SINGAPORE: Some elderly people would still want to work or volunteer after completing formal employment, chairperson of People's Action Party Seniors Group (PAP.SG) Tan Chuan-Jin said on Wednesday (Jan 30).
Mr Tan, who is also Speaker of Parliament, urged the Government to take the lead in creating more work opportunities for senior citizens, such as providing part-time position for retired civil servants.
He said everyone has a part to play and that the private sector is also well-placed to provide elderly people with jobs.
Presenting PAP.SG’s paper detailing recommendations on "creating the right conditions for seniors to enjoy their golden years by being active and productive", Mr Tan was accompanied by Members of Parliament (MPs) Joan Pereira and Henry Kwek, former Minister of State Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon and former MP Chiang Hai Ding.
The key is providing the options and creating an environment that enables the elderly to continue working if they would like to, Mr Tan said.
“You are not compelled to work. Should you wish to take the time off, to spend time with grandchildren, that’s fine. But if you say ‘I want to do a little bit (of work) here and there’, that’s also possible," he said at the PAP headquarters in Bedok.
The recommendations on working opportunities include providing flexible work arrangements and shifting away from employer-sponsored group health and surgical insurance plans, so the higher costs of providing healthcare benefits for senior workers do not stop employers from hiring them.
Another recommendation is making it easier for seniors to sit for tests that they need to go through by using larger font sizes and giving them additional time, especially for tests done on the computer. They should also be allowed to provide oral and written answers in all national languages if they have the relevant working experience.
He acknowledged that while the topic of the elderly working could be a sensitive issue, it is one that needs to be “grappled with”.
“We are very uncomfortable, I think naturally so, when we see the older folks (working) at the hawker centres, coffeeshops. But if we spend time talking to them, we realise that their perspectives are also different,” he added.
ALLOWING SENIORS TO AGE WHERE THEY ARE
PAP.SG also recommended that the authorities promote a housing concept which will allow seniors to live at home with other seniors, with medical care always available nearby.
It recommended the Government revise guidelines surrounding building development so as to promote the setting up of such Group Homes with Assisted Living, and to consider a small-scale trial of this concept for frail seniors within existing public housing estates.
Such homes already do exist in some areas in Singapore, Mr Tan added. There are some one-room flats which are converted and can accommodate two or three people.
“It allows them to sort of look after each other as well. But you also have staff on call to deal with some of the issues,” he said, adding that group homes may be beneficial for those who are more vulnerable on the medical front and need to be within close proximity of medical help.
Such homes could fill the gap between ageing at home and at an institution like a nursing home, he added.
“My own sense is that we were ahead of the game, that eventually there will be that need,” he said.
Mr Tan also spoke about the importance of identifying isolated elderly people and reaching out to them.
“When we are healthy, active and connected, it’s okay. But maybe at some stage, because of mobility issues or other issues, we find that some elderly folks start to retreat and not engage as much," he added.
“They are always worried ‘When something happens to me, will no one find out?'"
Other recommendations by PAP.SG included actively encouraging seniors to stay active through volunteering and pursuing their passions and adjusting policy restrictions to enable extended family members to help seniors.
Mr Tan said he hopes the Government will respond to the recommendations in a “significant fashion”.
“I hope that some of these things will be taken up, whether at this Budget or as specific initiatives to be worked on,” he said, adding that some of them will be tabled as a motion in Parliament.
“Certainly, we are not going to just wait for the Government,” he said.