In this blog post, I will be discussing one of the interesting and common phenomenon that one would observe only in Singapore. Before reading on, I would like everyone to observe 1) when you are having meals at food court, who are the ones that clean up the table and 2) when you are at Changi Airport, who are the ones that push and arrange the trolley. I am sure most of you would tell me the answer – the elderly. Yes, if we were to look around and observe, we would actually find that a lot of elderly in Singapore are still working even at their 70s or 80s.
Why? Aren’t they supposed to retire and enjoy their life at home?
There are actually few reasons why some elderly choose to continue working even after their retirement age.
Firstly, the sad truth is that due to the high living standards in Singapore, some elderly are unable to support their living with current amount of the money on hand. They have no choice but to work and earn a living. In most cases, this group of elderly is lowly-skilled and could only take on those tiring jobs such as cleaners. These jobs do not pay that well and the elderly have to keep working to sustain their living. I really feel very sad for them but I could barely do anything to help them at this point of time.
However, there is another group of elderly who chooses to work because they still want to be actively engaged in the society even after retirement. They are re-employed by the organization and work on a part-time basis to guide the younger colleagues in the team. They are able to support themselves even without working. Also, they may engage in other activities such as volunteering. In this situation, working is just one of the activities that keeps them active in life and makes them feel they are still valued.
How? What can we do to integrate them back to society again?
I feel that the very first step as well as the most crucial step to integrate the elderly back to society again is to change our mindset – to change the way we view elderly. Now, as mentioned in this video (Click Here), Singaporeans tend to assume and stereotype elderly as unproductive and isolate them from the society. This is actually a very fatal assumption. Elderly are in fact very experienced in their work. One of the interesting example brought up in this video – Growing Old in Singapore (Part 4): Fears of Ageing, is the SIA flight attendants. Just because of the misconceptions, young flight attendants fail to learn from the more experienced staff. As a result, the service standard become poorer.
Moreover, we should also redesign the current infrastructures in the organizations to make it more elder-friendly. In this aspect, I think the Alexandra Hospital had done a fantastic job and other organizations should learn from them. Various program could be implemented to foster bonding between the elder workers and the young workers. Redesign the workplace to be more ergonomics help both elderly and young workers to prevent work-related injuries. There are many more initiatives an organization could implement to create a friendly environment for elderly to work in. Also, all these initiatives will not only benefit the elderly alone, but also normal adult workers as well.
Singapore is definitely marching towards ageing population given our low fertility rate. At this stage, besides to encourage young married couples to give birth to more babies, our society has to adapt to the ageing population in terms of infrastructure as well as other intangible aspects such as our attitude towards the elderly.
Lastly, I have found this series of talk show (Click Here). It talks about how is it like to grow old in Singapore. I have watched the entire series and they are really thought-provoking. With regards to the topic of ageing population at work, I find that the Part 4: Fears of Ageing is very relevant to the points I have mentioned above. Hope you will find the series interesting as well.
We will all get old one day. How we treat our pioneer generation today will be how our future generation treat us. Do you want to be treated this way?