S'pore determined not to go down path where ageing society results in escalating healthcare costs, societal fractures: PM Lee
SINGAPORE — Singapore is determined not to go down a path where an ageing society results in the “grim reality” of escalating healthcare costs and society breaking down due to competing needs from different age groups among the population.
- Singapore is determined not to go down a path where an ageing society results in escalating healthcare costs and societal fractures, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said
- To avoid doing so, there must be efforts taken across the whole of society and a strong culture of respect towards seniors
- He was speaking at the launch of a new book on the country’s ageing population
- The book's co-editor, former Member of Parliament S Vasoo, said that he was prompted to write after he observed his constituents ageing
- Dr Vasoo said that Singaporeans will have to do their part to support seniors within their own community
SINGAPORE — Singapore is determined not to go down a path where an ageing society results in the “grim reality” of escalating healthcare costs and society breaking down due to competing needs from different age groups among the population, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
To avoid doing so will require a whole-of-society effort where individuals embrace ageing positively, families engage with seniors, and employers tap the experience of their older workers. “And as a society, we must strengthen the culture of respect towards seniors — show that we understand and value one another, and avoid thinking in stereotypes that are hurtful and self-limiting,” he added.
Mr Lee was speaking on Tuesday (April 11) at the launch of a new book on the country’s ageing population at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The book, titled Singapore Ageing: Issues and Challenges Ahead, examines the social, political and healthcare implications of a greying population and suggests ideas to tackle these challenges.
Some of the topics include end-of-life issues among older adults, digitalisation in an ageing population and healthcare matters for older adults.
The book is co-edited by Dr S Vasoo, Associate Professor Bilveer Singh and Associate Professor Srinivasan Chokkanathan, who are from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in NUS. Dr Vasoo and Assoc Prof Srinivasan are from the department of social work while Assoc Prof Singh is from the department of political science.
Various researchers, practitioners and academics across the social service and care sectors were among the books’ contributors.
In his speech, Mr Lee said that Singapore's population is "ageing rapidly". About one in six Singaporeans were aged 65 and above in 2020, and this figure will be almost one in four by 2030.
The Government will take the lead in pushing the masses in the right direction to avoid the pitfalls of an ageing society, Mr Lee said.
This includes raising the retirement age to 65 and re-employment age to 70 by 2030 so that older workers can continue working.
It will also ensure the retirement adequacy of seniors, in line with rising life expectancy and the changing needs of people, he added. He cited the example of how the Government raised the Central Provident Fund (CPF) monthly salary ceiling for all its members and the CPF contribution rates for senior workers earlier this year.
Additionally, the Government will strengthen the healthcare system, such as through the Healthier SG initiative, to meet increasing demand from an ageing population.
Mr Lee said that if the various stakeholders in the country, such as individuals, families and the Government, can come together with the right mindset and strategies to tackle ageing, then there is a good chance of realising the alternative scenario presented in the book, where seniors are healthy, well-respected and engaged in productive and meaningful activities.
Speaking to TODAY after the launch event, Assoc Prof Singh said that one reason why the book was published at this time was because the global economic crisis following the Covid-19 pandemic had put pressure on government resources to tackle problems related to ageing.
Therefore, he thought it was important to put out a book that would highlight challenges related to an ageing society and get people to think about the issues related to it.
Dr S Vasoo, who is a former Member of Parliament (MP), said that he was prompted to put together the book after watching his former constituencies age.
Between 1984 and 2001, Dr Vasoo was the MP for Bowen, Tiong Bahru and Tanjong Pagar constituencies.
“Increasingly, they are old and on wheelchairs, old and on motorised vehicles, they are moving with great difficulty… and this prompted me to try and examine further what our society will be and how these people can be supported,” he said.
Beyond the areas that Mr Lee addressed in his speech, Dr Vasoo said that Singaporeans will have to think about how to support seniors within their own community.
This would include making it more accessible for seniors to take part in various social and community activities by providing transport, for example.
On a personal level, Dr Vasoo, 82, said he recognised that there will be decline in his mobility as he ages and he tries to keep healthy by participating in different community activities. He also mentors students to stimulate his mind and think about solutions and problems that his mentees face.
Assoc Prof Singh highlighted family support as an important contribution at a societal level to help elders age better in society.
Such support could take the form of “little things” by taking elders to the hospital for their medical check-up, for instance.
On whether he has personally faced ageist stereotypes, and sharing his own efforts in active ageing, Assoc Prof Singh, 66, described himself as a "go-go guy" where he is constantly on the go and able to do his daily activities. He said that he was from a healthy family and was one of Singapore's best middle distance runners in the 1970s, and was fortunate to remain healthy at his age.
Assoc Prof Srinivasan, 48, is hoping that the book will show people that there are more opportunities rather than challenges in an ageing society.
For example, seniors can continue to enhance their skills and remain ready for employment even after retirement and continue contributing to society.
“So in this book, it gives us the opportunity to look into the strengths and the resources that the elderly person brings in,” he said.