Commentary: Your silver years are far from the last chapter of your life

Take Chris Ng for example. The spry and garrulous 67-year-old spent 20 years taking people on driving holidays overseas, but after the pandemic shuttered borders, he reinvented himself as a local walking tour guide.

In an interview, he said: “We tend to think that as we get older, we should always take things slow. But for seniors, it’s most important to keep moving – do your exercises, go for a walk!”

Others are staying the course they have been on throughout their lives. Wellie Ang, at 96, is still running his batik tailoring business at Holland Village Shopping Centre, a trade he has been in for 44 years. With the help of his son Erick, who set up the shop’s website and social media, Wellie has kept his store afloat through the pandemic, selling his creations online on a global marketplace.

CHALLENGES FOR SENIORS WHO WANT TO KEEP WORKING

These seniors are not exceptions, for there are many more members of the Pioneer and Merdeka generation who continue to dedicate themselves to their work and interests. Almost 1 in 3 (31.7 per cent ) Singapore residents aged 65 and above were employed in June 2021, up from 28.5 per cent the previous year.

But many seniors work out of necessity, whether to support themselves or their families. Making ends meet remains a challenge for the most vulnerable. According to DBS research, those earning under S$2,500 saw the lowest growth in wages and highest spike in expenses between May 2021 and 2022 – and low-income earners tend to be elderly residents. 

As life expectancies lengthen, we will work for longer periods of our lives. It may seem like we have no choice but to run the rat race. A recent post on the askSingapore subreddit highlighted the laments of an older Singapore worker. The man, who had just turned 65, told a younger colleague:

“At this age, you’ll realise life actually has no meaning … You wake up, go to work, get yelled at by your boss and tolerate colleagues, earn enough to pay bills and support your family, and once or twice a year, you go overseas for a short burst of happiness … And when you reach 65, it’s too late, your entire life just went by and you missed it.”