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Singapore is known to be one of the fastest aging population in the world. There were 11.8% of elderly above 65years old in 2015, and will increase to 19% by 2030. (DONALDSON, 2015) Following to this, there is a rising trend of elderly live alone. Some have chosen freedom, privacy in own comfortable environment than to interfere with their children or relatives lifesyle. It is not like in the older days where elderly didn’t have money to live alone anymore. However, some elderly didn’t have a choice as they probably didn’t have any offsprings, neglected by their family or their partners and relatives have passed on. There are cases where their family neglect, abused and left them alone as well. (Tan, 2014)
Assessment to the Issue
Research have shown that the population of elderly residents of 65 years old and above, among residents population have increased by 4%, from 8.4% in 2006 to 12.4% in 2016. (Department, Customising and Chart Plotting, 2018) Within this percentage, elderly living alone have increased from 16.4% to 19% respectively. (Department, 2017)
This issue may lead consequences of social isolation and loneliness unless they have a very healthy active lifestyle or a strong social network with people around them. These problems may lead to many other risks like health issues, which consist of malnutrition, chronic diseases, infectious illnesses, and moblility problems. Furthermore, it may lead to other problems like not being able to maintain cleanliness of self and the house, pest infestation and struggling with expenses as they are more likely to have financial problems as they get older. (Preece, n.d.)
A report from the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) stated elderly suicides have reached its highest of 129 in 2017 as compared to around 105 suicides in 2011. These elderly choose end their life from pain and struggles instead seeking help for their mental wellness to live on their golden age. Elderly who calls SOS service line are mostly socially disconnected or isolated elderly which in due time, affects their physical and metal wellness, which would lead to suicidal thoughts. (Samaritans, 2018)
Relevance of the Issue to Social Work
One social work core value to demonstrate the relevance of this issue to social work would be Service. Social worker assist people in attaining resources for their needs and lift them up from their problems. Social worker uses their skills, knowledge and values provide the most suitable services to the elderly according to their needs and interest. (National, 2017)
To address this issue, the social worker can provides befriending services those elderly living alone with timely home visit, be their companion and check on them regularly. As well as encouraging them to visit the nearest Senior Activity Centre (SAC). Elderly can make friends and create a strong social network with the their neighbors in the community, and live actively to reduce their loneliness. Social worker can provide information refferal and get financial assistance like Public Assistance for their expenses.
Singapore’s approach to this issue
The government have been using the “Many helping Hands” Approach to help those vulnerable in Singapore. By involving the person, the community and the government bodies to provide services to help them be independent and achieve slef-reliance. (Sim, Ghoh, Loh, & Chiu, 2015)
(i) The Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model (1979), will be used to explain policies and services of Singapore’s social welfare approach to the elderly living alone:
MACROSYSTEM Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) Programme
Encourage active ageing among elderly, providing services to elderly who live alone for their physical, emotional and mental needs:
Senior Activity Centres (SACs) [rental/cluster support/ studio appartment]
SACs are drop-in centres below HDB rental flats and studio apartments where the elderly can be in a communal space for programmes, activities and outings with other members and workers.
Befrienders are either social worker or volunteers, who will visit their homes with rations, providing befriending telephone calls with the lonely elderly, as well as refering them to other appropriate services.
Care and Support
There are professional counselling services to help them cope with the emotional well-being and infromation and referral service. Furthermore, they do monitoring for frail or home-bound elderly, and case-management as well. (Ministry, 2018)
EXOSYSTEM Ministry of Health (MOH), Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), Ministry of Service & Family Development (MSF), Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWOs) other grassroots organisation
MESOSYSTEM The interactional process with the multiple microsystems reduce the time of the elderly being alone.
MICROSYSTEM Social Workers, friends, neighbors and people in the community, volunteer
MACROSYSTEM MediShield life – Replaced MediShield in 2015. It is an insurance scheme for life catered to all Singapore citizen and Permanent Residents. Patients can use less of their Medisave for high medical bills as it protects better and have higher payout. It also covers Class A/B1 wards in a private hospital. Additionally, there’s a premium Pioneer Generation Subsidies for pioneers as well.
ElderShield – An insurance scheme that covers for life, for elderly who need long term care and with severe disability. It provides monthly cash payout (Ministry, Schemes & Subsidies, 2018)
EXOSYSTEM Central Provident Fund (CPF), MOH
MACROSYSTEM Maintenance of Parents Act
For unsupported elderly to get monetary support from their children through Conciliation session for the family to come up with an agreement for the needs of the elderly. They will be refered to a Family Service Centre for counselling and mediation is done with a social worker to make peace with their issues. (Ministry, 2016)
Public Assistance Scheme (PA)
A scheme for elderly who can no longer work due to health problems and have no other avenue for income. Elderly will be provide with cash assistance, free medical treatment from polyclinics and hospitals, essentials hygiene products or consumables. (Ministry, ComCare Long Term Assistance, 2018)
MESOSYSTEM Interaction with social worker or Commissioner and family
MICROSYSTEM Commissioner, social worker, children.
(ii) Gaps/Problems related to the Issue (with recommendations):
Three gaps or problems related to this issue would be lack of data of, elderly may be too reliant on govenrment and staying active at early old age.
Firstly, the government have been coming up with more policies to help the vulnerable elderly in Singapore, but most of it are universal policies. There isn’t much that is cater for elderly living alone. This shows that there is a lack in data on the demographic of these elderly for them to innovate ideas to help them, like statistics of women who have been housewife that doesn’t have much of CPF, where are the poorest elderly living alone etc. One reccomendation would be gather help from all agencies and minitries to gather the infromation from where they are located, as well as encourage public to report incidents so agencies can locate those in need of assistance.
Secondly, the more needs is discovered, the more services and policies is created to cater to the elderly as much as possible. This may lead to them being too reliant on government in a long run, thinking that they can just go to the government whenever they need help. This is not what the country want as they want to encourage a “self-reliant yet compassionate and caring society” (Sim, Ghoh, Loh, & Chiu, 2015) One recommendation would be making use and make the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Method (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993) more universal to all agencies. This way each agency can make use of the strength and assets of the community to help those elderly living alone before there’s a need to reach to the goevernment.
Lastly, even though there are many facilities and programmes created for elderly to be active and create social networks within the community, to some elderly who is still fit, it may not be enough. Especially those who just retired, they may be bored during this conversion of lifestlye. One recommendation would be to setting up supporting jobs where these retired elderly can use their experience and stregth to help the young, but with lesser working hours and minimun wage for them. This way may better help them transit from the different stages of life.
As a student social worker that would be on attachment at an agency dealing with this social issue in the future, I think one difficulty that I would face would be managing self to work professionally according to code of ethics. Definitely there will be times where situation that would go against my values and countertransference would possible make me too worked up to handle things professionally. One way to manage it would be to have constant check on myself, a review session with my supervisor to work together to find ways manage myself better so as to serve the elderly better.
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