Wednesday 5 December 2012

Rental flat seniors share their thoughts on S'pore

Welfare group helps them take part in national conversation
By Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 4 Dec 2012

WHEN some 40 seniors living in rental flats gathered for a national conversation yesterday, family ties emerged as a top concern.

They spoke candidly of children who were too busy and too stressed out by the twin demands of work and family life to take care of their elderly parents.

At the same time, they said they want to fend for themselves and not be a burden.

The session was organised by the voluntary welfare group, Lions Befrienders, for its beneficiaries living in one- and two-room rental flats in the western part of Singapore. It was conducted mainly in English and Mandarin, though some participants also spoke in Chinese dialects and Malay.

Many drew upon their personal experiences to answer a question on how they saw Singapore society today. One participant said she chose to live alone because she did not want to be treated like a maid by her daughter.

But others wished their children could make more time for them. One participant said: "My daughter has time to visit me only when she has to leave her daughter with me."

In the absence of family support, some also hoped that more organisations would provide befriender services to the elderly.

With many having to fend for themselves, some, like Ms Saradaa Kangoo, 64, hope to be employed. She used to be a warehouse packer but was retrenched five years ago. She said: "Few employers are willing to hire someone at my age."

Health-care costs and the availability of state help for the vulnerable also emerged as hot topics.

Some, like Mr Sheng Ling Huo, 68, who is jobless, hope for more welfare spending. Public assistance in particular could be more generous, he said. "$400 per person, it's not enough to live on in one of the most expensive cities in the world."

Bread and butter concerns also figured in participants' hopes for the future. A 70-year-old woman who lives with her 17-year-old grandson in a Clementi rental flat, said: "Flats now are so expensive, I don't know if my grandson can afford his own home in future."

Lions Befrienders executive director Goh Boo Han said of the group's beneficiaries: "We want them to feel that they have a stake in nation building and give them a voice in shaping the government's policy directions."

The Our Singapore Conversation secretariat recorded those voices yesterday by taking notes of the proceedings. But Mr Teo Tien Sung, 78, was just glad to spend the afternoon chatting in the company of friends. He said: "When I'm with my friends, we talk about these things too."

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