Ageing Gracefully

When I was in my teens, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. Waiting for another 10 years to grow up seemed like a really long time and uncles and aunties in their 40s seem really old to me.

When I begin my adulthood in my 20s, I got caught up with building my own family and career. There were a lot of firsts for me; getting married, buying my first home, buying my first car, paying my first taxes, investing in my first stocks, starting my first business, new adventures and new opportunities. The world is my oyster and time just flew by. I started thinking that you can’t be considered old unless you were at least in your 70s.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I finally got most of my necessities sorted out but the clock still seems to be speeding forward at an incredible speed. Months pass me by without warning and my days are filled with endless activities. Health and wellness becomes a priority along with a keener appreciation towards family and friends. I’ve come to a realisation that there are too many things I would like to still do all through till my 80s and 90s. I would also need to have more investments in order to cope with the rising financial liability that might come in the form of children or taking care of my parents when I’m in my 40s.

Photo credit: weheartit

Graceful ageing needs some early planning and a distinct course of action. To enjoy my golden years, I need to keep my body and my mind fit starting from the present. While looking at the long term plan, my biggest concern is that in Singapore’s fast paced and dynamic society, I might not have a space to age gracefully. Most companies locally don’t even bother to interview anyone above 50 years old and retrenchment and job insecurities can start as early as 40 years old. The retirement age at the moment is 62 years old.  Currently, companies will re-employ workers till they are 65 years old (usually comes with a huge pay cut) though recently NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General, Heng Chee How, managed to sway the Government, unions and employers to work on extending the re-employment age for workers from 65 to 67.

Photo credit: Glasbergen

With health and life expectancy increasing, I can’t help but feel that the retirement ceiling is still a little low. Although I’ll ideally like to travel as much as I can till I’m too weak to do so, I also would like the option to be able to continue working in a job I love. I really can’t imagine myself sitting at home watching TV drama re-runs while working on sudoku puzzles all day long in my old age. I’ve seen so many seniors who “become old”  instantly after retirement. Work matters to the elderly because it is the lack of a passion, motivation and social interaction that ages people faster than anything else. We should be supporting our senior’s decision to work for as much as they can instead of forcing them to “go on holiday”. I know for a fact that my mum who will be reaching the stipulated retirement age soon, is much happier working then staying at home with nothing better to do. All her close friends are much younger than her and will still be at work while she idles away.

Singapore is now the most expensive city in the world and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got even more expensive by the time my hair turns grey. Working seniors is definitely the way to go to sustain the economy and make sure that everyone gets to continue their current lifestyles. I’m in a generation of white collared workers of PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives or businessman) and I certainly can’t understand why retirement jobs have to be largely menial jobs like being a cleaner or a toilet attendant. While I think all types of jobs plays an important role, I really don’t think that all my accumulated job experience should be rendered less useful once I celebrate my 62nd birthday, and useless after my 65th. Based on the current average life expectancy of Singaporeans to be 82 years old, I should be able to have a choice to continue working in the same job (health permitting, of course) that I’ve cultivated and love zealously till I’m at least 70 years old. If flexible working hours (with flexible pay structure) can be common place in companies, it would be even better.

Ageing gracefully is all about being active in body, mind and spirit. I always look at my grandma for inspiration. At her request, I was able to teach my grandma, 85 years old, to be technologically savvy enough to ring me up on Skype to chat whenever I’m overseas. She has progress on to even learning to watch youtube all on her own and she’s planning a trip to Japan with me this year. Age to her is only a number and her passion for life is absolutely contagious. How old or young you are is all in the mindset so don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

Photo Credit : 9Gag

With all gloom in my discussion while looking at my prospects of ageing in Singapore, there is still hope that things might change before I’m finally  there. In this year’s Budget 2014, the Singapore government announced a Pioneer Generation Package to honour and recognise the contributions of 450,000 Singaporeans in the Pioneer Generation in the early years of our nation-building.

The Pioneer Generation Package includes:

a. MediShield Life

  • They will receive a subsidy for their MediShield Life premiums starting from 40% at age 65, rising to 60% at age 90.
  • More details will be provided after the MediShield Life Review Committee has finalised benefits and corresponding premiums later in 2014.

b. Outpatient care

  • 50% off the net bill for subsidised services at Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOCs) and polyclinics.
  • All Pioneer Generation members will be placed on CHAS. Those already on CHAS will enjoy additional subsidies, which will be similar to enhancements for the Pioneer Generation at SOCs and polyclinics.
  • Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme will provide cash assistance of $1,200 a year to help those with moderate to severe functional disabilities. (Require hands-on assistance with at least 3 Activities of Daily Living).

c. Medisave Top-ups

  • Receive annual Medisave top-ups of $200 to $800 for life, with older cohorts of the Pioneer Generation enjoying a larger top-up.

    Medisave Top-ups

What is acceptable for “old folks” to be doing is now outdated and needs to change and even though I feel that what is being done now is not enough, small improvement should still be celebrated so that they can pave the way to more substantial changes. Opportunities need to be created for the elderly beyond just work availability and medicare. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that with the evolvement of  the right social mindset and government support, we can all look forward to ageing gracefully in Singapore. Old must not equate to useless. The old only become useless because the society deems them as so.

Photo credit: Conniewoonie

I’m gonna end my post on a lighter note in praise of 2 local companies, SingPost and Sheraton Hotel Singapore that have already started to integrate seniors as a part of their long term employment strategies and I hope more companies will follow in their footsteps. Maybe I should start applying for a position in SingPost!

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