Change priorities to take better care of the elderly

It is disconcerting to read that the suicide rate among the aged has gone up ("More seniors in S'pore taking own lives"; Dec 17).

Perhaps, it is a call for help by a fast-growing segment of our society.

Recently, when I was having lunch at a hawker centre, an elderly woman came to hawk packets of tissue paper, and another elderly man asked if I could buy him a $2 packet of nasi lemak.

The scene was heartrending. The thought that my own twilight years could be like this is sobering.

Our policies should not be geared solely towards preserving lives, but the will to live too. No one should be made to feel that once he is past his economically productive years, he will be discarded into obscurity.

Are we not a rich country, going by per capita income and gross domestic product? It does not augur well when old people still need to hawk their wares and beg.

Perhaps, many of them worked hard during their early years. But since then, the cost of living has gone up, making their hard-earned savings grossly inadequate, even for basic necessities.

Should we not throw them a lifeline?

As citizens of a rich nation, we should have the security of having a roof over our heads and three square meals a day in our old age.

Maybe, a reshuffle of our priorities is needed. Social spending for medical care, insurance and facilities for the aged should figure just as highly as infrastructural development.

Losing one's mobility and feeling alienated can dampen a person's dignity and will to live. We all have a need to be needed.

We have read of how good Samaritans adopt orphans from far-flung places. So, why not adopt an aged person in one's neighbourhood? Just think of how happy we will be when it is our turn to receive such kindness in our old age.

Lee Teck Chuan