Week's Top Letter #1: Explore what younger people want in ageing process

The Singapore state requires that citizens do not age themselves out of productivity, particularly employment.
The Singapore state requires that citizens do not age themselves out of productivity, particularly employment. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

From a policy perspective, the questions which follow the excellent piece about help given to the elderly and the poor (Who guards the bodyguard? The ethics of care for older adults, April 7) revolve around the evolving needs of an ageing but underprepared population, the responsibilities of the Government and non-profit organisations, as well as the effectiveness of existing programmes and services.

More importantly, drawing from the perspectives of those who require help, the caregivers who provide the help and the organisations which facilitate these interactions, and turning to best practices within and beyond the country, what policy changes are needed to improve the Singaporean ageing experience?

Tied to the ageing discourse is the stigmatised but necessary focus on dying and death, in the sense of involving the wider population - including people who are not immediately dealing with a serious illness or approaching death, or caring for individuals who are - to consider the types of care and eldercare that they themselves would like to receive.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we do not have an adequate understanding of first-hand ageing or caregiving needs.

We have relied disproportionately on individual family caregivers, no longer a sustainable solution in the future; foreign domestic workers, who are already burdened within the household; and institutions such as nursing homes, where the elderly are often checked in prematurely and that do not necessarily offer the best living and social conditions.

Besides the emphasis on maintaining self-reliance and on one's health and fitness, what are the broader aspirations and desires of an ageing individual?

Eldercare should not just be about the minimisation of pain and suffering, but also about the maximisation of joy and satisfaction.

The Cassia Resettlement Team and its collaborators have done a great job of gathering and communicating the views of elderly Singaporeans who are struggling to get by, together with the challenges faced by those who are working with these individuals.

The next step would be to coax those who do not belong to the Pioneer and Merdeka generations to consider these narratives, contemplate the extent to which they would like to age under such circumstances and, perhaps, envision more meaningful arrangements for themselves.

Only then can we confront our sub-par care of our elderly and consider a wide range of policy and community undertakings.

Kwan Jin Yao