Tackling tough twilight-year and end-of-life issues with the elderly at Cassia Crescent
It is said that an unconsidered life is one that is not worth living. However, far too few people put precious thought into what happens in their twilight years and after they have passed on.
End-of-life issues are considered taboo, particularly in Asian culture. But the lack of planning tends to result in tension and unhappiness for the persons in question and their loved ones – having someone they distrust take charge of their affairs after they have lost their mental faculties; their doctors not having their instructions on what to do in the event they become terminally ill and unconscious; and having their families quarrel over the division of their assets.
According to estimates, more than 10,000 Singaporeans are expected to require end-of-life care by 2020, and the elderly will make up almost half of Singapore’s population by 2050. As a corporate citizen, TSMP Law Corporation (TSMP) believes in doing its part to tackle issues of the day, it being evident that ageing population and end-of-life care are issues that are not going away.
In its first Handprint event this year, on 25 July 2019, TSMP organised a block party and seminar that helped more than 120 seniors at 52 Cassia Crescent navigate tricky topics like Lasting Power of Attorney, Advanced Medical Directives and Wills, all in a safe setting where they could ask its lawyers on available arrangements to suit their individual circumstances and needs.
TSMP partnered the Cassia Resettlement Team, which is a group of volunteers performing weekly house visits in the block to learn about and to address the challenges that these residents face, the majority of whom were relocated from rental housing in Dakota Crescent and Sims Drive.
The day kicked off with a buffet lunch and arcade-type games that encourage mental and physical activity among the seniors. These include shooting and basketball hoop machines.
This was followed by an end-of-life issues awareness talk. To bring the topic to life, TSMP staff performed a comedic skit in English, Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. After which, over 50 TSMP lawyers conducted breakout sessions with the residents where they could clarify any doubts they may have.
Said June Ho, TSMP’s head of community services: “The Cassia Crescent residents come from the generation that helped build Singapore into the success that it is today. It is with much gratitude that TSMPers returned the favour in our own small way in today’s event, to ensure that these pioneers are able to live their silver years as best they could.”
During the event, TSMP polled the seniors on three questions:
1. Did you know what an Advanced Medical Directive was before this talk?
Only about 31 per cent of the seniors who responded knew what it was about prior to the event.
2. Did you know the procedures to go about getting a Lasting Power of Attorney before this talk?
Only about 29 per cent of the seniors who responded knew what it was about prior to the event.
3. Do you think you need a will?
About 42 per cent of the seniors who responded thought they might need one. Some concerns raised included being worried that their children might fight over assets if there is no will. After learning about the Intestate Succession Act which applies if they pass on without a will, some seniors
agreed that the way distributions would be made under the Act was sufficient for their needs. The response to this question also raised issues of elderly isolation and loneliness, as one candid response to this question was “I have no money, no property, no family or friends – nothing to give, and nobody to give to.”