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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Perception gap in views on elderly
Survey finds seniors don't see themselves the way others do
By Melissa Sim

A GAP between the way Singaporeans view the elderly and the way senior citizens see themselves has shown up in a new survey.
It shows that while nearly 90 per cent of the general population feel seniors are well-integrated and can contribute to society, less than 70 per cent of those aged 65 and above actually feel this way.

Healthy signs
ALTHOUGH some findings in the Council for Third Age (C3A) survey raised concern, it also showed encouraging trends.

For instance, about half of those aged 50 and below have started planning financially for their later years. And half of those aged 50 and above regularly participate in physical activity with a group of friends at least three times a week.
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Attitudes towards the elderly
Another key finding: While 93 per cent of Singaporeans feel intergenerational relationships are important, less than 30 per cent actually spend time with extended members of their families.

The survey of 2,000 people by the Council for Third Age (C3A) was aimed at examining attitudes towards ageing. It provided insights into how a senior's relationship with his friends and family contributes to his overall well-being.

C3A is a group which promotes active ageing in Singapore.

Explaining the difference between what Singaporeans say and what they do, C3A chairman Gerard Ee said one reason younger people spend less time with older family members is that they are 'too busy'.

Other seniors may not have good relationships with their families, and this accounts for their lack of self-esteem, he added.

In some instances, he said, seniors did not prepare enough for their golden years and now find that they either lack money or have few friends to interact with on a daily basis, and this could lead to feelings of loneliness and a lack of self-worth.

Mr Ee said that because families are smaller these days, it is more important than ever for older folk to have 'networks of people to grow old with'.

The disconnect has to be addressed, he said, because another survey finding showed the benefits of making sure seniors are well-integrated: Respondents with supportive families and friends around them were more likely to be satisfied with life.

Take housewife Peggy Cheng, 60, for instance. The mother of three, one of the respondents in the survey, said she was healthy and life was very enjoyable.

She goes to the movies with her grown children, and sometimes even goes to a pub or club with her daughter. 'She can dance, I can have a drink,' she said.

'There are always ways to meet them halfway.'

To encourage more such intergenerational bonding, C3A has lined up several initiatives.

Among them is a conference co-organised with the National University of Singapore.

To be held in April next year, the 4th International Consortium for Intergenerational Programmes will bring together 300 international and local experts and delegates to discuss such issues and how to better integrate seniors into society.

The council will also launch an Intergenerational Bonding Award this month to encourage people to develop programmes which promote such activities.

C3A will also set up the Knowledge Networking on Ageing Programme (Knap), a platform for organisations and individuals to share experiences and information on ageing issues.

The council's chief executive, Mr Henry Quake, said Knap will allow research data to be translated into meaningful programmes.

Another programme on the cards is the annual Active Ageing Festival, which encourages seniors to try new things in a safe and fun environment.

The council will also continue to support the development of interest groups, and promote understanding of seniors and ageing issues among youth.

simlinoi@sph.com.sg

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