Talk about ageing in place must cover many bases

When it comes to tackling the ageing population and the demand for long-term care options beyond nursing homes, it seems Singapore is playing catch-up (Are Singaporeans ready for Ah Kong to age in place?; Aug 30).

Instead of anticipating challenges and putting in place strategies in advance, the Government and its community partners have responded in a more piecemeal or uncoordinated fashion.

And this is even more worrying given the fact that a silver tsunami is expected to hit Singapore in 12 years, when 25 per cent of the population will be older than 65.

Perhaps the question should be: Are Singaporeans ready to age in place?

There is a lack of critical engagement on this issue, which limits discourse over what is really needed or preferred vis-a-vis what is currently on offer.

This can be attributed to a combination of factors: taboos concerning talking about old-age experiences and death; uncertainty over health, financial, or even employment issues; and a lack of knowledge about home or centre-based caregiving options.

These may have deterred Singaporeans from thinking or talking about these concerns.

The Lien Foundation's recommendation to start "an informed conversation on what kind of care systems Singaporeans want" should be taken seriously.

Such discussions should encourage a plurality of perspectives from Singapore and around the world.

Beyond well-established observations of caregiver stress and the limitations of community and home eldercare services, other input could include first-hand family accounts and personal reflections of how one would like to age. The sharing of stories in well-facilitated settings, in particular, can be both cathartic and instructive.

And by learning from different countries, especially those with similar demographics or socio-cultural dynamics, best practices can be distilled.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'Talk about ageing in place must cover many bases'. Print Edition | Subscribe