Asia Tomorrow

Support for Singapore's silver generation

Is Singapore prepared for a silver tsunami?
Is Singapore prepared for a silver tsunami?

The spirits were high, the crowd jovial; some 150 seniors had gathered at Suntec for the 50plus Expo, in order to celebrate Singapore's jubilee journey with a 'group cheer'.

Michael Ang, 68, was among the crowd joining in the festivities, one of many events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the city-state that grew from a British naval outpost into a first world nation. Singapore will celebrate its 50th year of independence on August 9.

When asked to share his thoughts about his own passing years, the soft-spoken Ang quips: "With a positive mindset, we can live a simple and meaningful life. My plan is to continue working and volunteering."

A positive mindset may be within reach for more of the so-called silver generation, via a giveaway run by the government to mark the jubilee,

Among other benefits, senior citizens can sign up for 400-odd free educational courses coordinated by Singapore's Council for Third Age (C3A). Besides arts, IT and dancing lessons, there are courses on Silver Financial Literacy and self-help instruction such as It's Not Too Late to Seek Happiness!.

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"I think the experiential part is very important," says Soh Swee Ping, CEO of C3A.

"We give them an opportunity for them to be able to step out and discover they can do many more things. Being engaged in lifelong learning, they will also move on to the next step of contributing back to the society, as a volunteer,"

Set up in 2007, C3A's mandate is to promote active aging, and a pro-age society - and the agency's very existence speaks volumes about the seriousness with which Singapore is handling the issue of aging.

There are good reasons to be prepared. According to official estimates, by 2030 one-fifth of Singapore's residents will be 65 years and older, up from about 12 percent in 2014.

"[The] aging demographic means that the need for social spending is higher, for healthcare, for social security spending. At the same time the economy's ability to deliver the necessary growth in revenue is very much reduced," says Rajiv Biswas, Asia Chief Economist at IHS.

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Biswas declines to predict the impact of a rapidly aging population on Singapore's GDP, but says slowing growth in labor force will be a big issue.

Government figures show there are now about five residents in the working age-group for each citizen aged 65 and above. By 2030, there will only be about two working-age adults supporting each senior. That means in just 15 years, Singapore will join the list of 'super-aged nations', where more than 20 percent of the population is aged over 65, like Japan is today, says Moody's.

To cope with the shrinking labor force, Singapore's civil servants are offered re-employment till they are 67, although the official retirement age remains 62.

The government has also flagged that it will introduce incentives for private firms to voluntarily re-employ workers past the age of 65. Steps are expected to be announced this year, which will be backdated to January 2015.

For those willing and able, more years at work will provide additional funds for their retirement. Though, as one retiree told CNBC at the expo: "When you're young, it's very important to save a lot. If you save a lot, then you won't have a problem later in life."