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Senior cleaner at Lau Pa Sat (TOC stock photo)

“We should look after the elderly” by action, and not just words!

I refer to the article “Society should care for the elderly, nurture young: PM” (Straits Times, Feb 15).

The article quotes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, “As a people too, we should look after the elderly, as we are the beneficiaries of their labours”.

Let us look at some examples of how “we should look after the elderly”.

Termination of the seniors’ off-peak transport pass scheme

According to Factually.sg, less than 1% of seniors who held concession cards purchased the Off-Peak Pass that was terminated by the Public Transport Council due to poor reception.

In 2017, about 620,000 or so Singaporeans hold the purple Senior Citizen Concession Card for public transport. (source) So around 6,200 seniors were affected by the termination of the off-peak pass.

Which is more important? Helping  6,200 seniors to save on public transport, or helping the transport operators to earn more?

Mr Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament, “When we know a particular resident has been inconvenienced because of this, and despite the various 25 per cent discounts and so on, could not still afford their transport fares, as a local MP we do chip in if I discover such cases,”

Asking seniors to spend what may typically be hours, to queue to see their MP at the meet-the-people’s session, to “beg” for a few dollars for public transport (the difference between having and not having an off-peak pass), is not only beneath the dignity and respect which we should have for our seniors – but also non-sensical because the issue is not about not having enough money for public transport, but depriving them of a few much needed dollar savings on their daily commute.

The remarks in Parliament are downright insensitive and reeks of a total lack of compassion.

HDB 1-room rental flat requires 2 strangers (typically the elderly) with combined monthly income of less than $1,500 

In this connection, I would like to suggest that the following policies be reviewed:

  • Do not increase the HDB rental (1-room) of the two elderly tenants  when their household income exceeds $1,500 a month (currently the rental from $26 – $165 (1 & 2-room flats) will be increased to $90 – $275)
  • Increase the HDB rental eligibility monthly household income ceiling of $1,500, as many elderly tenants who earn just over $1,500 (combined income) cannot afford to rent in the open market
  • Allow the elderly who lose their HDB flats due to divorce or foreclosure by the mortgagee – to rent HDB 1-room flats, without having to sit out the 30 months debarment period
  • Waive the permanent debarment for the elderly (in financial difficulties) who have ever owned/ have an estate or interest in/ have disposed of
    • Local or overseas private property (house, building, or land), residential or otherwise
    • Executive Condominium
    • Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) flat

So many elderly low-income workers 

The low-income cleaners that you see almost everywhere, are typically the elderly.

In this connection, according to the Ministry of Manpower‘s (MOM) web site – the monthly basic median salary of food court cleaners in 2016 is only $1,100.

Perhaps we could start with addressing the above three issues, if we really want to “look after the elderly”?

Uniquely Singapore and Happy Lunar New Year!