In 1970, for every one person over 65, there exists 13.5 persons between the age of 20-64 in Singapore. In 2017, that ratio has dropped to a low of 5.1 and the trend is continuing downwards with increasing life expectancy which currently stands at 82.9 years. What does that mean for the ageing population in Singapore?
- First, the good news. With growing numbers comes with it political influence. The silver voting bloc, if organized, will be a significant player in Singapore politics. While Singapore’s political leadership has always emphasized the need for “new next-gen” of younger leaders, we will also see the rise of new political leadership that will represent the voice of this growing segment. If the greying seniors remain politically active and continue to participate in the political discourse, they can remain an important and positive force in Singapore’s development.
- Currently there are over half-million persons in Singapore over the age of 65 against a backdrop of increasing needs for this group — from healthcare to housing to transportation. As the segment of the population continues to grow, it will begin to compete for the limited resources available. How should society balance the need to allocate resources between the young and the old? Singapore is not alone in struggling to find answers to this difficult question. The silver generation will need to actively engage in this very urgent national conversation to make sure that adequate resources of the state are devoted to their needs.
- As demand increases for old-age-care and with economic resources getting squeezed, it is not rocket science to realise that the cost of providing such care will increase proportionally and dramatically. The ageing population at the micro-level is not equipped financially to meet these rising costs and many will not having enough savings to see them through. We have seen the costs of health and nursing care for the aged increase significantly in the past few years. As in other advanced nations, it simply means that many of the senior citizens will need to continue to work well into the seventies. We need to create a safe and conducive working environment for them.
- With less younger people to care for the aged in our current demographics, productivity of care is very important. Society will need to rely on technology to do provide such care. Smart homes using technology to assist the day-to-day needs of the aged will become common place – from helping them take their drugs to monitoring their health biometrics. While technology is improving, the challenge will likely be getting the seniors to embrace new technology. But I believe we may not have a choice.
On a positive note. Singapore is in a better position today than many advanced countries because of the strength of our financial reserves derived from many years of prudent savings. To the seniors that have contributed much to the financial success story of Singapore, it is now left to be seen how this reserves will be used to care for them.