Q. How else can we support those who have built the nation?

Diverse societies cultivate different conditional morals and principles. In Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday, he delves into what the Western people can learn from traditional societies, encompassing various current affairs. In particular to the contrasting elderly treatment of the two societies, he says “the treatment of the elderly varies enormously among traditional societies, from much worse to much better than in our modern societies”. The main prominent difference is that modern societies neglect while the traditional society pursues to accept them. Elderly people tend to live lonely lives separated from their children and lifelong friends in the modern society, where as in many traditional ones, elderly people are respected of value and they spend their lives next to their children and their friends. Corresponding to the different values each society inculcates, modern societies tend to have the perspective that the aged is a burden and something to be disregarded of. On the other hand, traditional societies accept the old yet insightful philosophy of the wise.

“Perhaps the biggest change for the worse is that our elderly are objectively less useful than in traditional societies.” With the rapid advancement of technology and media, information is a click away. When we want, we got it. It is quick, easy and instantaneous. Whenever we want information, we resort to Google or books instead of looking for an old for the answer. Because of the fact that we have discovered the cheat code to a huge, easily accessible database of information, we  can’t help it but forget our previous source of knowledge and date, and adapt ourselves to become overly lazy and dependent on this new phenomenon of the technological world. The elderly thus is deemed as invaluable as their inputs are not “up-to-date”. I strongly do not agree with these assertions. The elderly has evidently lived longer in this world, accentuating that they know much more about life and people than we do. They know, they’ve seen, they’ve lived through, they’ve experienced. They can handle people much better than we, the modern people, can. They may not be adept to this confusing time where everybody is hooked on their devices everywhere they go, but they sure know what it’s like to live with courage and without fear.

A Ministry of Manpower study in 2008 has found that the majority of older people (aged above 50 years old) in Singapore want to continue working mainly due to financial reasons, and the Singapore government has raised the retirement age to 65 as of 2015. However, raising the retirement age does not necessarily corresponds to employment. The rejection of the modern society towards the elderly people have enlarged and included callous attitude towards the elderly’s employment at ages above 50. They tend to forgo the protocol of achievements and ability and discern them on the basis of age. Even if the elderly do get employed, they get the jobs of cleaners, hawker centre waiters; they don’t get the pay they deserve with their qualities of wisdom and knowledge. Another challenge the Singaporeans elderly are facing is the shallow care and concern from their children. The working population is so engrossed in making money and buying properties that they forget to take the time off to bond with their parents. The Singapore MacDonald advertisement where the protagonist dismisses his parent’s call for a family dinner and only went back on his words when he saw the driver’s picture of his son to come to know that the driver rarely gets to see his son. This short but powerful advertisement is evident to show that working Singaporeans overlook their parents and would try to avoid them with the excuses “I’m busy” or “I don’t have time.”

There are countless aid, both financially and socially, given to the elderly by the government. The Pioneer Generation Package is one good recent example. The Medisave, Medishield and Medifund scheme has also proved to be somewhat successful. furthermore, the government is planning for the construction of elderly care homes in various parts of the city and hope to set up 12 more in the year 2015. Is Singapore doing enough for the elderlies? My answer is no. Looking at the transportation costs alone, the Senior Citizen (Hybrid) Concession card costs $60 compared to $51 for a Polytechnic hybrid Concession. Why are we charging more for the elderlies who have mostly retired after slogging most of their lives away for us, the generation they have supported? Often times, we see the aged all around Singapore. They could be near MRT stations, coffee shops and even queueing up for freebies. But what set apart them from us is that they are not enjoying a ride back home, a cup of coffee or keeping the “useless” freebie for themselves. They are trying to make a living through either the sale of tissue papers or selling the freebie they painstaking queued up for hours to receive. Of course, one can argue with the examples I gave above, but “the number of elderly people living alone is likely to increase to 83,000 by 2030 – up from 35,000 now. This number does not include seniors who are left alone at home when their children head out for work in the day.” Not only must facilities be accessible and available, healthy food and nutrition has to be catered to them for their convenience. These people living alone lack nutrition sense since they mostly live alone and are likely to end up consuming leftover or overnight food.

Amid all this talk of a demographic time bomb and a crisis in care, it’s easy to be gloomy about the future. A fresh approach to the care of older people would require more integrated working across different organisations; services would need to be easier to access and developed around the needs of the individual itself. Advocating a more inclusive and less ageist debate around care in old age is a strategy to support and improve the lives of the elderly. Ageing should not be a lonely affair. The people around us – family, friends and neighbours is strongly advised to provide companionship, care and support. To facilitate this, encouraging and mobilizing informal networks to support our seniors is recommended. Neighbours can help to keep a look out for our seniors, particularly those who are single or do not have strong family support. The family is the main source of emotional, social and financial support so introducing more active measures to strengthen familial bonds should be desirable. Not to forget the community, free simple but vital healthcare services can be provided for the elderly.


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