Filial piety

More sustainable if people care for parents in old age

I empathise with the views of Straits Times political correspondent Yuen Sin (Filial piety norms: Caught between two worlds, April 25).

What she expressed is not unfamiliar to the "sandwich generation" - those of us who have to take care of ageing parents and young children.

For the many people who can afford to take care of themselves in their old age, it is not difficult to say that they do not expect their future children to take care of them.

But what about those who, for whatever reason, are not able to take care of themselves in their old age?

If not their children, who then will take care of them?

Are we expecting voluntary welfare organisations to do this? Is the state expected to take care of them?

Would it not be more sustainable for society to function based on the traditional value of filial piety, which expects children to take care of their parents and grandparents in their old age?

Of course, if they are not able to do so, there should be state intervention programmes as a last resort.

The key is to find a sustainable balance between the roles played by the state and the institution of the family.

It is likely that many in my generation, based on our current circumstances, do not need our children to take care of us financially in our old age.

But I am not sure if my children will always be in such a happy position.

I hope that by then, the value of filial piety (in whatever form it will morph into) will continue to sustain the society of their generation.

I hope the young people now will consider this perspective - it is good for us to expect our children to do their best to take care of us in our old age, and our children should expect their children to do likewise.

Lee Soo Chye

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2021, with the headline 'More sustainable if people care for parents in old age'. Subscribe