2014 Future Trends Scenario

Golden Opportunities

Seeing the flashing lights in his rearview mirror, he slowed down and pulled over by the side of the road.

“I wasn’t speeding, Officer. What did I do?”

“Driver’s licence please.”

“What for?”

“Elderly abuse. You tailgated the Audi and showed the driver a rude gesture. Did you not see his grey licence plate?”

“No… But 30km/h Officer. That’s roadhogging.”

“Still, that’s a grey licence plate. Violation of Elderly Special Rights Act. Driver’s licence please.
“Bernard Lim? 15 Jan 1990? Ha! What a coincidence. Happy birthday?”

“I’m 60, Officer. Give chance lah.”

“Not elderly enough, sorry.”

* * * * *

I’m Bernard, 60 years of existence. I feel old – arthritis in the fingers on my left hand, frequent back pains from my long hours of driving a taxi, cataracts in both eyes. But in the eyes of the law, I’m young. What a terrible irony.

I have nothing against those above 80 years old, people who are legally termed as “the elderly” in my country, Singapore. I love my aging parents and relatives. In fact I have been involved in community work at nursing homes for a large part of my life. However, the slew of policies introduced at the turn of the year, specially targeted at the elderly, has received a bittersweet reception from Singaporeans. Personally, I’m ambivalent about these changes:

Elderly Special Rights Act

The Elderly Special Rights Act was passed by Parliament late last year and came into effect in Jan this year. It is targeted at obviously the elderly (who are defined as persons above the age of 80) and makes no distinctions between elderly nationals or elderly foreign nationals. It amalgamates a number of existing legislations such as the Maintenance of Parents Act but crucially introduces a number of new legislations and policies, such as:

  1. Punishment of Criminals Targeting the Elderly – any crime with elderly victims involved require perpetrators to mandatorily receive double the punishment provided in the Penal Code or referenced from precedent cases for typical adult offenders.
  2. Punishment of Elderly Criminals – all elderly accused persons brought before a court of law in Singapore cannot be sentenced to any form of imprisonment due to their advanced age. The only legitimate sentence for them would be by way of fines. Even so, it is also mandated that they should receive half the punishment provided in the Penal Code or referenced from precedent cases for typical adult offenders.
  3. Free Transport for Elderly – all elderly persons do not need to pay for public transport on the MRT and buses. They only pay half of the taxi fare incurred, with the other half subsidized by the Government.
  4. Free Healthcare for Elderly – all elderly persons receive free healthcare at public hospitals and polyclinics. They only pay half of the medical costs incurred at private hospitals and clinics, with the other half subsidized by the Government.
  5. Subsidized Housing for Elderly – Retirement housing precincts with self-contained amenities and 24-hr medical care will be specially developed by HDB for the elderly. Similar luxurious private retirement housing precincts will be subject to much less tariffs than typical private developments so that such specialized housing projects will remain affordable.

As you can see, it seems like our current Government has promised to take good care of our elderly citizens. Confucian traditions, they call it. “Golden Opportunity”, economists codename it. In fact, if you’ve been following the news, you would have heard of Capitaland’s intended new venture into what they term “Silver Hospitality”. On the cards are state-of-the-art medical facilities set to include the controversial Google Timeloop, where users can literally relive the same hour over and over again using cybernetic implants. Instead of living in pain and solitude, one can choose to live in the hour of one’s favourite memory – a mother having a happy family dinner with her now-deceased husband and grown-up children, for instance. Well, it probably would feel real even if it isn’t, but I guess that eases the pain.

Many elderly citizens are of course rejoicing with this newfound status of theirs as well as the upcoming initiatives, but of late, many economists, public opposition figures, and analysts have labelled these laws and policies unsustainable. Already in the first month, we have seen activists take to Hong Lim Park to accuse the Government of having ageist policies. But that is truly beside the point. What is more worrying is exploitation. Some legal observers question if the elderly are getting away too lightly with crime, and others question if they can be made use of by criminal syndicates. And Google Timeloop? Some are calling it Google Coma!

Of course, it doesn’t take too much for me to realize that people like me are paying far too much taxes for all these special provisions for the elderly to not want something back in return for ourselves. Exploit a loophole in the law or something.

But that’s just a fleeting thought. I live an honest life. Maybe in 20 years when I’m 80, I will appreciate these little luxuries a little bit more.

* * * * *

Futurists – analyse this scenario and highlight:
  1. 10 potential challenges / problems (with accompanying research)
  2. The Fundamental Problem
  3. 10 potential solutions for the Fundamental Problem (with accompanying research)
  4. The best solution (using a decision matrix and logical criteria)
  5. Your detailed Action Plan
  6. Your evaluation of your Action Plan (feasibility study)