Time to address gaps in care for aged

Elderly people attending a community event in Toa Payoh.
Elderly people attending a community event in Toa Payoh. PHOTO: ST FILE

The household budgets study provides much food for thought (Study finds older singles need $1,379 per month, May 23).

Beyond the dollar amount, generations - both young and old - can use the information to reflect on the standard of living they desire when they are older, and how to prepare for it.

For the young who have older parents and grandparents, the study also brings to the fore a realisation of what older people consider as the minimum standard of living that would allow them to live with dignity.

Of course, caring is not just about financial support, it is also important to have sufficient money to have a life beyond just the basics.

Society often regards older people as being in their "sunset years", and therefore their life is about looking backwards with no place for hopes and dreams, especially when they are frail and need care.

Human development, however, is fundamentally forward looking. Everyone, regardless of age or physical ability, aspires for the chance to learn or discover something, and do something meaningful for others.

These aspirational activities are often considered insignificant and therefore not supported. This study affirms that older people have these fundamental aspirations.

Another notable finding of the study is that older people value staying socially engaged with others. To be able to connect with friends simply even at a neighbourhood coffee shop brings joy and adds meaning to their lives.

While this study highlights the budget for a minimum standard of living, it is a useful start of a conversation with the elders to determine the appropriate level of material support.

For single older people or those whose families are not in a position to provide adequate levels of support, the community must step up.

The shrinking family size and people living longer will pose significant pressure on many families. Those families will in turn need support in order to continue caring for their older relatives.

It is imperative that all stakeholders, such as social service providers like us, work in partnership with public and private enterprises to collectively address the gap in standards of living that some older people experience, and make Singapore truly a great home for all, where our elders are not left behind.

Susana Harding

Senior Director, International Longevity Centre-Singapore

Tsao Foundation

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline 'Time to address gaps in care for aged'. Print Edition | Subscribe