Don’t lose focus on the elderly (“The White Paper’ conversation”)

The White Paper has caused a wave of furore in our country. Besides politicians clawing at each other in parliament, Singaporeans are also engaging in furious war of words on the White Paper. Countless debates, discussions and articles on the figure 6.9 million future inhabitants in our tiny city but none of it addresses the crux of the issue – the ageing population.

Like the fate of many countries, Singapore is story of the young fast becoming old and there are not enough children to pick up the burden of dependency. By 2030, the blush will have turned to grey. This is simply because Singapore is currently experiencing big generational shifts. The ageing population and the declining birth rate have changed the look of the population pyramid as it is slowly turning upside down. For example, there are more 50-55 year olds  than there are 20-25 year olds. The point is that over the next 10 years this huge older generation will sail past 60 and ease out the workforce leaving a significant labour and management void. Now is the time to begin the succession planning of the our future demographics.

In 1980, the median age is 24 while in 2000 is 34. Last year, the median age is 38. The inexorable rise in the elderly resident population can potential create divisions between the young and the old, declining numbers of working age persons having to care and provide for the increasing numbers of elderly in the community. With the smaller number of Singapore’s younger generation, are they able to, or ever want to, bear the emotional and financial burdens of supporting the needs of their elders? Are we all ready, as individuals, families, a community and a nation, to accept the societal and economic effects of a rapidly ageing population?

We are not keyboard warriors; nothing can be done just by typing and arguing endlessly. What Singapore truly needs now is a pool of energetic, dynamic individuals who are willing to help the ageing population. We are not expecting the elderly to be dependent on the younger population but surely there are ways to ensure the gap between the young and the old are bridged closer. Think about this: one day we will be in our parents’ or grandparents’ shoes. It would be more fruitful for the younger Singaporeans to come forward, contribute and be encouraged to respond to the problems of the aged.

Besides the usual community engagement programmes organised by schools, there should be more initiatives where youths provide a service for the elderly, serve as volunteers, provide companionship to the older residents, and intergenerational projects to initiate understanding of the older generation. Although not all intergenerational initiatives may achieve the goal of intergenerational understanding and dialogue, but the opportunities to connect coupled with deliberate efforts through good planning will bear positive outcome. Consequently, the Singapore government has to grapple with instituting the right mix of formal and informal schemes in order to provide for the older generation.

Perhaps, the PAP would want to reconsider changing its recruitment style. Instead of getting ‘scholar soldiers’ or brigadier generals, it would be better in all aspects if the PAP tap the pool of volunteers as future leaders to win the hearts of the people. We need leaders who are more grounded and in tuned with the people, not robots.


– Singapore Statistics Key Indicators on the Elderly

– Singapore Statistics key Demographic Indicators

– More Singaporeans volunteering, but for shorter periods Jan 31, 2013


by Azman A.


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