Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Headlines like the one above makes one wonder how children are brought up these days. Are they taught the right values at home and in school? Are their parents leading by good example?

In many countries parent or elder abuse is on the rise. In Singapore, the number of reported cases of abusive adult children has gone up from 160 to 240 a year over the past three years. One can assume hundreds more cases go unreported.

There is the Maintenance of Parents Act (1995) and a Tribunal that hears such cases. However, many parents are reluctant to report the abuse for the following reasons:

  • they don't want to see their children sent to jail
  • they don't want the social stigma attached to it
  • they are unaware of their rights and that they can get help
  • they don't know where to get help
  • they depend on their children for financial support and shelter
  • it reflects badly on their own parenting.

So these abused parents, mostly in their 70s and 80s, continue to suffer in silence. This is certainly not the way they should be living their remaining years. As long as they don't report the abuse, nothing can be done to help them.

These abuses can be verbal, physical, financial or psychological, and may include any of the following:
  • scolded or beaten for being slow, forgetful, or for making mistakes
  • harassed for money to pay their children's loans or debts
  • chased out of the family home because there is no room for them
  • ignored, neglected, even shamed in front of others
  • constantly told they are 'useless' and 'should die quickly'
  • subjected to numerous restrictions that limit their freedom

The key lies in building a strong bond between parents and children, and nurturing this bond through the years. Children who are neglected or abused, are more likely to grow into adults who are abusive towards their parents. 

Certainly there are other factors that come into play. Adult children who are struggling with their own problems may vent their frustrations on their parents. These problems range from heavy debts to drug addiction. But this is no excuse for them to take it out on their elderly parents.

There are also highly educated, successful adult children who are ashamed of their illiterate parents. They have no qualms or guilt about confining their parents to a room at the back of the house with strict orders not to come out when there are visitors or guests in the house. 

To quote a media statement issued by Karpal Singh of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) dated 12/3/07, "... it is the duty of adult children to maintain their parents in old age for the simple reason their parents provided for them up to adulthood. The Government should give first priority to the enactment of the Maintenance of Parents Act as soon as possible."

Mr Lum Kin Tuck, former president of the National Council of Senior Citizens’ Organisations Malaysia (NACSCOM) has also called on the government to set in place a systematic safety net for the elderly

Cases of abandoned parents are also on the rise. The 2010 census conducted by Malaysia’s Department of Statistics shows that 675,000 citizens aged 60 and above have been abandoned and do not receive financial support from their children. This means that one in three senior citizens have been deserted by their children.

A sight that is becoming common in many Asian
countries where filial piety was once regarded as
the most important of all virtues. Read more...
It is only in the last couple of years that the government has made some effort to address the plight of abused and abandoned parents. It is not enough, and more importantly, not sustained. The only recourse left to abused parents is to seek help from relatives and friends, and NGOs that are sympathetic to their case.

Here are some things parents can do to reduce the risks of ending up abused or abandoned by their adult children:

  • continue to build your nest egg and make sure you are not financially dependent on your children when you reach old age
  • look after your health so that you remain physically active and independent as long as you can, right into your 70s and 80s.
  • protect your property. Do not hand over the deeds of your house prematurely. You need to ensure a roof over your head at all times.
  • have a network of friends you can count on to support you through the difficult times
  • seek professional help or counselling especially if you feel suicidal
  • know you are not alone in this. Join a support group. 
Click here to know more about elder abuse.


Unknown said...

Unfortunately, it seems to be a growing trend here in Australia too. My mother is 93 but when they were in their mid to late 60s (my age now) she and my late father chose to move into a retirement village in independent living. My mother still lives independently and is well looked after and very active.

I've decided to do the same thing next year. The retirement villages here are more like resorts but with different levels of living. I believe that by doing this, I take any obligation off either of my daughters to feel the need to look after me. It's the last thing I want. I have my life, they have theirs and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Having said all that, we are close and my eldest daughter has repeatedly suggested I move in with them. I've explained, after thanking her for her thoughtfulness, why not and she has no problem with my plans. I'm very aware that I'm one of the fortunate parents.

seniorsaloud said...

There is a growing preference among baby boomers to settle in a retirement village or community where they can enjoy their golden years in the company of like-minded seniors rather than live alone or with their adult children. Unfortunately housing developers in Malaysia and Singapore have little interest in building retirement villages. So the long wait continues...

Unknown said...

I read the above article with great interest and I like the views expressed by two readers. The main thing is to look after your health while you still can so that as you age , we all will , you will be independent no matter where you are placed, thrown, got rid of, choose to live, whether alone or with others. We will reap the harvest if we devote a little more time to the care of our health.