Everybody already knows this, but it bears repeating: Singapore’s population is ageing fast. People are living longer than ever, and the birth rate remains low. In just over a decade, what we see on the streets will be quite different. In 2015, around one in our Singaporeans was aged 65 or older. By 2030, it will be one in four Singaporeans.
Two of Singaporeans’ top concerns: Retirement-readiness and affordable medical care
For those of us who are younger, becoming old might seem far away. But your parents may be retired or retiring just when you are embarking on your career, or entering their twilight years as your children are growing up.
If they remain healthy and active, then good for you. In fact, many older Singaporeans are working longer.
But for some of us, our parents are already showing signs of weakness – they fall sick more easily and complain of more aches and pains. Visits to the doctor have become common. And they need all the help we can provide.
And even for younger ones in the prime of their lives, retirement years may loom sooner than you think.
So it’s no surprise that managing the ageing population was a key area of focus in recent Budgets, including Budget 2019.
8 initiatives to help older Singaporeans age gracefully, happily, and healthily.
Earn and save more for retirement
Money cannot buy us happiness, which is true. But having enough to spend after retirement – whether in the form of a steady stream of income or a larger retirement nest egg – can give us better peace of mind.
Other than ensuring they have sufficient funds for retirement, many older Singaporeans are also choosing to work longer as it keeps them active, financially independent, and integrated within society.
To encourage more businesses to hire older workers, the Government introduced the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and Additional SEC, which give employers wage offsets of up to 11% when they employ these workers.
The schemes were due to lapse in 2019. In Budget 2019, they were extended for a further year till end-2020, and the SEC fund has also been topped up by $366 million. Out of four older Singaporean workers, roughly three stand to benefit from this.
In addition, as part of the Bicentennial Bonus, eligible Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 in 2019 with less than $60,000 of retirement savings in their CPF accounts as at 31 Dec 2018 will get a CPF top-up of up to $1,000.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also announced in this year’s Budget that the retirement and re-employment ages, as well the CPF contribution rates of older workers are being reviewed. Recommendations are expected to be made later this year.
Measures like these will enable older Singaporeans to continue working longer without having to worry about their employers compelling them to retire, while earning more and saving more for retirement.
Greater peace of mind for healthcare needs
Healthcare affordability remains a major concern, especially for seniors, whose healthcare needs are likely to rise with age.
The Government introduced the Pioneer Generation Package in Budget 2014, which provided Pioneers with special healthcare top-ups and subsidies, lightening their burden greatly.
As an expression of appreciation and support for the Merdeka Generation – Singaporeans born in the 1950s – the Government announced the Merdeka Generation Package in Budget 2019, which will provide annual MediSave top-ups, additional medical and premium subsidies, and participation incentive for joining CareShield Life.
This means greater savings for common medical and dental needs, and greater insurance and assurance for big medical bills. $6.1 billion has been set aside for the Merdeka Generation Fund, and the package will benefit close to 500,000 Singaporeans.
For Singaporeans who become severely disabled in their lifetime, and may need long-term care,the Government has set aside $5.1 billion into a new Long-Term Care Support Fund to fund CareShield Life subsidies and other measures designed to support long-term care.
If you or your parents are aged 50 and above in 2019, and not eligible for the Merdeka Generation Package, there is still the MediSave top-ups of $100 a year which will be given for the next five years. CHAS – the Community Health Assist Scheme – will also be extended to all Singaporeans with chronic conditions, regardless of income. CHAS subsidies will also be enhanced.
Prevention is better than cure
Some of us fear becoming old. Indeed, none of us want to be saddled with long-term illnesses, aches and pains.
The best way of protecting ourselves is to lead a healthy lifestyle, and take preventive actions so that we can continue to lead fulfilling lives.
To help older Singaporeans stay active, healthy and engaged in their silver years, all Merdeka Generation seniors will get a $100 top-up on their PAssion Silver cards which they can spend to use Community Club facilities, take public transport, enter public swimming pools and more.
Through the SG Cares movement, older Singaporeans are encouraged to volunteer their time and give back to the community, thus helping more seniors avoid isolation and be more active.
So there you have it – 8 initiatives that the Government announced in Budget 2019 to help Singaporeans grow older gracefully, happily and healthily. Tell your friends, parents and grandparents so they can benefit to the fullest!
Do you have any questions on the above measures? Ask away in the comments!