Sunday, 28 September 2014

Aging Population - What it Means to Us!

It’s close to an hour past midnight on a Saturday morning (yesterday). Hunger strikes and I could not sleep. I prepare cup noodles and switch on the TV. Browsing through the channels, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) programme “Perspective” caught my eye.  I think it was a repeat telecast.

CNA “Perspective” - Global Aging Challenges

This episode of “Perspective” addressed the issues of Global Aging Challenges. I am captivated by the subject discussed, as it is going to affect not only me, but also Singapore future generation! This programme showcase a forum with four panellists, a moderator and audiences held in Singapore Management University (SMU). The panellists are:
  • Professor Bryce Hool, Dean, School of Economics, SMU
  • Ms Mary Ann Tsao, Chairman of the Tsao Foundation
  • Ms Soh Swee Ping, CEO, Council for Third Age
  • Mr T K Udairam, Group CEO, Eastern Health Alliance

For more information, refer to CNA website link here.

“By 2050, two billion people will be aged 60 and above. A vastly ageing population coupled with stagnating birth rates presents looming challenges for most developed nations. Their biggest gripe – how to replace their ageing segment with able-bodied citizens, prompting governments to revise their policies and approach to adapt to changing demographics. How will the world deal with the challenges of this “grey tsunami” that will soon engulf us?”

Singapore Low Fertility Rate

Singapore's total fertility rate (TFT) slipped again to 1.19 last year, compared with 1.29 in 2012. This is way below the replacement rate of 2.1. This means that the population entering workforce is less than that exiting. In the long term, it will have a negative impact to the economy.

The total fertility rate for the Singaporean Chinese, which account for over 70% of the local population, was even lower at 1.06. Government had been trying to resolve the low-fertility problem through immigration and incentivise Singaporeans via various comprehensive baby bonus measures, and hoping to raise the total fertility rate to near 1.4 or 1.5. Does not seem to work effectively so far! 

According to a Moody Investor Service Report recently, “Singapore will be a ‘super-aged’ society in just 15 years, and halt economic growth” Read news here.

Dean of SMU School of Economics, Bryce Hool also mentioned that based on the current statistics for Singapore, in less than 40 years, there will be a transition from 7 workers per retiree to just 2. 

By 2040, someone 65 years ago can expect to live to 90. I belong to this group. I will be 62 by 2040. Sounds scary, isn’t it? Is it all that bad?

How to Deal with Aging Population 

I taken some notes during the one-hour show, but hope the accuracy of the contents will not be compromised, since its 1 am in the morning and I am eating, listening and writing all at once. Together with more informations unearthed from CNA website, I documented the some interesting points below.  

A young audience questioned “The old people are less creative and less innovative, how to deal with this problem?”

Ms Soh Swee Ping said:

“Aging is not necessary so bad as it may seem. While in economic terms, it will have a negative impact, but the senior can contribute socially such as grandparenting, volunteer work, and the society with old people by and large is a better place to live in.”

The young can run faster, it is true. But the old know all the short-cuts!

How to measure productivity? The young and old contribute differently in different system. We should help the older generation to create a second career life after they retire.”

She also mentioned the need to use more positive language such as “Harnessing their potential, maximizing their experience, instead of saying old people is greying Tsunami”

Mr Udairam said:

“It is just like a badminton game. When you are 20-30 years old, you run around the court a lot being active and aggressive and win the game. When you get older, you run lesser but manage the court more intelligently and can still win the game.  

Turning 60 marks a new phase in your life. Living means enjoying life and working is part of life you need to enjoy. We need to have new jobs for the old.

Innovation itself is not related to age, but instead on the personality and environment.”

Ms Mary Ann Tsao said:

“The old tends to have a broader perspective in life and sharper in making decisions, while the young is generally more dynamic, energetic and can work much longer hours. It is a question of making jobs suitable for the aging, utilising their experience. A company needs a combination of old and young talents.

All people matters (including the old). Today we look at everyone value in the society only on productivity and economic sense. But it is not correct. Older people play different roles in terms in how they hold family together, how they hold social values together beyond ability to work in a traditional sense.

Also when older people are re-employed they can create a whole new business opportunities, because older people are also consumers then.”

Another audience said “we should keep senior healthy and engage them actively.”

Professor Bryce Hool said:

“Population and mindset today may be different compare to the future.

The 60 of today may be the 40 of future, and 80 being the new 60 years old.

Business such as healthcare and retirement homes may be geared towards the old and it is still good for the economy and promotes investment.

Historic Boxing Match in 1974: 32 year old Muhammad Ali KO the younger and stronger 25 year old George Foreman who is the then overwhelming favourite to win. The elder Ali adopted the rope-a-dope tactic where he frequently lean on the rope and cover up. As a result George Foreman spent all his energy throwing punches that did not hit Ali, before Ali delivered the killer punch.

Government to Promote Active Aging

An audience said “I am 51 and just completed a diploma in design, but I could not get a job for months. The hirer complained that I am too qualified! While I am happy in my retirement, I want to continue working.”  

Another questioned “Will scholarship be provided for a 55 year old, even he had the ability today?”

Further questioned, “Why are we so focus on fertility and not focus on active aging."

The issues of lack of attention to elder generation by the government are addressed. Some audiences said that our government is still favouring the young and look at people in terms of economic use only. Ms Soh then mentioned that actually our government had already been doing a relatively good job. They are putting together more concerted efforts in promoting active aging and healthy living.

Professor Bryce mentioned,

“While we promote active aging, we should also continue to encourage fertility since this is the fundamental problem. In the long term, people will react to aging and create more economic and social value out of them.

We should educate people of active aging and healthy living when they are young and not when they are already 60 then they realized”

Rolf's Summary
  • Reduce outflow of older cohort by enhancing and exploit longevity
  • Promote healthy living to reduce healthcare cost and enhance productivity
  • Retirement age needs to change with Time
  • Need for new jobs for aging population
  • Healthy Living Message – The young need it too
  • To continue promotion of fertility campaign together with good healthcare policy
  • Change your lifestyle to live a long, healthy and productive life
  • Successful ageing means personal responsibility
  • Look at opportunities that Longevity can bring
  • Use positive language for the elderly
  • All people matters – old people are not second class citizens

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  1. it can be extremely difficult to knuckle some senses into the young that the aged folks around them are not pathetic and written off souls... not until one fine day they reach that old band age too.

    1. Hi Money Honey,

      Thanks for stoping by.

      Everyone is once young and everyone will be old eventually. We must have mutual respect. Guess it's not so easy for the young to realize the value of old, since they had not gone through that stage yet. But I am sure mindset will change overtime.


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