Social Policy in an Ageing Society: Age and Health in Singapore

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An elderly worker in Singapore. This figure includes a short break to the region, clothes for festivities, red packets during Chinese New Year, but not the costs of treatment for chronic conditions and major illnesses. Beyond demographics and rising expectations, policymakers should be mindful seniors are a very diverse group, not least in terms of educational levels, preferences, capacities, capabilities, and life experiences.


These individual differences increase with age. While presented as distinct categories, in reality, they are a continuum and are often overlapping. This group, likely to be their 50s and 60s, is healthier, wealthier and more educated, compared to their predecessors from 20 years ago. In fact, with medical advances and healthy lifestyles, physically, some of these seniors may be as fit as those in their 30s or 40s.

At this life-stage, freed from the constraints of raising children and with fewer obligations to work, many may begin to engage in a variety of enrichment or learning programmes, leisure pursuits and recreational activities. Some wish to contribute back to the community by volunteering. Due to late marriages, they may have children in their teens to support, as well as infirmed elderly parents or relatives to care for. Others may be required to care for grandchildren.

What the Action Plan is about | I Feel Young SG

They may thus be experiencing substantial physical, emotional or financial stress. These pressures are set to increase, since by , only two working adults aged 20 to 64 will support one senior aged 65 plus, suggesting an urgent need for more community services for caregivers. Although this group are likely to be financially more well-to-do compared to previous cohorts, local surveys, such as the National Survey on Senior Citizens and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices' research, reveal financial security and retirement adequacy remain a top concern for them, so many desire to remain gainfully employed.

An elderly woman and a child in Singapore. Photo: Gaya Chandramohan.

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However, with rapid technological advancement in workplaces, they need to be reskilled and upskilled to remain employed. As some seniors may have to juggle the demands of work and caregiving roles, flexible work arrangements, whether part-time work or tele-commuting, may be required.

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The Go-Slow seniors are likely to between their late 60s to 80s. As chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetics and heart diseases, tend to increase with age, this group may be plagued by health conditions.

Compounded with age-associated sensory decrements, such as hearing impairment, as well as changes in posture and balance, various modifications to their environment will be needed so that they can access amenities such as markets, community clubs, clinics, hospitals. Two elderly men walking at a void deck in Singapore.

Ageing: socio-economic implications for health care in Singapore.

File photo: Gaya Chandramohan. Public housing flats and their vicinities must be designed with elder-friendly features including ramps, railings, grab-bars. A variety of housing options, schemes and grants would be needed, given their financial constraints. This final group comprises seniors with multiple care needs, who may be non-ambulant, bed-bound, or highly dependent on caregivers. They may reside in their own homes, nursing homes, or are often in hospitals.

Besides debilitating illnesses, such as stroke, late-stage cancer, they may be suffering from psychological disorders, such as dementia or depression. They require a suite of support services: Home care, meal services, counselling, befriending, transportation, escort services for medical appointments, financial assistance, end-of-life care and other therapeutic interventions for themselves and their families.

Successful Ageing — A Review of Singapore's Policy Approaches

An elderly woman in a wheelchair, pushed by her caregiver. Voluntary and compulsory savings are being used up. New demands for pensions and subsidies are challenging the national ideology of family network and self-reliance. Despite a wealth of prospective problems, the author argues that viable solutions can be found. Discretionary savings can increase. Reverse mortgages can monetise owner-occupied property. A higher participation rate can give the elderly the opportunity to earn a living for themselves.

This book concludes that public policy must play its part in facilitating these solutions. It must ensure that the old retain their dignity.

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