Why It Matters

Help for seniors without family

In December 2015, the Ministry of Social and Family Development announced bold plans to allow seniors without kin to appoint paid professionals to take care of their well-being when they lose the ability to take care of themselves.

It updated the law in March last year to pave the way for the paid professional scheme. Today, two years later, the scheme is still not ready.

Meanwhile, the ministry announced this week a small-scale Community Kin Service pilot project to let social workers, not paid professionals, manage the finances of seniors who are gradually losing their mental faculties.

Some may see this as making people wait two years for the main course, only to be served an appetiser.

But the latest move is significant because it is a step towards ensuring that Singapore's growing ranks of seniors without family support will not be left to fend for themselves when they become mentally incapacitated.It also signals to people that such seniors can count on support from the community.

The assurance will go some distance in convincing more seniors that they can look forward to spending their twilight years where they have made their home, rather than worry that they may be packed off to a nursing home.

But the new move is, at best, a half-step towards the paid professional scheme, which holds the prospect of benefiting more seniors.

Last year, 47,400 seniors aged 65 and older lived alone, about double the number in 2006.

It is projected to swell to 61,000 in 2020, and 83,000 in 2030.

The numbers alone make it plain that the scheme is invaluable. Its urgency, however, cannot be overstated even as many will concede that such a scheme needs to be meticulously crafted because it involves the lives and lifelong savings of seniors.

The ministry has said details of the scheme will be given "in due course". Perhaps, it is planning to unveil them and surprise seniors next year?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'Help for seniors without family'. Print Edition | Subscribe