A Singaporean elderly named Raja, who lives alone and who is a beneficiary to Mummy Yummy Singapore’s free food went missing for three days, and nobody, not even his neighbours, could track his whereabouts.
This worried the owner of the vegetarian food stall who is accustomed to his waiting for his daily ration of food.
People manning the local food stall thought that something tragic might have happened. This prompted them to do some investigation with the police.
What they found
Grandpa Raja, 85 years old, lives alone in his flat and does not mingle with his neighbours. He rarely leaves his house and would sit by the gates everyday, waiting for the food to arrive.
But one day there was no Raja. Immediately, he was placed on Mummy Yummy’s alert list.
The police was also called for assistance. After confirming it might be a missing person or house accident, civil defence personnel was activated to break into the flat.
But the flat was empty and there was no sign of the elderly man. The police continued to search for him.
Six hours later, Mummy Yummy received a call from Raja himself. Apparently the Police had located and sent him home.
“We asked grandpa what actually happened to him and he said he got no money to take bus home (sic) and he couldn’t walk back home.
During the few days, his mobile phone had been switched off and could not be contacted because the battery was drained. The 85-year-old grandpa was also scared of asking money from strangers thinking that he might get caught and sent to jail for it.
Grandpa Raja’s case was not that of a missing person incident or that something bad happened to him. He just didn’t have fare money and was too exhausted (because of his old age) to walk back home.
Singapore’s elderly poor
Ageing is the single most important demographic shift that will affect the future of Singapore as the tiny state is one of the fastest ageing societies in the world. By 2030, one in four people, or more than 900,000 people, will be aged 65 and above.
Recently, they have become more visible as food court cleaners, servers, security guards, tissue-sellers and scrap collectors. Given Singapore’s plethora of help schemes and programmes for the needy – such as the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) and Silver Support Scheme for the old – why do the elderly poor feel the need to work for long hours and often low pay?
Do the jobs that the elderly poor do, as well as society’s safety nets, offer them adequate sense of security and quality of life in their old age?
And what about those who could no longer work even if they want to? Just like Raja? Who’s going to take care of them? Does the government have anything securely in place for them?
Or will they remain invisible until their death?