Last Friday, I experienced A Day in My Future. This is an initiative by Council for Third Age (C3A) to encourage young people to be more aware of the process of ageing and develop a sense of what it’s like to be an older person in today’s society. We started off with a discussion of how we would define the term ‘old’ and created a list of words that come to our mind when we think of a person in her 70s. Most of the words (repetitive, loud, forgetful, slow) had rather negative connotations! Then, we were asked to come up with words that we would want others to use in describing us when we were 70. What a difference! We had words like wise, contented, patient, experienced, etc.
After the exchange, we went through an Age Simulation Exercise conducted by the Tsao Foundation. Our ability to perform daily activities was modified: a splint held in place by a bandage on one arm to simulate stiff joints, rubber gloves on the hands and masking tape on the thumb and first finger to simulate loss of dexterity and sensation, a binding wrapped around the knee to restrict the movement of one knee joint, headphones to simulate loss of hearing and dark glasses to simulate blurred vision caused by problems like cataracts. Due to my condition, I was excused from most of the activities so I had the opportunity to observe the proceedings. The other participants had to go up and down a flight of stairs while breathing through a straw (to simulate respiratory problems), use a mobile phone to send a message and select the correct price tag from three very similar ones. Not easy at all!
The simulation exercise was followed by a discussion with representatives from HDB, MCYS and HPB. We shared how we felt after going through the age simulation exercise and also talked earnestly about issues like housing policies and design, health campaigns and policies to encourage active ageing. I thought I knew enough about active ageing and about preparing for an ageing population in Singapore but I came away from the session with several changed perspectives and a renewed empathy for elderly people like my own grandmother. There’s a lot for me to think about, especially in terms of my own desire to age gracefully, and I’m glad I attended the session!