Letter of the week: Maintaining social engagement with the elderly is crucial

Old age is closely associated with an increased experience of isolation. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Humans are gregarious. Our quality of life depends to no small degree on our relationships with other people (Woman's remains found almost two years after she was last seen, Nov 26).

Old age is closely associated with an increased experience of isolation. It is easy to find older people living alone and, in many cases, suffering the recognisable effects of "solitary confinement", namely apathy, depression and, ultimately, self-neglect.

Too often, it is an accepted norm that older people have to expect, and that it is part of the process of growing old. Moreover, social policy is moving away from institutionalised forms of care, and concentrating instead on maintaining people in their own homes. While community care policies are soundly based on principles that seek to maintain people's independence, they can also lead to social isolation.

Social change has contributed to the increasing isolation of older people. However, we should not forget that the family still performs most caring functions for the majority of older people.

The maintenance of social engagement is crucial. If older people can maintain a reasonable level of social involvement, including having satisfying relationships with other people, their quality of life can remain as fulfilling as at any other stage of their lives.

No one has the ability to live in isolation. Instead of keeping to the comfort of our homes, we could show up without motive at the doorsteps of the elderly and lonely neighbours around us, bringing them what they need.

Who does not need hope in their lives? Hope that something can change, that someone cares, that not only can bad things happen unexpectedly but good things can also happen to us.

Sherman Goh Keng Hwee

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