Strategy needed to help socially frail elderly

If one is old and frail, has more than two acute health conditions, is often in and out of hospitals, and lives alone, this person is at a higher risk of premature death.

As people advance through their life stages, they are likely to experience these conditions progressively, but these conditions may not contribute to the older person dying prematurely.

Being socially frail is an important predictor of loneliness and suicide risk ("More seniors in S'pore taking own lives"; Dec 17).

What the elderly need is regular engagement through befriending services.

The provision of companionship in daily life has been found to promote well-being and reduce loneliness.

Although there are many befriending services in Singapore, one model that can be tested is a befriending programme that clarifies the needs of the elderly, analyses their existing social network, sets outcomes in friendship and develops strategies to achieve those outcomes.

With the number of elderly Singaporeans living alone projected to rise to 83,000 in 2030 from 35,000 in 2012, the trend of elderly people taking their own lives is one that cannot be ignored.

Tong Kin Muon