The Elderly Should Not Work

The elderly should not work for one simple reason because they are human.

I live in Singapore and it is one of the developed countries which is coping with an increasing elderly population and a shrinking younger generation like South Korea and Japan. So, like other similar countries, we have policies and campaigns that attempt to alleviate such a problem such as increasing the retirement age and encouraging the elderly to rejoin the workforce. All of us understood the threat of an increasing elderly population and a shrinking younger generation but I believe that not many of us ever thought about the inhumane way we attempt to solve it.

I am using the term inhumane loosely to mean heartless and unempathetic.

Firstly, let me ask you a question, do you want to work until you die or do you want to enjoy your golden years doing things that you love and be happy? I would want to be in the situation of the latter and I expected that to be the same for everyone, however, what I saw was the opposite.

It was an early morning and I was at the food court having quite a heavy breakfast. I sat there eating away when a commotion started at a nearby table involving the cleaners. Being the curious guy I am, I turned and looked. It turned out to be just a normal conversation happening between the elderly who happened to be the cleaners. Normally, I would shrug it off as a common occurrence as a majority of cleaners and helpers in Singapore are from the older generation, however, I continued to observe them. One of them is an elderly man which I am guessing is about 65 years old, he moved from table to table slowly clearing plates and wiping tables. Then, I realised that I am looking at more than just a normal cleaner but instead, an aged human being with a life of his own. If I had shrugged my curiosity off, I would not have been able to look past the exterior of this elderly man as a cleaner to discover something more. That elderly man is not a cleaner. He might be a husband, a father, a grandfather and a man who had worked hard to provide for his family. This goes the same for the other elderly cleaners and helpers out there. They are more than just that. All of them had worked hard for decades. So I began to wonder is it not the time for them to retire and enjoy their golden age?

For an elderly man who had worked hard during his younger years to still be working past his retirement age just to survive on a daily basis is inhumane. It is even more so when the government encourages it. You might say that working is a choice made by the elderly themselves and no one can force them to but have you ever thought that working might be the better of two evils: working to have food versus being hungry?

It is okay if the elderly enjoy working casually but it is inhumane if an elderly has to work just because he is unable to have food on his table on a daily basis. I believe that it should be a right for retirees to spend the rest of their golden years doing whatever they like free of responsibilities. We are so used to the sight of elderly working that it did not bother us anymore. It should not be accepted as normal that our elderly have to go out to work and that mindset needs to be changed.

Sometimes policies and campaigns made are for the benefit of the entire nation and that includes the ones used to manage an increasing ageing population, however, sometimes we just need more empathy. We need to empathise with the elderly and understand that they are human beings and that living is not just about working but instead, there is a higher purpose. They should be free during their golden years to pursue that purpose.

I am not well-versed in policy-making but I am sure that if we stick to the current track, there might no longer be a retirement age. Statistics and economic growth should instead be pushed aside and acting humanely should be prioritised.

This is a hard problem which calls for excellent solutions. No one ever wants to work until the grave and it is up to us to change that. We need to start thinking now.