Empowering and Supporting the Elderly to Make Them Feel Valued

We live in a world where emphasis often falls on the young and the working, and the needs of the elderly population are sometimes cast aside and forgotten. As society moves forward, the accumulated wisdom of the old often finds itself ignored. In a study conducted by Age Scotland during the pandemic in 2021, it was found that only one in five older people (21%) feels “valued”, while more than a third feel that they are a “burden to society”. This survey paints a worrying picture of how older people may feel about the way they are regarded in society, perhaps not just in Scotland but in Singapore as well.

Many of us may be guilty of making the elderly feel like a burden. As we get caught up in the daily grind, we become much more focused on ourselves, our children and perhaps our peers, and we are less aware about considering the thoughts and feelings of our parents. This is not simply a question of loneliness; it is about the loss of a feeling of significance.

Making the elderly feel valued is crucial for their overall well-being. They bring a wealth of experience, wisdom and history that can enrich and inform our future decisions. There are different aspects to empowering and supporting the elderly so that they can feel valued in their daily lives. Let us take a look at how we can meaningfully enhance the lives of our senior citizens.


Ageism, the discrimination or prejudice against individuals based on their age, is the tenet that affects our way of thinking towards the elderly in society. It manifests in stereotypes, misconceptions and systemic biases that can contribute to the marginalisation of older individuals. Acknowledging and challenging ageist attitudes is the first step in creating an environment where the elderly are valued.

The key towards shifting societal perceptions away from ageism is to view ageing as a natural continuum, rather than an unavertable slope towards decline. We need to emphasise the positive aspects of ageing, such as accumulated knowledge, resilience and adaptability. This can contribute to a more inclusive and supportive attitude towards the elderly, and a positive step towards making them feel more valued.


Fostering connections with the elderly is a powerful means of making the elderly feel valued. Being social contributes massively to their mental health and well-being. Elderly individuals who live on their own can often feel isolated and alone. Staying connected with them can help to make them feel safer and more loved. For most older adults, the care and attention of family and close friends bring the most joy. With just regular phone calls, visits and kind acts, the elderly will feel connected and cared for.

Most older individuals are happy when they feel they can contribute. No matter how small the task is, from folding laundry to doing some light cleaning, these small tasks can make an elderly person feel useful. Also, if your loved one has always enjoyed cooking, baking and/or other aspects of meal preparation and planning, find ways for them to keep doing these things. By asking for bits of help here and there, this can help to assure them that they are just as needed and valuable as anyone else in the family, and they will not feel like a burden to the family. Of course, do make sure that you are asking them for help with tasks that an elderly person is able to do with ease. Because if they cannot do the task assigned properly due to physical or mental decline, it may actually make them feel upset instead.

We all know that our elders have a lot to teach us. So, instead of waiting for them to impart their wisdom to us, take an active role in asking them questions, seeking their advice, or learning some practical tips from them. This can be anything, from seeking advice on family matters to cooking that amazing dish they had made for you when you were a kid.

Perhaps, most importantly, do try to spend more quality time with them. It may seem obvious, but spending time with the older people in your life is a real gift to them. Make that time meaningful and devote your time fully to them. Put away your phone(s) and listen to what they are saying. Make an effort to have a real conversation where you actively show interest in their lives.

During this quality time, let your loved one be themselves. If they need to vent about something that is bothering them, let them do it. The conversation does not always have to be positive. Sometimes, speaking truthfully and candidly about concerns is just as important as reminiscing about happy memories. Just be sure to support them with a fresh perspective and sound advice. Let them know that they are not alone.

Finally, while you are together with them, share a meal with them. This is one of the best ways in which we can help to make each other feel happy, connected and satisfied.


Challenging the notion that the elderly are no longer valuable contributors to the workforce is essential. There are older individuals who may wish to continue working, either in their current professions or through new ventures. Policies that support age-inclusive employment practices can help to harness the skills and expertise of the elderly.

In that respect, Singapore’s Action Plan for Successful Ageing has a multi-pronged approach that enables seniors to continue contributing their knowledge and expertise in the learning, volunteerism and employment landscapes. Some of the things that the government have done to economically empower the elderly include the raising of the statutory retirement and re-employment ages by one year to 63 and 68 years old respectively, and extending the Senior Employment Credit (SEC) and Parttime Re-employment Grant (PTRG).

