Friday, January 25, 2013


Seniorsaloud regularly receives emails from people who write in asking us to recommend good daycare centres or nursing homes. Some of these emails come from senior citizens, but the majority are written by adult children concerned about their elderly parents living alone or left alone at home for much of the day.

The typical Asian family used to consist of several generations living under the same roof. In the 'ancestral home', there was always someone to look after the very young and the very old. Everything was shared - meals, household chores, even problems.

The Straits Times

Today we have the nuclear dual income family with both parents out the whole day working. So who looks after the young children? The maid. In homes where there is no maid, the children are packed off to daycare centres from morning till evening.

What about the elderly grandparents? If they are still fit and independent, they can help out with the children. What if they themselves need assistance with activities of daily living (ADL), and there is no one at home to fill this need?

The answer is daycare centres for the elderly. Unfortunately, a Google search shows a dearth of such centres in the Klang Valley. The few that exist do not have a schedule of daily activities. The elderly who are sent there spend the day sitting around with nothing to occupy them. They wait patiently for their daughter or son to pick them up after office hours.

On average, a daycare centre charges Rm70-100 a day, inclusive of lunch and tea. Given a choice, most elderly folks would rather remain in their own homes, in surroundings they are familiar with.

In countries like Japan, Korea and Singapore, an increasing number of the elderly are living alone. South Korea may have grown richer, but the traditional family with Confucian values is becoming fragmented. There are now 1.2 million elderly South Koreans, living - and dying - alone. This figure is set to rise as the percentage of the elderly is expected to grow from just 3.8 per cent in 1980 to 15.7 per cent in 2020 and to 24.3 per cent in 2030.

In Japan, the 2005 national census showed that one in 10 elderly men and one in four elderly women were living alone. The total in 2005 was 3.86 million, compared with 2.2 million a decade earlier.

From e-Monitoring Services
It's a similar situation in Singapore. The number of elderly citizens now will triple to 900,000 by 2030. The number of those living alone is likely to increase to 83,000 by the same year, up from 35,000 last year.

Adult children worry incessantly about their elderly parents living alone. What happens if they fall, faint or suffer a stroke? No one is there to help them. By the time someone finds out, it might be too late to offer any help.

National University of Singapore has come up with the e-Guardian, a special watch that can sense if the wearer (the elderly person) has fallen. It then starts in motion alerts to the base station and from there to other important contact numbers that are keyed into the e-Guardian SIM card.

Source: Straits Times

There are already several similar devices in the market. The question is - would the elderly be willing to embrace such new technology? If my 86-year old mother's response is anything to go by, the answer is No. She is suspicious of gadgets, says they are too expensive and she doesn't need them.

It would be a challenge to get the elderly to cooperate, even if it is often for their own good.

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