A sobering statistic released recently revealed that the number of elderly suicides in Singapore has reached an all-time high since the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) started tracking figures in 1991.
Common struggles include social disconnection, and difficulties due to declining physical and mental health.
The Singapore population is ageing at a faster rate now than in the last decade, hence the urgent need to ensure that seniors in the community are able to grow old in a healthy manner.
This includes being mentally and physically well.
If you are living with or caring for an elderly relative, heed these 5 tips to help them grow old healthily and independently.
1. Prepare the home
Elderly folks are more prone to falling and many have diminished mobility.
Help reduce the risk of falling by installing grab bars in the bathroom and the bedroom, and make sure the bathroom floors are anti-slip.
You should also reduce clutter in the home so they can move around easily.
2. Accompany them for regular checkups
Ensure that your elderly relatives head to the clinic for a once- or twice-yearly thorough medical checkup.
It’s equally important to go for any recommended follow-ups.
Keep a record of their medical history and bring it to appointments.
And if they have any unhealthy habits such as smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol, gently encourage them to cut down or stop.
3. Keep them physically active
It’s understandable that some elderly may feel tired constantly, but unless there’s a medical reason for them to be bedbound, you should encourage them to do some exercise daily.
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board recommends that people over 50 should do some strength and balance exercises at least twice a week, as well as 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise.
This can be as simple as brisk walking around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes at a time.
4. Keep them mentally active
Use it or lose it – that advice certainly rings true when it comes to keeping your mind sharp.
Just as you need to exercise your body, you should also do the same for the brain.
To stay sharp, experts say you should learn a new skill, such as playing the guitar; spend time on a hobby; or play games or puzzles.
5. Encourage them to form social connections
Loneliness is a big problem among the elderly, and it’s one that can affect their mental health.
Even though some of them may not be living alone, they may still spend a large amount of time by themselves in the day when their kids are at work.
To stay occupied and connected, visit the nearest community club to find out about activities geared towards the elderly.
They can sign up for sports or dance activities, or pick up a new language, all while staying in touch with the community.