A piece of security for retirees. Let us create and reward a civil corps of elder citizens who can be ‘samaritans’ to the frail, poor and illiterate

Let us create and reward a civil corps of elder citizens who can be ‘samaritans’ to the frail, poor and illiterate

There was an elderly man on public assistance whom I interviewed when I was an undergraduate. He told me that his relatives and friends would shun him, especially when it was the middle of the month. He laughed as he explained that they probably thought he was approaching them because he had run out of money and wanted to borrow from them again.His tone of voice changed, as he continued to observe that even friends do not want to know you when you have financial problems.

When retirees see their bank accounts get depleted over time, they may become depressed and suicidal, especially when they have a small social support network to depend on.

It is a daunting challenge for any government faced with a fast-ageing population to ensure that its seniors are not left without a safety net.

The Singapore Government is known for its foresight and political will to tackle even the most intricate Gordian knot.

The recent announcement that the Minimum Sum Topping-Up Scheme would be extended to parents-in-law and grandparents-in-law from January is another attempt by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board to enable inter-generational transfer, with an incentive for the younger generation. This is a tax relief of up to S$7,000; the donor can also use his or her Ordinary Account savings to do the top-ups, provided the Minimum Sum requirement is met.

The use of CPF as an inter-generational transfer tool, albeit a voluntary one, has an additional positive aspect: It encourages younger relatives to be generous towards their older family members and show reciprocity.


The fact is that only 45 per cent of active CPF members who turned 55 year old last year were able to meet the Minimum Sum.

With CPF Life taking effect next year, those between the ages of 40 and 65 will be automatically saving towards their Minimum Sum.

But there is the group that lies in between – those who do not have enough for retirement, partly due to having used their CPF funds to pay for a home or for their children’s tertiary education.

They may also be low-wage earners, housewives or family workers. If they are single and living alone, they would be highly vulnerable. What can be done for them? If they are healthy, they can work longer, provided there are jobs for them.

Why not think of a creative way to turn silver into gold?

As I was searching for a creative way to help older people who are still capable of contributing to society, I thought of the term “social ambassador”.

If seniors who are still able can be tapped to be companions, or “samaritans”, to the frail, poor or illiterate, our community would become more caring.


Why is the concept of seniors helping seniors not catching on? Firstly, it is the branding. Here is where the term “social ambassador” is impressive (just like its counterpart, “health ambassador”).

People wish to be valued, and if an organisation such as the Active Ageing Council (under the People’s Association) could train able and mobile elders to get certified as Social Ambassadors, a new civil corps would be created. In the United States, this group is called the Experience Corps.

The Active Ageing Council should capitalise on Senior Citizens’ Clubs to relay the message that ageing is a more meaningful journey when we make the lives of others happier.

It is also crucial to build into the whole scheme the concept that in-kind gifts would be attached for regular work – such as home visits, “elder sitting”, companionship to visit the library or even grocery shopping. These gifts could be dental vouchers, meal voucher at hawker centres, movie tickets or even telephone cards.

Such small gestures ensure that the voluntary efforts are appreciated, recognised and made sustainable.

It is time that issues are not separated into economic, social or medical categories. Ageing issues are multi-dimensional and their solutions have to be multi-focused. If we continue to view the problem of the low percentage of elders not meeting the Minimum Sum requirement as an economic issue, the solution will continue to evade us.

The actual issue is that these people need the attention of their neighbours and other concerned members of society. If their social capital is built up, the lack of economic capital can be compensated to some extent.

A holistic perspective should be taken on issues facing a greying society and the solutions can be found.

by Kalyani Kirtikar Mehta
Apr 30, 2012
Associate Professor Kalyani Kirtikar Mehta is head of the gerontology programme at the School of Human Development and Social Services, SIM University.
Link : Todayonline –  A piece of security for retirees


Excuse me, Dr Chee Soon , are you sure? Chee Soon Juan: We do not have political rights (TOC)

Chee Soon Juan the freedom fighter.

from : Enigma 


Your Voice : 

