|Imagine a greying world in 2050. The fastest ageing countries are Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, mainland China (Hong Kong) and Singapore. Guess what they all have in common?|
These statistics from Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development are representative of an ageing world. The ranks of the elderly are swelling rapidly whilst at the other end birth rates are falling.
The United Nations reports that by 2050, for the first time in human history, old people will outnumber children. The impact of this "demographic age-quake" will have far-reaching effects on almost every area of life, including the economy, work force, taxation, pension funds, inheritance, family composition and housing.
There will be fewer young people supporting the elderly. Pension funds will be insufficient to pay the escalating number of pensioners. Governments will have to raise the retirement age to keep older workers employed longer so that they can continue to support themselves. That means we will be seeing an ageing work force.
|It's not just happening in Taiwan that women will outnumber men in the over-80 age group. It's a worldwide trend.|
Singapore is pulling up all the stops in getting the island nation ready for the silver tsunami. It's all hands on deck as each ministry gears up to meet the challenges imposed by a greying population.
Speaking at a Ministerial Committee on Ageing dialogue session in January, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong stressed the urgency of the situation. "We need to act now ... in view of the more rapid pace of ageing post-2020. We need to ramp up aged care services and facilities significantly ... We cannot wait for the increase in needs to materialise before we start to build more facilities. 2020 is less than 10 years away. We must be ready when rapid ageing sets in." (Source: Today.)
There is constant coverage in the media of the latest government efforts in tackling the ageing issue. From new insurance schemes to healthcare provisions, from elder-friendly housing to nursing homes, from the Maintenance of Parents Act to the law on Re-employment of Older Workers, the government is wasting no time and effort in getting the country ready. By 2020, some 600,000 people will be above 65, or about 15 per cent of the population.
|Growing number of elderly needing healthcare services. (Photo: Straits Times)|
The Ministry of Health is feeling the pressure most. It will:
- Expand number of day social and rehabilitative care places from 2,100 to about 6,200
- Increase home-based healthcare services from 4,000 to between 8,000 and 10,000.
- Increase the number of seniors who are eligible for home-based social care, from 2,000 to 7,500.
- Ramp up number of nursing-home beds by some 70 per cent, to 15,600.
- Review aged care financing schemes and make aged care more affordable.
- Take the lead in building more aged care facilities such as day centres.
|Students wearing grey singing for the residents in Ren Ci Nursing Home. |
(Photo: Embrace Ageing)
Even the young people in Singapore are preparing themselves for a future of more elderly people. Aware that they too will turn grey one day, a group of them recently started the "Embrace Ageing" initiative on Facebook. Last Saturday March 10, it was "Wear Grey Day" to spread the message that ageing is a natural process, and not something to dread or fear. The event received good public support and extensive media coverage. This is yet another indication of the urgency in getting the country and the people ready for the grey explosion ahead.
Countries that have yet to implement elder-friendly policies and practices will have less time to adjust when the full impact of an ageing population hits them in the next 10-20 years.