As our loved ones age, it becomes crucial to ensure they lead fulfilling lives with strong social connections. However, there is a concerning trend emerging in Singapore—the social isolation of elderly men. This issue not only affects these seniors but also places a significant burden on their caregivers. In this article, we will delve into the challenges faced by male seniors in social isolation and discuss how caregivers can navigate this complex issue.
The Isolation Dilemma
Elderly men like Mr. Amayapan Kodanpan often find themselves in a lonely existence, with limited social interactions. Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) report a substantial gender disparity in senior participation in their activities. Statistics reveal that around 80 to 85 percent of seniors who engage with these organisations are women. Why is this happening?
Understanding the Gendered and Generational Factors
Various factors contribute to this disparity. The nature of activities organized by VWOs may be more appealing to women than men. Additionally, older men, who were often the breadwinners of their families, may have focused more on their careers, leading to limited social networks outside of work.
The sociological concept of “kin-keeping” highlights that men from past generations may have delegated social tasks, like maintaining relationships and organising family events, to their wives. Consequently, when they retire, they may struggle to maintain meaningful social connections.
Impact on Caregivers
The social isolation of elderly male family members has a profound impact on caregivers. Often, caregivers are family members who watch their loved ones suffer from loneliness and social disconnection. A caregiver’s worry can grow when they see their elderly family members spending most of their free time in isolation, which can lead to boredom and a decline in mental and physical health.
Ripple Effects on Society
The consequences of elderly male isolation extend beyond the individual. As older men report lower levels of social support, their overall health can deteriorate, increasing national health expenditure. To address these challenges, society may require more healthcare professionals and social workers to support the ageing population.
Empowering Caregivers and Seniors
To combat this issue, we must empower both caregivers and seniors. Tailoring programs and activities to suit the interests of elderly men is essential. Organisations like Care Community Services Society are actively seeking feedback from male seniors to provide more diverse activities that cater to their preferences.
Additionally, involving elderly men as peer leaders and facilitators of programs can be highly beneficial. Building inclusive social spaces, such as community centres and hawker centres, where seniors can gather for shared activities or pursue their interests, is another step in the right direction.
Organisations Making a Difference
In Singapore, there are initiatives like Active Ageing Centers (AACs) that aim to address the issue of social isolation in elderly men. These centres offer a range of activities, including those that align with male hobbies or interests. By decentralising AACs and taking activities to where seniors are, we can encourage their participation and involvement.
Social isolation among elderly men is a pressing issue in Singapore, and it impacts not only the seniors themselves but also their caregivers and society as a whole. By tailoring activities to the needs and interests of male seniors and empowering them to take charge, we can make a significant difference. Organisations like Care Community Services Society and AACs are playing a crucial role in combating social isolation and promoting healthier, more engaged lives for our elderly loved ones. Caregivers should be aware of these resources and encourage their senior family members to participate, ultimately improving their quality of life.
At SG Assist and CareConnect, we believe that every act of kindness counts. Whether you’re a caregiver in need of support or a volunteer looking to make a difference, we’re here for you. Visit SG Assist and CareConnect’s website to learn more about our services, download the SG Assist app or sign up as a volunteer for our Caregiver Resource Centre, and together, let’s create a community of care and support. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter here for updates on how you can help.
Story was adapted from Today Online, https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/retired-and-lonely-its-tough-get-men-take-part-activities-say-centres-elderly-2263281