  • he talk so much about politics how much he care for the country and people but why dun want to get himself discharge of bankruptcy so that he can run the election?
  • TOC is now SDP leaning not withstanding the new Chief editor’s claimed that he has resigned from SDP.
  • I think the tittle should read “Chee Soon Juan does not deserve political rights”. As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, he is a Manipulator and is an expert in undermining the gov.
  •  It’s funny that only the 40% should be accorded political rights against the government and the 60% do not have political rights to have the ruling party they want?
    It’s selective democracy another highbred of “elitism” for these “freedom fighter”
  •  It’s either he and his gang have their brand of political rights or we have ours … in this case we get ours, so he just have to deal with it, and I don’t think we are giving it away for sometime yet !
  • My right to my property, life, and health are quite safe. I am allowed my rights to go as far ahead in my life as long as I work hard and achieve it by merit. I am given an excellent education. Our citizens also communicate freely with our MPs and Ministers. Our Press doesn’t spread propaganda. We get to cross reference with local media by reading the New York Times. In the CBD, Financial Times and Bloomberg are available. So those are not rights to him. He defines “Rights’ as being allowed to strike and oppose authority. But why would I oppose authority when I have what I have?
  • Seriously? Is there no political freedom here? Then why aren’t any of my friends who openly voted for the opposition, who openly volunteered in opposition activities arrested yet? And since the opposition supporters keep pinning the blame on everything that is wrong here on the 60.1% who voted for PAP, WHY HAVEN’T THE OTHER 39.9% DISAPPEARED IN THE DEAD OF THE NIGHT YET?!
  • The minority of the 39.9% is desperately trying to over rule the 60.1%”s right to governance! This is democracy or selective democracy ? Chee Soon Juan and many of the diehards in Tr and, Toc are suppressing the rights of the 60.1%!
  • Isn’t Hong Lim Park reserved for them to use all the time ? What he lacks is not freedom of assembly , he lacks the audiences to listen to him .
    [But because we did not have the freedom of assembly, we could not communicate our policies and the reasons for them, to the people directly. And because we did not, and still don’t, have freedom of the media (which is another political right) our warnings were effectively censored from public discussion and debate] – CSJ
  • The vote we cast every five years is that ultimate, unalienable and unequivocal political right. Unless he is insinuating that the election process in Singapore is also rigged!
  •  It’s simple double standards. The minority refusing to recognise the majority who voted in the present government. Yet Chee Soon Juan got the balls to say their no political freedoms here. By coming up with stupid excuses to cover their losses, he should be the one living in la la land.
  • Dr Chee Soon Juan, if you still dont understand after so many years, Political rights are for those who play by the rules, not those who try to set/ go round the rules.
    May day rally, SDP is only trying to echo what have been discuss over the newspaper, add in a little spices , create as loud a bang as possible and end of the day, No Solution.
    What! No Solution!! When come to this point, they will start to pin point whichever party to be blame just to divert the suppose SOLUTION.
  • More and more bullshit from Chee Soon Juan ! What is he talking about?! He made a huge splash back in December ’92 in the Marine Parade GRC by-election, making speech after speech, night after night, in his bid to get Goh Chok Tong thrown out! No one muzzled him. He was very free with his language (I know: I attended most of his rallies, as he was then a great novelty!!). And he lost, miserably. The voters made their choice. The PAP had nothing to do with his lack of success at the polls.

We have to show them who is the master to “angry Singaporean scolds PM Lee on Facebook “

You Voice :

  • This is just one of the many “attacks” the PM has to put up with since his FB page came on-line. It doesn’t take a blind man to notice the “escalating cost of living, overcrowding and crumbling transportation”.
    However, the pathetic individual conveniently forgot to thank the PM for a peaceful Singapore, forgot to thank the PM for the education he had the privilege of obtaining and forgot to thank the PM for a decent healthcare we are able to experience (just to name a few). Such ingrates, but then again, I tend to expect nothing less from such individuals in today’s society.
  • “Name us one country that has yet to be inundated by the wide and far-reaching effects of global change the last decade.”
  • There is absolutely no call whatsoever for such blatant, outrageous disrespect! One may respectfully disagree and express one’s views freely, but not in that manner. It reveals nothing more than the poster’s immaturity and complete lack of civility, ie, the comment speaks volumes for itself.
  • Such attack is not the first and will not be the last.It just goes to show how low these people can go with the false hope they expect from the oppies. To disagree with government’s policies is one thing, to attack the Prime Minister or for that matter, any of our Ministers, is down right low-class.I really hope something can be done to bring such people to their sense. Even if the policy is going to be tough and unpopular, I sincerely hope that MPs will push for it during their closed-door meetings with the Secretary General of the ruling party.For the future of our country, these people cannot be allowed to roam free and attack our policy makers. We have to show them who is the master !

