Ride silver tsunami with proactive action, positive attitude

The idea that an ageing population may overburden the economy and crush the nation has given rise to the vivid destructive imagery of a "silver tsunami".

Such thinking is not only debatable, but also an insidious indicator of our prejudiced attitudes towards the elderly.

The old and the "oldest-old" will not be a burden, so long as we embrace them as our kith and kin ("Meeting needs of 'oldest-old'"; Oct 27).

In principle, it is only fair and just that the elderly get substantial amounts of assistance from the very society that they helped to construct.

When society has prepared and created an inclusive, elder-friendly environment encompassing both physical infrastructure and community facilities, such programmes need not exact a massive financial toll on taxpayers.

Foremost, if we can change our attitudes towards retaining or rehiring older workers, the economy might well benefit from their wealth of experience and the numbers they add to the workforce.

Their continued economic activity helps to offset the cost of social programmes for them.

Moreover, widening the tax base to support increased social spending, while certainly an uphill task, is not impossible.

Immigration can serve as a stop-gap measure while we tackle the issue of falling birth rates.

Increased economic productivity and canny long-term economic planning can translate into greater funds in state coffers, with which elder-friendly programmes can be run and expanded.

Indeed, the burden need not be borne by the Government alone.

Multinational enterprises and commercial establishments engaged in corporate social responsibility, as well as charitable organisations, all have a part to play in marshalling and distributing resources and aid for the aged.

With proactive action, Singapore can emulate the elder-friendly Nordic governments in providing comprehensive facilities for our old and oldest-old citizens.

Crucially, all of this needs to be underpinned by a positive mentality - that we owe it to our elders to offer them comfort and support in their twilight years.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2015, with the headline 'Ride silver tsunami with proactive action, positive attitude'. Print Edition | Subscribe