Budget 2018 debate

MPs suggest ways to support current and future seniors

Among proposals: Review of CPF rates for workers past age 55, provide PCs for elderly

Raising the bar for what many see as "elderly" from 65 years old to 70 or even 75 was one proposition put forward in Parliament yesterday.
Raising the bar for what many see as "elderly" from 65 years old to 70 or even 75 was one proposition put forward in Parliament yesterday.ST FILE PHOTO

It may be time for Singaporeans to reconsider what they think of as "elderly".

The bar for many is now age 65, but this could be raised to 70 or even 75, as many people in their 60s and 70s are still active and gainfully employed, suggested MP Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) yesterday.

She was among a slew of MPs who called for a rethinking of support for older Singaporeans, as the nation grapples with a rapidly ageing population, on the second day of the Budget debate.

The seniors of tomorrow - those in their 40s and 50s today - are tech-savvy and self-sufficient, Ms Cheng noted. "In 20 years' time, we will have a host of capable people who are mobile and independent. The challenge for us is to build a society that encourages our seniors of the future to thrive and live active lives," she said.

MPs like Ms Cheryl Chan (Fengshan) and Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) called on employers to consider older workers fairly and value their knowledge.

Mature workers have a wealth of experience and can be assets to organisations in a diverse inter-generational workforce, said Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC).

Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) urged the Government to review the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for workers who are over 55 years old, a call that labour MP Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) had made on Tuesday.

For these workers now, the employer's contribution to their CPF accounts falls from 17 per cent to 13 per cent once they are past the age of 55 while their own contribution falls from 20 per cent to 13 per cent, then decreases further every five years until they pass age 65.

Dr Intan proposed not cutting the CPF contributions until workers are at least 60 years old, or making the reductions in phases over four or five years.

Other forms of practical help were suggested. Many elderly people feel left behind by the rapid technological changes and services such as Internet banking and chat apps, said Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC).

She proposed the Government provide computer systems for elderly residents in rental homes, similar to the provision of fire alarms which are being installed in public rental flats for free. The systems can be simple, to provide seniors with "their own time and space to tinker and learn at their own pace and in their homes".

This could align older folk with the younger generation, and give them access to information on topics such as healthcare that could be useful to them, she said.

Meanwhile, more can be done to encourage children to look after their elderly parents, said Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan. While he welcomed the extension of the Proximity Housing Grant to singles looking to buy an HDB resale flat near their parents, he asked that the grant for singles be the same amount as that for married couples.

"Many singles end up taking a larger role in caregiving support than their married siblings, who may be bogged down with caring for their children," he said.

"When you make things easier for the caregiver, single or otherwise, the ultimate beneficiaries are the elderly parents of the caregiver."

Besides support for the elderly, Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) said, challenges posed by the ageing population should be addressed through a combination of policies to raise the fertility rate and selective immigration policies, such as giving priority to those who create quality jobs for Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'MPs suggest ways to support current and future seniors'. Subscribe