Singaporeans Say

I have been looking for an interesting subject to dwell on and thought, this might be an interesting subject for discussion. Since I was born and raised here, I think I have a fairly good idea on this topic and in all fairness, I must admit I’m also quiet a “kiasu” guy myself in some ways.

In plain dialect conversion, “kiasu” literally means “afraid to lose”. I’m not sure if the word is listed in the dictionary but it sure is one of the words most commonly used in associating with the typical Singaporean attitude. It’s kind of a derogatory term to use but I suppose if we look at things from both sides, there are positives to being “kiasu”. The term is so often used that most if not all Singaporeans are used to it and we generally take it within our stride if such terms are used on…

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Singaporeans Say

You Say  :

  • Some of my friends, who are obviously not fans of the incumbent government, seem to be extremely interested in the development of the Bersih movement across the border. They seemed to be wishing for the same to happen here in Singapore. Bloody fools. I’d be in front of the cops and smacking them myself if something like this were to happen.
  • Truly, these delusionals do not know what they have until all is lost. I mean, what the hell goes about in their heads anyway?!They want change, even when they are not sure what change it is they want, no matter what the costs.They took part in a protest, knowing full well that it is bordering on the illegal. And when people amongst them turn violent, blame the police for excessive violence? Whose fault?And there are people actively encouraging our people to take part in the such!As…

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.. the Germans have difficulty integrating foreigners into their society too. They talk about needing to develop a welcoming culture. Their issues are quite similar to ours in Singapore ~ PM Lee Hsien Loong

The thriving German economy is short of skilled workers. It is attracting talent from countries like Spain and Portugal, where unemployment is very high. Germany is benefitting: if the inflow continues, in the long term German industry will grow more powerful.
But Southern Europe is worried that it may be only left with agriculture and tourism.But the Germans have difficulty integrating foreigners into their society too. They talk about needing to develop a welcoming culture. Their issues are quite similar to ours in Singapore. – LHL

Brain Drain Feared as German Jobs Lure Southern Europeans

SCHWÄBISCH HALL, Germany — While much of southern Europe is struggling with soaring unemployment rates, a robust Germany is desperate for educated workers, and it has begun to look south for the solution.

In the last 18 months, it has recruited thousands of the Continent’s best and brightest to this postcard-perfect town and many others like it, a migration of highly qualified young job-seekers that could set back Europe’s stragglers even more, while giving Germany a further leg up.

One of those helping forge the new era is Cristina Fernández-Aparicio Ruiz, 36, a newly arrived engineer from Spain, where unemployment just hit a depression-level 24.4 percent. She is working at an industrial company near here, trying to find a way to make a new elevator part mesh with older components.

Her German is spotty. But the company, Ziehl-Abegg , assigned her a mentor who made sure she had someone to sit with at lunch. And if she needed help finding a doctor or going to the supermarket, the company was ready to help with that, too.

“They are very nice here,” said Ms. Fernández-Aparicio, from Madrid. “And at the moment there are no jobs in Spain.”

The free movement of labor was one of the founding principles of the European Union , a central part of the effort to create a single, unified market. But in more prosperous times, few workers outside of Eastern Europe felt compelled to leave home.

That is changing under the pressures of the euro crisis and a harsh recession, and employers, governments and the migrants themselves are discovering that immigration , even when legal and nominally accepted, can raise tensions in ways that Europe’s founders may never have anticipated. Who wins and who loses — if anyone — is a matter of growing debate. But there is widespread agreement that Europe is rapidly entering a new era whose ramifications are only beginning to be understood.

For the most part, southern Europeans are relieved to find refuge in towns in this largely rural region in the state of Baden-Württemberg. But the strains of differing languages and cultures make many of the young migrants hang back when it comes to longer-term commitments like registering their cars here or signing up for two-year cellphone contracts.

The area is home to many of the small and medium-size family enterprises, known as the Mittelstand, that power Germany’s industrial export economy. But for many companies, finding qualified employees and keeping them is the challenge. There are 7,500 open jobs in Heilbronn-Franken, the region that is home to Schwäbisch Hall. These include everything from health care to hospitality, but the most dire need is for engineers.

When Hermann-Josef Pelgrim, the mayor here, invited several journalists from southern Europe to write about job opportunities in Schwäbisch (pronounced SHVAY-bish) Hall this year, the response to a glowing article by the Portuguese reporter was overwhelming. More than 15,000 unemployed Portuguese have since submitted their résumés. About 40 simply showed up.

