Q: The future is grey for the elderly in Singapore. What is your view?
In the recent General Elections, many social issues and bread-and-butter problems were brought up and debated on in the many press conferences and rallies held by political parties, the ruling party and the opposition alike. One common discussion revolved around the increasingly prevalent and pressing issue of Singapore’s aging population as well as the impact that the rising cost of living, notably healthcare and daily commodities, has on these elderly. These issues were also brought up by Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Prime Minister, during the National Day Rally Speech held a fortnight ago. The Prime Minister raised the issue of the affordability of healthcare and the increasing number of elderly who are living alone, as well as the initiatives taken to alleviate the loneliness of these elderly. With the increasing focus on the situation of the elderly, I subscribe to the view that with more government funding and community involvement, the future will not be grey for the elderly.
Some pessimists contend that the ever-increasing aging population –from the present over 20% to over 35% in the projected future in 2050 – coupled with the global rise in prices of everything (daily commodities, petrol and electricity) will therefore result in a bleak and downcast future for the elderly in Singapore. Presently, the working adult to elderly ratio stands at 10 is to 1, that is to say that some of the taxes paid by the aforementioned working adults are used to subsidise healthcare expenses for the elderly. However, this ratio is projected to meteorically worsen in 2050 where every 4 working adults support 1 elderly. Hence, this would indubitably tax the country’s coffers and the working adults even more strenuously, resulting in less available resources for these elderly who will then face much more difficulties getting by in their daily lives as the general price level of basic necessities continue to increase. This has led to the modus operandi following the saying “If it’s not broken, do not fix it.” And these elderly, fearing the high costs of the medical treatment and medicine that will ensue if any serious medical conditions or ailments do surface during a checkup, would rather not go for such checkups at all. However, I am unable to come to terms with such a view, as there are a lot of measures put in place to relieve the elderly of such a predicament. Medifund was set up for that very purpose, to ensure that no one especially the elderly would be missed by the social safety nets. The elderly are able to enjoy a greatly subsidized medical treatment which can be covered for with money from their children’s CPF Medisave account. However, this may not hold true for every elderly as there is a handful of the elderly who that do not have any kin to rely on financially. Therefore there is reason to believe that the future will be bleak for the elderly amid the prevalent problems that may arise in the near future.
Detractors may feel strongly that the future is downcast for the elderly because of the increase in the frequency of incidents involving the elderly who live alone and pass away without anyone’s knowledge. Such bizarre occurrences, following the worsening of Singapore’s aging population trend, have been increasing in recent years which usually came to light after a couple of days when the deceased’s neighbour called the police to complain about the stench of the rotting corpse next door. The issue of the lack of social support in our community has resulted in such groups of elderly to be missed by the social safety nets mentioned in the previous paragraph. Thus, this has resulted in the detractors taking the stand that with the number of the elderly slated to increase exponentially, such social problems, already brewing in our midst, would surface and become ever more prevalent in the near future; thus, the elderly would have a bleak future.
Despite these relatively valid points of contention, I stand firm in my view that the future is not entirely grey for the elderly in Singapore. In the recent National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee raised the issue of the problems faced by the elderly in Singapore. On the one hand, similar to what was debated by the detractors, there have been a rise in the number of elderly people without any friends or family. While on the other, there are measures implemented by the community groups and grassroots leaders. Such community groups organize door-to-door visits to ensure that all of such elderly are looked after and are in a good shape, both physically and emotionally. There were a group of students from the National University of Singapore who organized an excursion to bring wheelchair-bound elderly people who are living alone out to scenic places such as the Marina Bay to visit iconic sites of Singapore such as the Singapore Flyer and Marina Barrage, Thus, through such initiatives these supposedly “neglected” elderly who were unattended and uncared for, would then receive support from the community making them feel less lonely and more receptive to care and love from others and begin to socialize with other elderly who are in the same predicament. Therefore, I think the future is not as gloomy as put across by the detractors and I believe incidents of the elderly committing suicide or dying alone at home without anybody’s notice would be greatly diminished over the years as more and more measures are put in place.
In all, summing up all of the points raised, I tend to the view that the future of the elderly in Singapore is not as bleak and gloomy as seen by pessimists and detractors as there have been many social initiatives by the community and support from the government. So I believe that elderly’s future is not grey as it would gradually turn into silver as more attention and resources are allocated into helping these elderly to age gracefully and stay happy.
Eugene Cheung from Innova Junior College, Class 1012A