Find ways to engage healthy seniors more meaningfully

Dr Chey Chor Khoon's letter gives us a better idea of what today's senior citizens are like ("Design solutions for the healthy, active senior"; Thursday).

They do not fit into neat compartments and are not all frail and useless. They are so varied that we need to categorise them before we can formulate something meaningful and useful.

There are many senior citizens who are still in tip-top mental and physical shape, and are capable of being productive and making contributions to society.

A colleague of mine is more than 90, still running a home for the aged, and is as fit as any 65-year-old. Look also at international figures Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe's president) and Mahathir Mohamad (former prime minister of Malaysia). They are in their 90s, yet still fit, alert and active.

So far, for healthy seniors aged 65 and above, there are not many meaningful or productive programmes for them. All we are concentrating on so far are just recreational programmes, such as singing, dancing and aerobics.

We have to change our mindsets. We have to devise serious programmes for these healthy seniors to make life meaningful and productive for them.

People need people. Humans are social animals. We need to be appreciated by other humans. We need to feel useful to other people and be part of the community.

We need to involve healthy seniors to work with the young, for example, in nursing schools and youth clubs. We need to create an active role for them. This is mutually beneficial.

We need to work with the old and come up with programmes to care for those with disabilities and others who may need help.

We should get healthy seniors involved in the management of activities for both the young and the old, and not have them participate only passively.

My point is that we need to change our mindsets and put on our thinking caps to tap what this group of healthy seniors can offer.

Let us not lament over the greying population. Let us turn the healthy greying population into a useful one.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Find ways to engage healthy seniors more meaningfully'. Print Edition | Subscribe