Singapore—While the country enjoys the distinction of having the highest life expectancy in the world, 85 years, the “Sandwich Generation,” those who care for the needs of both their parents and children, are finding themselves responsible for elders even when they are nearing retirement age themselves.
This unprecedented problem will most likely only intensify as life expectancy rates continue to climb, and conversely, as fertility rates decline.
The Sandwich Generation is defined to be those who are between the ages of 30 and 60. However, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that more individuals between the ages of 60 and 70 are finding themselves in the position of having to care for not only their children and grandchildren, but of their own parents as well, into their retirement years.
The SCMP quotes Helen Ko, an ageing expert from the Singapore University of Social Sciences as saying,
“The implications for the future of elderly carers in Singapore are immense. They need to be prepared to shoulder such caregiving responsibilities and ensure that they stay healthy well into their twilight years.”
To attest to the growing longevity of Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in this year’s National Day Rally that the number of people age 100 and over is now 1,300, which is more than double from 500 a little more than a decade ago.
However, while Singaporeans are living longer, they’re also spending a longer time in poor health. A study published earlier this year shows that the proportion of people over the age of 60 who have three or even more chronic diseases almost doubled from 2009 to 2017. Moreover, there are more older adults in Singapore who report having a harder time with daily activities.
This generation still has siblings who will help take care of their aging parents. But the SCMP reports that the next generation will not be so lucky, with fewer and fewer babies being born.
The country’s fertility rate is currently at 1.4, while it needs to be at 2.1 just for the population to remain the same.
And by 2050, nearly half, or 47 percent of the population is expected to be at least the age of 65, placing the burden of elder care on the working population.
The SCMP report quotes the founder and CEO of Active Global Specialised Caregivers, a senior-care firm with branches in Singapore and Hong Kong, Yorelle Kalika, as saying that she believes the country will one day welcome professional care for the elderly.
“I think we will shift the responsibility of caregiving from informal care to more formalised and professional care because there will be no choice. Just because of the large numbers involved,” she said.
Additionally, another study this year highlighted how only about half of CPF members are able to obtain the S$1,379 a month payout necessary for meeting the basic needs of people 65 and older who are living alone.
Researchers from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYPP) released the results of a new study in May of this year, also revealing that a big portion of their savings goes towards buying a home — an approved reason for withdrawing funds at the relatively early age of 55.
But the SCMP reports that it is not all bad news for older Singaporeans and the families that must take care of them. SUSS’s Ms Ko said that with the government raising retirement and re-employment ages from 65 and 70 respectively, carers can work longer and have more funds to meet the needs of their parents.
Grants have also been introduced to help shoulder more expenses of the elderly, such as the S$200 grant given last month. -/TISG