In December, a planeload of 100 Spanish engineers flew to nearby Stuttgart for a weekend of job interviews. Within a month, about a third of them had been hired. And some German companies have been making connections over the Internet, simply plucking Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and Italian professionals from sites like LinkedIn.

Yet the migration — while urgently needed at the moment by both sides — has stirred fears that it may be conferring yet another advantage on Europe’s most powerful economy. German exporters have benefited from a euro dragged down in value by the struggling southern countries, and they are able to borrow money at rock-bottom rates as investors seek safe havens. Now, as the southern countries watch their young people move north, some are grumbling of a brain drain as well.

“This generation of young people who are leaving are our best qualified ever,” said César Castel, the director of operations for the Spanish branch of Adecco, a Swiss headhunting firm. “It is a huge loss of investment for Spain. On average it cost us 60,000 euros to train each engineer, and they are leaving.” That is about $80,000.

Mr. Castel says the crisis has flipped his business. He used to find employees for Spanish companies. Now he finds Spaniards for foreign companies, many of them German. Most jobs are in health services and engineering.

If Spain’s economy turns around in two years, Mr. Castel said, he expects 90 percent of the Spanish professionals to return home. If the recession holds on longer, the figures could drop precipitously as the workers marry and have children abroad. He fears a situation where the northern economies retain industry and the southern ones are left with agriculture and tourism.

Germany’s experience with integrating foreign workers, particularly the country’s large Turkish minority, has proved difficult. Today, many government officials and business leaders are examining Germany’s culture, eager to do what it takes to be hospitable and acknowledging that they have not always been so.

“We need to become a welcoming culture,” said Guido Rebstock, head of the jobs agency in Schwäbisch Hall, repeating a phrase that has become part of the vocabulary here. “The firms have to help the workers with more than their jobs.”

Mr. Rebstock said the issue was driven home recently as the town contemplated its first-grade enrollment. In the last 13 years, the entering classes have shrunk by about 30 percent. “The demographic theme has definitely arrived here,” he said.

Last year, though, even while deaths once again exceeded births, the German population grew for the first time since 2002, thanks to a net immigration of 240,000 people, nearly double the 128,000 net gain in 2010. Countries like Poland and Romania sent the most, but German government statistics showed thousands more coming from the crisis-stricken southern nations.

To the unemployed masses in the south, Germany’s needs are a relief. In Baden-Württemberg, the unemployment rate is just 4 percent. The country seems like “El Dorado,” the legendary lost city of gold, said one Spanish engineer still searching for a job in Schwäbisch Hall. For the most part, engineers are being offered twice the salaries they could make in Spain, he said, though taxes are higher in Germany.

They generally find Germany more attractive than alternatives like South America and Australia because it is so close to home. Some say they expect to make lives here, but many say they are still hoping to return home soon.

Many of the Spaniards say the work environment in Germany takes getting used to, with Germans far more direct than Spanish people and much quieter. No one makes personal calls during business hours, for instance. But the work day is much shorter.

They were surprised that they were expected to greet co-workers each morning with formal handshakes and to call colleagues “Herr” and “Frau” (Mr. and Ms.). Impromptu hallway conversations over work issues were cut off by Germans suggesting it would be more appropriate to schedule a formal meeting.

The German fondness for order, often joked about, has proved true, said Carlos Baixeras, 30, an engineer who started working near Frankfurt 18 months ago. “There are rules for everything,” he said. “There’s a trash police.”

David Jiménez, 23, who just started working in Pforzheim, near Stuttgart, said his first few weeks were a nightmare. He could not even explain to the barber how he wanted his hair cut. Finally, he fell back on Europe’s common language: soccer. He pointed at his head and said, “Cristiano Ronaldo,” the name of the famous Portuguese striker. He still does not know what the different products are when he goes shopping.

“I can’t get a cold,” he said. “If I get a cold I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Right now, the migration benefits both countries. For Spain it relieves pressure on the overstretched welfare state and gives job opportunities to what has quickly become known as the lost generation. The conflict will begin when Spain eventually recovers and wants its engineers back.

“If they leave in a year or two, that is not good,” said Peter Fenkl, the president of the executive board of Ziehl-Abegg, Ms. Fernández-Aparicio’s employer. He estimated that it costs as much as $50,000 more to train and integrate a foreign worker than it does a German. But the company has little choice — having enough highly trained workers to fill orders is a necessity.