SINGAPORE: Cost of living and healthcare were the top two issues on the minds of elderly Singaporeans at a dialogue in Yuhua on Tuesday afternoon.
The community event was jointly organised by Yuhua Member of Parliament and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu and the Our Singapore Conversation committee, which is driving a national discussion on the future of Singapore.
The proportion of elderly residents in Yuhua is higher than the national average. 10.15 per cent are aged 65 and above in Yuhua, compared to 9.3 per cent for the whole of Singapore.
Over 100 senior citizens came together to discuss the future of Singapore in dialect.
The event started with a skit in the middle of a hawker centre.
Actors played out the issues on the agenda: cost of living, healthcare, social connectedness, education and new immigrants.
The participants, mainly residents from the neighbourhood, were broken up into small groups for discussion. At the coffeeshop dialogue, a variety of languages could be heard — Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, English and Mandarin.
"This is an important group that’s probably not so comfortable (with conversing in) our official language(s) Mandarin or English," said Ms Fu.
"And allowing them to use the language they’re most comfortable with, and also doing it slightly differently in a skit, allows them to identify, and perhaps tell us if they agree with the views being expressed. It’s giving us a convenient way of collecting their feedback."
Most participants were pleased with the dialogue format.
"Dialects are what the elderly can hear and understand. Even Mandarin, some seniors can’t understand it," a participant commented in Mandarin.
Participants were asked to vote for issues on the top of their minds.
The highest number of votes went to cost of living and healthcare.
"Medicine (and) things are getting more expensive. We’ll just have to eat less expensive items. We don’t want to trouble others!" a participant lamented in Hokkien.
Also heard were requests for more elder—friendly infrastructure in town.
Some asked for more exercise equipment, and for pedestrian traffic lights to stay green longer to accommodate seniors who walk at a slower pace.
Ms Fu said: "Some of the local issues, we will definitely follow up because that’s something within our control. But for some of the issues, like medical fees, we’ll have to submit them through Our Singapore Conversation secretariat."
Organisers are not ruling out more dialogues in dialect in future, but there are no plans for now.
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