Experiencing ageism

A senior doing tai chi.

The Institute of Policy Studies’ report called “Results from the Perception and Attitudes Towards Ageing and Seniors Survey (2013/2014) published in October this year found that 4.8 percent of its respondents had often/very often been treated badly because of their age in the past year. The survey commissioned by the Council for Third Age (C3A) included more than 2,000 Singapore residents aged between 50 and 74, and was conducted between October last year and January this year.

Said Lim Sia Hoe, executive director of Centre For Seniors, “If this survey sample is representative of the 1,067,800 Singapore residents in the same age group (50 to 74 years old), then 51,254 of them can be expected to have faced such age discrimination in the past year alone! By contrast, the number of theft and related crimes reported in 2013 is 17,075.

“While a victim of theft loses tangible valuables, a victim of age discrimination is robbed of his or her dignity. No one deserves to be insulted, abused or have his or her services refused because of ageism,” added Lim.

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Older workers are assets

Amid a tight labour market and low unemployment, the employment rate rose to a new high with the hiring of older workers and women, according to findings from the “Singapore Workforce, 2014″ report by the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Research and Statistics Department.

Hiring of older workers sees an increase.

For workers aged 55 to 64, the labour force participation rate rose from 49.5 percent in 2004 to 68.4 percent in 2014. MOM credits the tripartite efforts boosting the employability of older workers. Similarly, the participation rate for residents aged 65 to 69 rose from 18.9 percent in 2004 to 41.2 percent in 2014.

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Encouraging towns to create elder-friendly environments

A guidebook compiling the various initiatives and experiences of 16 towns in Singapore has been launched, in hopes of encouraging other towns to get onboard and care for their elderly residents. According to a newspaper article, the guidebook will be distributed to all constituencies by December.

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Designing a hospitable hospice

A participant of the Hospitable Hospice research.

In Singapore, hospices tend to have a negative image due to the society’s certain beliefs and avoidance on the topic of death. Despite hospices’ skillful and compassionate efforts to care for end-of-life patients, its services are not regarded as integral in Singapore’s healthcare system, and are commonly shunned by families as an option to care for their loved ones.

In collaboration with the Lien Foundation and Ang Chin Moh Foundation, healthcare specialist design consultancy, Fuelfor, embarked on a nine-month long research project with Assisi Hospice, Dover Park Hospice and St Joseph’s Home and Hospice to find out how the hospice experience can be delivered differently.

Ageless Voice chats with Laszlo Herczeg from the Fuelfor team, on his findings:

Can you share how you embarked on this project?

I was representing Fuelfor to give a public talk about design thinking in the area of radiation therapy, when the CEO of Lien Foundation, Lee Poh Wah, approached me afterwards. He was intrigued by how our team carefully considers the experiences of the healthcare staff, doctor, patient and family when designing an overall better healthcare service. He felt that the growing demands of an ageing population in Singapore makes it necessary to relook at the issues within the current hospice care model and evolve fresh perspectives for future hospices.

As a healthcare design company, it is also interesting for us to delve into the topic of end-of-life. This is because we are always striving and designing for improved life and living, but we have never actually looked at the topic of death and dying. Now coming to think of it, death and dying is always in the backdrop of what we do.

What perceptions does Singaporeans and healthcare staff have towards hospice care and end-of-life matters?

The topic of death and dying is taboo in Singapore society. Singaporeans shun discussing about death, looking at funerals, visiting the hospice, or anything linked to death and dying.

Being a multi-faith country, Singapore has different religions that practise their own rituals and hold certain beliefs about death. For the Chinese in the 1960s, ‘death houses’ were known as a place where the dying sought comfort care. Today, the older generations harbour resistance towards death houses and view today’s hospice as their equivalent. Hence, the superstition that hospices and funerals bring ‘bad luck’ and are things not to be associated with, have been passed onto the younger generation today. Such superstitions foster further ignorance towards the issues of end-of-life and the role of hospices in society. Even healthcare professionals can be affected by the depressing perception around hospice because it influences how they may consider working there.

Singapore is also a ‘vocally conservative’ society where people do not easily open up about their personal or sensitive problems. So there is stigma placed upon people who receive any form of therapy, because accepting help means they are somehow a ‘failure’ in society. Receiving therapy has been regarded as something to be ashamed of.

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6 principles on impactful ageing & community development

It is all about knowing the community and empowering them.

Associate Prof Albert Teo, director of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Chua Thian Poh Leadership Programme, spoke at the recent Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Diploma in Gerontological Management Studies (GEM) (the only diploma in Singapore specialising in the business of ageing) forum about impactful community development with seniors and six guiding principles he has learnt from doing this work:

1) Before doing interventions, you need to talk to the community to find out the challenges.

2) Find out the dreams and aspirations of the community – “We cannot impose our own aspirations onto a community as it doesn’t work. We always think we know what is best but that is the wrong approach,” said A/Prof Teo.

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