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Caring for Singapore’s Aging Population – Challenges, Dilemmas and the Road Ahead

Goh Jun Cheng

Updated on:

Like many developed economies, Singapore faces the onset of a profound demographic shift – a rapidly aging population. Declining birth rates coupled with increased longevity have produced this aging trend.

A quarter of citizens will be over 65 by 2030. This major transition poses socioeconomic challenges but also opportunities to craft an elder-friendly society.

This article explores the aging issue in Singapore – its causes, impacts, current elderly care framework and inadequacies, societal attitudes, and future policy considerations as Singapore adapts to a graying nation.

Causes of Singapore’s Aging Population

  • Fertility rates dropped from 4.7 in 1965 to 1.16 today – well below replacement level.
  • Average life expectancy rose from 67 years in 1965 to 83.2 years currently.
  • This double trend translates into shrinking younger cohorts supporting larger elderly cohorts.
  • In 2030, around 1 in 4 residents will be over 65, up from 1 in 8 in 2015.
  • Singapore’s treatment of the elderly must catch up to this age wave.

Like other developed Asian countries, declining birth rates coupled with longevity accelerates Singapore’s aging profile.

Consequences of an Aging Singapore

The aging population presents multifaceted challenges:

  • Shrinking workforce strained supporting larger pool of retirees. Could threaten growth and prosperity.
  • Risk of insufficient elderly retirement savings and pensions. Poverty fears.
  • Pressure on healthcare system with increased chronic old age conditions. Higher costs.
  • Strain on families providing eldercare if facilities inadequate. Women may leave workforce.
  • Loss of heritage and community memory as elderly pass on.

If not tackled astutely, an aging crunch could negatively impact economy and society.

Singapore’s Three Pillars Eldercare Framework

Singapore’s elderly caremodel comprises:

  • Family as first line of support. But declining extended family sizes reduces feasibility.
  • State support through subsidies, public pensions and social spending. But concerns state cannot fund expanding needs.
  • Community and private sector services like eldercare facilities and voluntary welfare organizations provide additional support. But costs are high.

This “many helping hands” framework aims to share elderly care responsibility. But cracks exist.

Policy Fall Shorts and Societal Attitudes

  • Public spending on elderly still lags comparable developed countries. Subsidies often inadequate for rising elderly medical costs and facilities.
  • Majority of old lack adequate retirementsavings. Central Provident Fund (CPF) balances low.
  • Affordability of aged care services as demand grows requires review. Upper-middle class squeezed.
  • Societally, more respect and empathy for the elderly needed. Ageism attitudes persist. Elderly risk isolation.

Gaps remain in elder care infrastructure and mindsets that demand redress.

Potential Policy Solutions

Policies to bolster elderly wellbeing could include:

  • Enhancing CPF contribution rates and social spending to improve old age income security.
  • Making aged care services more affordable through greater subsidies.
  • Lightening foreign worker curbs in home care sector to ease labor shortages while upgrading job quality.
  • Expanding public eldercare nursing home capacity along with subsidies.
  • Encouraging age-friendly urban infrastructure and transport concessions.
  • Inclusive “Kampung” spaces for community integration.
  • National campaigns against ageism and celebrating active seniors.
  • Financial incentives for family caregivers like tax reliefs.

Adopting progressive measures can advance elder welfare to match Singapore’s prosperity.

Conclusion

An aging population represents a key inflection point in Singapore’s development journey. Proactive policies and societal will that uplift elderly wellbeing with empathy and respect are called for.

By orienting Singapore as an inclusive community for all ages, the opportunities of longevity outweigh the costs. Together, enriching the lives of the elderly advances society as a whole on a distinctly Singaporean path.

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