Recently, there were some discussions on old folks homes and their usefulness. However, let us remove the stigmas and the 'unholy graces' of aged homes as these homes will become relevant as our population ages. I am not suggesting that we put our aged parents in old folks homes but I may, one day, choose to live in one by choice.
Singapore, like most Asian countries are less incline to contemplate the idea of putting our aged parents in old folks home due to our culture.
Apart from culture, there is also a bias view that old folks homes or nursing homes are dirty, unhygienic, a place for unwanted aged; at the other extreme, it is viewed as a place where the residents are waiting for their time to be up! (I shall use Aged homes as representative of old folks homes, nursing homes and the likes)
As procreation and migration decline and the aged increases, there will certainly be a need for nursing homes, not by choice but by circumstances. The working populace will be better off and more productively engage if the elderly are well taken cared of. Let us start now to address some misnomers;
Aged equals lame, unhealthy and useless - Aged homes are often seen as a place where the crippled, lame and unhealthy are housed. This is, at best, half truth. Being old does mean we are less mobile and agile, slower to react and may need some level of assistances but definitely not useless nor bedridden.
Unhygienic,dirty and smelly - These are practical issues that can be easily overcome. You do not find these problems in a 5-star hotel or resort!
Location - Most aged homes are located at 'isolated' areas, away from the prying eyes of society and its attendant hustle and bustle. Why? Maybe, because society does not want to display the less able and capable populace for all to see. Or, for practical reasons, the aged need a quieter and safer place to rest and have recreation.
If a country club can attract members so can a retirement village near a reservoir or our water catchment areas. Such social projects should not be profit centric. Besides, these concentration will allow services to sprout and cater to the aged such as convenience stores that break bulk and sell manageable quantities of vegetables, groceries and daily needs (as in Japan) to the localize community. I am sure the aged are environmental friendlier too.
It is ideal to have a childcare or even an orphanage near the aged home; where the aged can keep an eye on the kids and enjoy their company whilst the kids can tap on the wisdom of the aged and learn the values of lives.
Costs - The costs of stay can never be quantified in absolute dollar terms as the intangibles such as a healthy, happy aged populace also means less likelihood of falling ill, disruption to the younger, working population who are taxpayers and by extension carrying some costs of care and share.
Residence-of-last-resort - Aged homes must not be a dumping ground for unfilial children or a convenient place to put away aged parents for a fee. It is also not a final resting place whilst alive; unwanted and forgotten. The residents must be there by choice. Of course, there will be some who are there by circumstances but this should be the exception and not the norm.
Geriatric medicine - The provision of Geriatric medicine and care must be made more readily available and affordable.
Transport - Singapore still have a long way to go to make our transportation system and buildings user friendly to the aged and the physically challenged. There must be an equal opportunity to mobility and communication.
Growing old is as normal as breathing and having a meal when hungry. We must not harbour the thoughts of putting away our aged population but instead strive to make their living easier, happier and with respect.