Forum: Embrace mindset of working for as long as we can

Straits Times senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's article, "Ageism and health are major barriers to seniors staying longer in the workforce" (Aug 25), is very timely, with Singapore facing an ageing population.

All of us grow old, and need to plan for our old age differently. Advertisements and marketing materials normally focus on the financial aspects of retirement and old age, but there is much more to ageing than that.

It is a global phenomenon, not unique to Singapore, that ageing and older adults are viewed negatively. Terms like "silver tsunami" are used, and issues like death and dying are rarely discussed. It is regarded as bad luck to talk about such topics.

Our Government has been steadily gearing up to handle the challenges of an ageing society - Singapore will be raising the retirement age to 65 and the re-employment age to 70 by 2030. Some in the working population may be bemoaning this change and dreading the slog and grind of an extended working life. But is it that bad?

Our mindset needs to shift to that of working for as long as we can and ageing actively - through social interaction, eating healthily, exercising adequately and engaging in mentally stimulating activities. Only through these can we be sufficiently prepared to age well. This needs support from family, friends, social networks and society.

Lifelong learning in older adults and the humility to learn and keep learning will stand us in good stead to keep up with changing times, especially with the volatile geopolitical and socio-economic environments.

Good examples of those who practise lifelong learning are

Sir David Attenborough, who is still championing his pet causes of conservation and natural history at the age of 96, and Dr Jane Goodall, 88, a primatologist who still engages a global audience with her work in the environment and conservation.

The epitome of a lifelong learner and active ager in Singapore was founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who continued to learn Chinese for as long as he could.

We should aspire to such heights, for even if we fail, we would still have motivated ourselves to age better.

Toh Yen-Lin

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