April 30, 2010

SINGAPORE: More grandparents lending helping hand

SINGAPORE / TODAY / April 30, 2010

Some upkeep children's homes, do shopping for them

By Leong Wee Keat 

More seniors are providing a helping hand to their children and grandchildren, than being mere dependents, discovered a survey of 1,000 seniors here that flips one common assumption on its head.

One in 10 seniors gave practical support, such as helping to upkeep their children's homes or doing their shopping; while 2 per cent helped their grandchildren in similar fashion. Only 9 per cent, conversely, received practical help from their children.

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People who assume seniors are mere dependants likely focus on seniors' smaller tax contributions, noted Professor Sarah Harper, who heads the Oxford Institute of Ageing which conducted the Global Ageing Survey. "But in actual fact, when we look at families, we see older people making large contributions ... helping their children around the home." The global survey polled 44,000 people and Singapore's results were presented yesterday at the International Consortium for Intergenerational Programmes Conference here.

Older folks in Singapore are giving more help to their children and grandchildren than the other way around. Straits Times Photo: Chew Seng Kim

In South Korea, the survey found 37 per cent of seniors - more than Singapore's 12 per cent - helped their children or grandchildren.

And more seniors here rely on their children for financial help: Some 18 per cent were receiving money compared to 5 per cent who gave something to their children.

As demographic changes sweep the globe, conference participants debated various issues concerning intergenerational cohesion.

Council for Third Age board member Aline Wong lamented that some seniors have become "grandparents on-demand" - called upon to accompany their grandchildren to tuition classes and meet with their children and grandchildren only a few times a year.

She suggested youth organisations get more parents on board their programmes, rather than just focusing on relations between grandparents and grandchildren.

While the Government has in place policies such as the CPF Minimum Sum Top-Up, Parents' Relief and Grandparents' Relief, Minister-in-charge of Ageing Issues Lim Boon Heng urged the community to "internalise" intergenerational cohesion in order for it to be sustainable.

"It is not just about tax-relief or top-up grants," he said. [rc]

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