In Shakespeare's differentiation of the span of human life into seven ages, the last one is "second childishness", without teeth, eyes and taste. The expectation is that after the seventh age, a human would pass forever from the great drama of life. However, in an ageing society such as Singapore's, where people live longer but with increasing signs of physical and mental frailty, the seventh age begins to impinge more closely on the ability of the other six to empathise with it and care for it. That responsibility falls most heavily on children sometimes.
The good news is that many Singaporeans are more than capable of taking up their responsibilities while still young. An 11-year-old who prepares breakfast dutifully every day for her wheelchair-bound mother; a 20-year-old who studies while caring for a mother suffering from schizophrenia; and a 29-year-old who tends to his father who has had three strokes and suffers from dementia - these are exemplary citizens of everyday Singapore. They reverse the traditional roles of life, in which parents never treat their children as a burden yet hope that they themselves will not be a burden on them. Yet, when those roles indeed are reversed, these young people - and many others like them - accept the afflictions visited on their families unconditionally, thus extending the cultural lifespan of inherited values.
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