Forum: Seniors staying together fare better during Covid-19

In a stark reminder of the loneliness and sadness facing seniors aged 60 and above during the Covid-19 pandemic, Samaritans of Singapore reported that while there was a 13 per cent increase in suicides last year from 2019, the number among seniors increased by a whopping 26 per cent from 2019 with 154 suicides. This was the highest recorded figure in this age group since 1991 (452 suicides reported last year, highest since 2012, July 9).

The Institute of Mental Health's clinical director in the Office of Population Health Lee Cheng said elderly people living alone may lack support to deal with the pandemic.

In the book Ageing In Singapore: The Next 50 Years, psychiatrist Kua Ee Heok identified significant factors which lead to depression among the elderly such as living alone, being widowed or divorced and having multiple medical conditions. These factors frequently lead to a higher risk of suicide among the elderly.

There were 47,000 seniors living alone in 2016, and this number is expected to rise to 83,000 by 2030.

The Assisted Living Facilities Association of Singapore's proof of concept on the usefulness of assisted living facilities as an alternative care model for seniors in Singapore received a boost during the pandemic.

We saw that our seniors benefited from the camaraderie, social support and care they received while residing in our assisted living facilities compared with seniors living on their own or with a helper.

Assisted living facilities are small, supervised communities of seniors living together in a home-like environment with personal care services, meals, social activities and help with some activities of daily living provided.

There is also a trained caregiver to provide oversight, support and friendship to seniors. The caregivers are supported by nurses, doctors and allied health professionals.

Our seniors socialise by having their meals together and playing mahjong. They can retreat to their own rooms when tired.

Our caregivers give the seniors a sense of purpose by helping them with activities such as cooking and grocery shopping.

They also help seniors who are technologically challenged stay in touch with their families and friends here and abroad.

We propose an urgent national conversation on seniors' holistic well-being to discuss and act on a sustainable plan to empower our seniors to live happier and more fulfilling lives with assistance when needed to alleviate loneliness, as Singaporeans ride out this pandemic.

Belinda Wee (Dr)


Assisted Living Facilities Association


National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Touchline: 1800-377-2252

Care Corner Counselling Centre: 6353-1180

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.