“Whether out of a diminished enjoyment of food or the fact that they live alone, one in three elderly people is not taking in enough calcium, carbohydrates and fibre” (1 In 3 Elderly Singaporeans Not Eating Right, Mr. Feng Zengkun).
The worrying problem of malnutrition, as highlighted in the report “1 In 3 Elderly Singaporeans Not Eating Right” (July 15, 2011) by Mr. Feng Zengkun, is worrying given the health ramifications; however, this speedily growing trend should be put into perspective with other associated problems faced by these elderly individuals. In recent times, they are also increasingly struggling with psychological challenges – in terms of dealing with loneliness of family pressures – maintaining physical well-being and active lifestyles, as well as coping with community-based social problems.
This host of considerations – given the national circumstances of an ageing population – should be taken seriously; quite evidently, the solution lies in the expansion of the “many helping hands” methodology, especially for those living alone or financially-needy, the harmonisation of the plethora of existing organisations and frameworks, and the providence of more communication channels for the transmission of important messages or even the consolidation of relevant feedback on policies that affect them. This can range from public transportation accessibility to the perceived affordability of various healthcare services available in their communities.
It is imperative for more manpower and resources to be made available for specific programmes targeted to proportionately benefit the aforementioned target audience. The increased capacity would empower voluntary welfare organisations (VWO) and corresponding government agencies to drive education-awareness campaigns – on food nutrition, sports and exercises et cetera – and organise subsequent initiatives. A pool of funds made publicly available will definitely inspire other ad-hoc groups to undertake projects that would address pertinent concerns previously unnoticed.
With heightened involvement from stakeholders all-around, it simultaneously raises the impetus for the ministries to coordinate efforts and possibly take advantage of these productive economies of scale. A respectably influential Singapore-based body such as the Council for the Third Age (C3A) could possibly act as a conduit to publicise events or to coordinate activities. Conferences or meetings can be utilised as platforms to identify and discuss struggles faced by the elderly, before the participants collectively brainstorm for solutions or constructive policy recommendations to be subsequently implemented.
Additional focus should be directed specifically to the disenfranchised; in particular, towards elderly citizens who live alone, have minimal financial support and no family members to depend upon. They often slip subtly through the holes of the social safety nets, and are simply not aware of pointers and information to help improve their quality of life. The employment of strategies to proliferate communication and vis-à-vis engagement would therefore go a long way in ensuring that they do not continue to be neglected in the grand scheme of national development.