A senior's experience with ageism

Senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's commentary ("Ageism 'more common' than sexism or racism"; Oct 1) may sound exaggerated to younger readers, but as a senior who was "put out to pasture" in 1999, this is my humbling true experience:

I was only 55 then, and took up studies and passed exams in the financial industry.

After a few years of self-study and gaining various qualifications in my new chosen industry, I applied for relevant jobs in vain.

So, in one application letter, I omitted my age and stated the years of the new qualifications obtained.

A young woman called to arrange an interview. When I arrived at the venue, the receptionist told me politely: "Uncle, you have come to the wrong place."

Unwilling to let my years of studies go to waste, I mapped out my own strategy of retirement planning.

Fortunately, when I monetised my assets to create my investment pool, the bank could grant me a 10-year loan because I was then under 60 years of age.

Over the last decade, I have successfully executed my retirement plan and supported my family with the monetised cash.

Recently, I tried to extend the loan, as my wife and I are still healthy and active. But the banks told me it was not possible for me to refinance because the Monetary Authority of Singapore has rules that disallow seniors above 65 from taking loans.

This means I cannot continue to execute my retirement strategy, which has yielded my income for the past decade.

This is the kind of discrimination we seniors face.

The rules and norms of yesteryear were set more than a generation ago, when being 55 was considered "old".

A total mindset change is required.

I have written to the Forum page before on respect not for the "old" but the experiences and wisdom of seniors ("Value the elderly by tapping their strengths"; March 1).

The World Health Organisation has given examples of how seniors in Japan and Britain contribute to society. Singapore needs to learn from these examples.

Our national productivity growth has been slowing and most economists blame it on our low birth rate, coupled with the tightening of foreign worker inflow.

Given these undeniable constraints of manpower, why don't we devise some workable plans to utilise the growing pool of experienced workers?

Geoffrey Kung

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