Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 12/01/2012 00:12 | By Channel NewsAsia

Singaporeans should change mindset about elderly: experts

Singaporeans should change mindset about elderly: experts

Singaporeans should change mindset about elderly: experts

SINGAPORE: Experts in the field of ageing said a mindset change is needed in Singapore when it comes to the elderly.

Taking a lesson from Europe, they said Singapore needs to learn how to value their elderly and view them as productive.

These were some suggestions raised by experts from Asia and Europe on the sidelines of a forum on active ageing.

Associate Professor Angelique Chan from National University of Singapore’s Department of Sociology said that unlike Europe, Singapore has to face an ageing population in a short amount of time.

By 2030, one in five Singaporean residents will be aged 65 and above.

Researchers said a rapidly ageing population in Singapore has challenged attitudes towards the elderly.

For example, this was seen in the Not—In—My—Backyard (NIMBY) syndrome, when several residents protested against the construction of eldercare facilities in their neighbourhood earlier this year.

Associate Professor Chan said: "If you go to the European context and you look at how European elderly are regarded, you will see they are very much seen as human beings, as people, who actually want to live their lives as fully as possible, and be involved in society as fully as possible.

"I think we are still very far away from that in Singapore. We tend to isolate our older people. We don’t let them work past the age of 65 and a lot more needs to be done."

Associate Professor Chan added that employers need to understand that older people are still productive — a perspective which has worked well in Europe.

Dr Alan Hatton—Yeo, who is chief executive of Beth Johnson Foundation UK, said: "We are moving now towards much more flexible models of retirement where people may leave the workplace over a number of years. They may become part—time workers but start to do voluntary work continue to be involved in things, continue to feel valued and participate are really important.

"I think that has been a really significant change for us in Europe. We value our older people much more now than we would have 20 years ago and recognise they have got a great deal to offer to society."

The Beth Johnson Foundation was established to develop new approaches to ageing that link practice, policy and research.

This is a direction the government hopes to take.

In his opening address at the forum, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development, Chan Chun Sing, said: "Today, our mental model is that we teach our young all that we want to do in their early years. It is a very intensive teaching and learning in the first 20 to 25 years of their life. And thereafter we unleash them to the working world as if we they will be ready for the rest of their life.

"Maybe we have to rethink how we actually promote a culture of lifelong learning, how we design our modules whereby people of all ages can progressively pick up new skills, as we go along."

Mr Chan also noted that while Singapore can learn lessons from other countries when it comes to active ageing, it is important that they are applied in context.

He said that a "one—size fits all" solution does not work, and that even in Singapore, different constituencies have different needs.

— CNA/fa

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