By 2030, Singapore will have about 900,000 citizens/PRs above the age of 65 — out of a registered voter pool of about 2.5 million. This means that seniors will have a big voice in how the country is run. Since Singapore has compulsory voting, it means that in 2030, seniors will make up more than 1/3 of the votes in general elections. This translates to significant political power to the seniors in Singapore. So how should they exercise this new found power in the ballot box? What should they fight for?
- Affordable and quality healthcare should be top of the list because this is one thing that seniors need above all others groups. Having access to healthcare in Singapore is not a problem — it is whether you can afford it. Fortunately for most seniors, Singapore has universal health insurance that covers everyone – including seniors. The issue here is keeping the premiums affordable. We are beginning to see age premiums increasing and this will put a big financial strain for many seniors. Keeping healthcare affordable means keeping a check on rising premiums for seniors – including providing premium waivers or subsidies for the needy. Seniors must actively ask questions every time premiums for Medishield increases.
- Seniors will have greater need for residential aged care, which include home care, nursing homes and elderly sheltered homes. Ageing at home with the support of family is be best option for many but the government can help by making home nursing care accessible and affordable. The next level are homes for seniors where living at home is no longer an option even though but they are still mobile and can perform daily functions. For them, aged sheltered homes is needed. For those seniors in situations that require more care than can be given in the first two, they will require nursing homes. Seniors must engage their MPs to ask them about the government’s plans for building these facilities.
- Singapore has policies that takes care of older seniors including the Pioneer and announced Merdeka generation programs. If you can retire well, you have a lot to be thankful for. You can do your part to make sure that there is sufficient attention by the government to take care of the older seniors and those who do not have the ability, financially or otherwise, to care for themselves. This is one way you can use your political power for compassion and good — because in the tide of a rising economy and inflation, the older seniors’ savings for retirement, if any, is no match for an increasingly higher costs of living as Singapore.
- Seniors must also fight for infrastructure investments that will make it easier to move around, including better and safer walking paths, senior friendly MRT Stations and Bus Terminals with better access. For starters, seniors should be concerned about regulations on sharing footpaths with e-scooters and bicycles and make sure that regulations protect their rights to be able to walk safely along these paths. Senior friendly should also mean convenient wheelchair access using ramps and where required, elevators. Mobility is an important part of ageing and must be a priority wherever public money is spent on infrastructure.
- Seniors must also fight for the right to work. Singapore must rethink their legal and economic understanding of retirement. With Singaporeans expected to live into their 90s and having the longest healthy life expectancy, retiring at 65 may not be practical. Seniors should ask how and why they can continue to participate in the workforce (if they have the desire to work) and have the mental and physical capacity to do so. Senior should ask their MPs about how changes in the law and CPF can help facilitate this.
As a senior, the first thing is to vote (I assume you do as it is mandatory). Secondly, be an informed and engaged voter – know what you are voting for or against. And most importantly, before and after the election, let your MP know what is important to you, what you are unhappy about and what changes you would like to see. That is political engagement that make the seniors the most powerful voting bloc in many developed democracies!