.

This is a sorry situation, as a study by the National University of Singapore has revealed that those who live alone have a 70 per cent higher risk of dying prematurely, as compared with their peers who live with others.

Social isolation will make one vulnerable to loneliness and depression while increasing the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's.

Maybe the local authorities should team up with social institutions such as resident committees to check in on lonely seniors, to increase their human contact and improve their lives.

In 2014, there were about 42,000 elderly folk who lived on their own, and the number is expected to rise to 61,000 in 2020 and 83,000 in 2030, during which around one in 10 senior citizens will be living alone.

It is thus imperative that all stakeholders view this concern seriously and come up with initiatives to tackle the plight of the lonely elderly.

Only with the concerted effort of government agencies, welfare organisations and family members can this issue of social isolation be addressed.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Facilities for elderly won't work if they don't leave house'. Print Edition | Subscribe