There is also a push to ensure that employers play a key role in enhancing senior employment. This includes encouraging them to create and redesign jobs suitable for senior workers, while improving elderly workers’ overall productivity through the Industry Transformation Maps. Employers are also encouraged to adopt Structured Career Planning, which involves regular career conversations with mature and senior workers aged 45 and above to discuss their career plans and skills needs.

Lifelong learning is another important pillar of economic empowerment. Promoting and facilitating opportunities for lifelong learning among the elderly is a powerful way to make them feel valued. Under the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package, mature and senior workers are provided with enhanced support under reskilling programmes to help them move into new occupations or sectors that have good opportunities for progression.

Last but not least, encouraging senior volunteerism is another good way to help the elderly feel valued in society. Where able, find opportunities for them to volunteer. Keep them engaged in a way they find meaningful. For instance, there are community movements which serve to increase the physical, mental and social well-being of different segments of society. These include Enriching Lives of Seniors, a befriending programme that cares for socially isolated seniors; Every Mind Matters which supports persons with disabilities; Mentoring Programme for at-risk children, and Guiding, which provides concierge services in hospitals, and arts and heritage centres. Seniors can contribute meaningfully to these different movements and make a real impact with their volunteer work.


The digital divide can contribute to the social isolation of the elderly. Bridging this gap through technology literacy programmes, accessible devices, and user-friendly interfaces empowers the elderly to connect with loved ones, access information, and participate in the digital age.

There are elderly folks who struggle with the everyday modern technology we take for granted. Operating a smartphone, toggling the menus on a TV set top box, accessing online government services, using Microsoft Office or even just surfing the net can present a real challenge to them.

Thus, besides providing them with access to these devices, we also need to take some time to teach them to use and operate them. Be patient with them as the wave of information they have to take in can easily overwhelm them. Imagine someone forcing you to master the making of a beef wellington within three hours. It is going to be difficult, maybe even impossible, especially if you had never made it before. This may very well be how an elderly person feels about mastering new technological knowhows.

As Singapore pushes towards greater digitisation in society, the government has done its part to help the elderly keep up and ensure that they are not left behind. For example, the Seniors Go Digital programme was set up to equip seniors with basic digital skills. More than 210,000 seniors have been trained by Digital Ambassadors deployed at SG Digital Community Hubs at selected community centres and public libraries to use smartphones to safely and securely access government services, communicate and also transact digitally. Complementing the programme is the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme, which provides subsidised smartphones and mobile plans to low-income seniors.


Providing comprehensive healthcare for the elderly involves recognising and addressing not only physical ailments, but also mental health and social well-being. A holistic approach to healthcare considers the unique needs of the elderly, including preventive measures, regular check-ups, and accessible mental health services.

In terms of preventive measures, the key is to enable seniors to lead healthy and happy lives, with activities and services which support their needs and envisaged lifestyles. In Singapore, a network of Active Ageing Centres provides the elderly with a suite of services, including active ageing programmes, befriending services and care referral services. In addition, Active Ageing Centres (Care) also provide care services such as maintenance day care, dementia day care and community rehabilitation.

On the other hand, seniors are also encouraged to go for regular checkups, and the government has taken key steps to tackle the issue of dementia development among the elderly in Singapore, where an estimated one in 10 persons aged 60 and above has some form of dementia.

There are memory clinics in polyclinics which provide dementia assessment and management within the community. Community outreach teams (CREST) also proactively identify seniors at risk of dementia and refer them for assessment and interventions. Further to these, there is an increasing number of dementia day care places which provide custodial care and cognitive stimulating activities for persons living with dementia, as well as Community Intervention Teams (COMIT) which provide counselling and education to support persons living with dementia and their caregivers. Separately, the Post-Diagnostic Support (PDS) service proactively engages caregivers upon diagnosis and connects them with support services.


Creating a culture or society that values the elderly requires a multifaceted and collaborative effort. By challenging ageist attitudes, fostering community engagement, empowering the elderly economically, leveraging technology, and implementing holistic healthcare practices, society can empower and support the elderly.

Recognising the continued contributions of older individuals in various domains, from the workforce to the social sphere, enhances the collective well-being of communities. Through these steps, we can work towards building a more inclusive and age-positive environment where the elderly are not only respected, but also actively valued for the richness they bring to the tapestry of human experience.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population, the commitment to creating a society that treasures its elderly members is a testament to our collective humanity and compassion.