Desmond Lee explains how S’pore is addressing the silver tsunami

In Singapore, one in four of us will be over 65 years of age by 2030. A sizeable number for a small country whose only resources are its people.

On a personal level, longevity is welcomed and celebrated. But in reality, it is a headache for many governments because the resources required can overwhelm public finances and infrastructure.

Scary, but it doesn’t always have to end that way.

Attending the World Economic Forum at Davos, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee shared in a panel – The Economy of a Super-Ageing Society – how Singapore plans on battling its silver tsunami. 

“We have been planning for this for a long time, making sure that we tackle the challenges of ageing,” said Minister Lee.

There’s a Ministerial Committee on Aging, and different ministers are responsible for the various aspects of aging, he added.

Targeted solutions for different life stages

Source: Civil Service College

The needs of the elderly are complex, and we will be doing ourselves a disservice by lumping them into a single age bracket. 

According to Minister Lee, differentiating the needs of our seniors from a life stages point of view will allow the government and the community to “enable, not to disable, but to enable the individual, the family and the community to provide care.”

For example, seniors in good health who want to continue working should be allowed to do so.

To support such aspirations, the Retirement and Re-employment Act was amended, setting the maximum retirement age and re-employment age at 65 and 70 respectively by the end of this decade. 

Moving on to seniors who are frail and unable to work much longer, Minister Lee highlighted the government’s commitment to ensure that all seniors will have retirement adequacy. 

The Matched Retirement Savings Scheme or one of the many housing monetisation options are all schemes designed to offer seniors financial security into their twilight years. 

In addition, Singapore is also ramping up its senior-friendly infrastructure. 

Besides a growing network of nursing homes and hospice care, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) is also helps seniors navigate the various government policies and connect them to the services they need. 

Preparing for the future

Source: Civil Service College

Singapore’s healthcare expenditure will go up significantly because of a large senior population and a life expectancy that is one of the highest in the world, said Minister Lee.

And in order to fund the additional spending without digging into our reserves or borrowing, the government will find the revenue, including raising taxes and streamlining expenditure.

Indeed, the recent hike in our GST is a painful but necessary decision to finance the health and social care expenditure of our seniors.

“We never borrow to spend on ourselves and expect the next generation to pay for us… it is not sustainable,” said Minister Lee.  

With a falling birth rate and shrinking population, Minister Lee is correct. Borrowing against the future is not the most prudent idea.

Minister Lee also spoke about the need for good government coordination and collaboration with the private sector to help as many seniors remain healthy and active as possible.

“The worst thing…is watching TV the whole day. Seniors feel very disempowered, and it’s a downward spiral.”

As we embark on a Healthier SG, encouraging active ageing among our seniors will be one of the best gifts we can give to our Pioneer and Merdeka generations.

Cover Photo Credit: World Economic Forum