Forum: Death shouldn't be something left for strangers to discover

All of us want to follow a common script for dying. We want to hold up a "good death" and "death with dignity" as our ideal.

Most of us want it to happen at home, in an environment of calm, surrounded by family and friends.

Yet, we know, of course, that dying isn't like that at all.

Many people do not get that ideal experience (Woman, 74, found dead in Bedok flat over a week after she was last seen, Sept 6).

Society needs to debunk the quiescent image of older people. We should avoid the simplistic notion that older people withdraw from social activities and friendships because they no longer want them or because withdrawal is an inherent part of old age, and leave them be.

All of us need the company and stimulation of friends. And kindness should be a common currency for all.

The prospect of social isolation is daunting. Many seniors may feel that others are not concerned about them or do not understand them, when their feelings and what they say appear to be unimportant, their complaints are brushed aside or trivialised, and their feelings are discounted as silly.

Many older people who live alone do not want to be a burden to others, especially to their children. Yet being a burden is what makes us human.

Seniors should want to be a burden to those who love them, and the children should want to bear that burden. After all, this is what it means to be family.

Seniors do crave moments of tenderness. Their demise should not be hidden, left to be discovered by strangers coming into their home to the smell of death.

Sherman Goh Keng Hwee

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