Thursday 22 October 2015

Big increase in those aged 85 and above in Singapore

41,000 'oldest old' here, up from 14,000 in 2005; but chronic disease, not age, the issue
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2015

The number of centenarians in Singapore went up more than fivefold between the end of 2000 and June this year: from 232 to 1,200.

Figures from the Department of Statistics showed that the group of residents aged 90 years and older also shot up in that period, from 5,431 to 14,200.

The World Health Organisation says the biggest population increases in developed countries is in the segment of "oldest old", or people aged 85 years and older. Its paper on global health and ageing says this trend is expected to continue in the coming decades.

Singapore now has more than 41,000 people aged 85 years and older, up from 14,000 in 2005.

Dr Carol Tan, a geriatric medicine specialist in private practice, said the problem is not having many old people, but rather having many people with chronic diseases. "The right number we should be tracking is that of chronic disease and not of candles on a birthday cake."

It is chronic diseases and not ageing that is the real and worrying problem, she said, as the rates of stroke, kidney failure, heart attacks and dementia are climbing here. "These are consequences of poor chronic-disease prevention and management, and (these diseases are) occurring in the relatively young."

She suggested that more people be assessed for health risks so they can work to prevent the more disabling aspects of those diseases.

This is far better than just providing more acute hospital beds, which cost roughly $1 million each, said Dr Tan, who has a clinic at Mount Alvernia Hospital.

"A million dollars can pay for much more prevention in the community, be it in health literacy, prevention or screening."

She also advocates vaccination for seniors, as practised in most advanced countries.

The United States' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, suggests that people aged 65 and older be immunised against conditions such as the flu, pneumococcal and meningococcal diseases, and shingles.

Ms Tin Pei Ling, the MP for MacPherson and a strong advocate for seniors, said a good-quality life is more important than a long one.

Her ward has a higher-than-average proportion of seniors. "It would be rather depressing to watch the world go by on a bed," she said, adding that people should hence be more proactive in keeping healthy.

"Putting in place a strong social network of support in the community is important so as to keep out loneliness and complement familial support.

"Similarly, assuming one can and wants to, staying employed also helps to keep the body and mind active, and to preserve our sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem."

Volunteerism is another way that seniors can stay active, which is why the Ministerial Committee on Ageing has launched a $40 million Silver Volunteer Fund to train them as well as set up volunteer management systems.

UNSTOPPABLE: Felimina Rotundo works 11 hours a day, six days a week at a Buffalo laundromat. She’s also 100 years old, but has no plans to slow down.
Posted by NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The number of Singaporeans aged 85 and older have been steadily rising in recent times. Life speaks to a group of the "oldest old" about what concerns them the most during their golden years.
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, October 24, 2015

Post-90, and living independently
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2015

Madam Yian Siew Yeng, 94, and Madam Then Sip Inn, 95, are two good examples of why chronological age can be deceiving.

Both women live on their own, although they enjoy visits from their children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

They go to the wet market and do housework themselves but do need some help occasionally, such as with plumbing or when electrical appliances need repair.

They get such help from the Lions Befrienders, a voluntary welfare organisation that has staff or volunteers who visit such seniors once a week to ensure everything is fine.

Madam Yian is more active, going out most days. She takes the bus and the train to places such as Chinatown, Bedok and Bishan.

The spritely 94-year-old, who still sports a full head of hair, walks without the need of any aid, and travels at least twice a year.

Madam Yian said she keeps fit by spending her morning at Xin Yuan Community Care, located at her block of flats in Toa Payoh North, doing over an hour of exercise with other seniors. The centre provides porridge, so it saves her the hassle of cooking, she said.

When she does cook, she likes exotic foods such as frog legs, which she buys from the wet market. They are expensive, at $10 for three frogs, she said in Cantonese.

Her week-long holiday to Bandung in Indonesia in April was organised by Xin Yuan, with about 20 seniors paying about $1,100 each for an all-inclusive holiday accompanied by a therapist and nurses.

Madam Then, who is a year older at 95, is less adventurous after a fall earlier this year. She also promised her son, since that fall, that she will not go gallivanting alone. Until last year, she would visit the temple in Waterloo Street every week.

Now, she walks half a kilometre to the market most days in the week, with the help of a walking stick.

She cooks her own food - her favourite is fish soup with stock from boiling fish bones until the water turns milky white. She also cleans her rental flat and washes and irons her own clothes.

She has four children but does not want to live with any of them, as she values her independence.

Furthermore, she said in Hakka: "There is so much housework to do if I stay with them. I can't see something that needs doing and not do it."

2015 is roughly the halfway point in the astounding transformation of the world's population pyramid
Posted by The Economist on Friday, October 16, 2015

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