Sense of purpose helps seniors stay engaged

A group of elderly men sitting outside Raffles Place MRT Station. PHOTO: ST FILE

Associate Professor Lim Wee Shiong hit the nail on the head when he said that work helps older people to stay meaningfully engaged, which may in turn help to fend off neuro-degenerative diseases common among the elderly, such as dementia. He also said that other ways of achieving this include activities such as volunteering (Turning silver into gold as Singaporeans live longer, Sept 22).

Imbuing seniors with a lifelong sense of purpose could play an equally, if not more, important role.

On the Japanese island of Okinawa, well known not only for the extraordinary longevity of its residents but also for active ageing, there is this notion of ikigai - it literally means "the reason you wake up every morning" - which permeates every aspect of Okinawan life.

It is what gets the centenarians out of the house and active every day, doing anything from teaching Okinawan karate to passing on the arts and culinary traditions to the younger generation.

Theirs is a cultural attitude that celebrates the elderly and keeps these seniors engaged in the community.

To be sure, Singapore is already doing many things right in this aspect. So let's keep the conversations going as we tackle together the issues of older Singaporeans who have worked hard to make Singapore what it is today, and help them to age well and to live well.

Woon Wee Min

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2019, with the headline Sense of purpose helps seniors stay engaged. Subscribe