Today, we celebrate World Senior Citizens Day and in view of the rapidly ageing population and longer life expectancy in Singapore, a new study by NTUC Income (Income) and NielsenIQ revealed how attitudes towards ageing are shifting among Singaporeans aged 40 to 65.
In the study, 76% of respondents aged 40 to 65 said that they don’t feel old at all, while 75% believed that age is just a number and 72% felt that growing old isn’t as bad as what people think.
Respondents from the 50 to 65 age group also generally did not associate themselves with being ‘seniors’, a term that from their perspective, was closely linked to their ‘older parents’, ‘retirement’, ‘dependent’ and ‘health issues’. The term also went against the way they saw themselves currently, which included terms such as ‘mature’, ‘prime age’, ‘active ageing‘ and ‘warrior’.
Most significantly, 81% of respondents wanted to embrace their later years with energy and zest.
Age is but a social construct. With improvement in life expectancy, we now live longer, and it is important that we leverage these extended years. It’s encouraging to see that the study revealed a sense of optimism towards ageing amongst the 40 to 65 age group. I hope this translates to more embracing proactive lifestyles that will advance holistic well-being. It is important that we plan for successful ageing and take charge of our narrative.”
– Professor Paulin Straughan, Director of Singapore Management University’s Center for Research on Successful Ageing (ROSA)
The study, “Redefining the Prime of Life”, was conducted online with 1,019 Singaporeans¹ aged 40 to 65 with a per capita income of at least S$2,300 and took an in-depth look at their attitudes towards ageing, their views about their present life situation and prime of life, as well as their level of preparedness and confidence in navigating their later years. The quantitative consumer study was preceded by a qualitative research that provided insights to facilitate questionnaire development and fieldwork for the quantitative research.
With this knowledge, Marcus Chew, Chief Marketing Officer of Income, said that as an insurer, they have since overhauled their thinking and “see great benefit in empowering older Singaporeans to be physically, mentally and financially ready for the years ahead”.
Majority review present life situation positively
Three in four (76%) Singaporeans aged 40 to 65 saw their lives as being the same or better than before they turned 40. This sentiment was particularly evident among respondents who were married with kids (79%). In contrast, singles (63%) were the least positive about their present life situation when compared to other respondents.
When asked to evaluate the different aspects of their lives currently as compared to before 40:
- 84% said that their mental health is the same or better than before
- 81% said their financial status is the same or better than before
- 78% said their social life is the same or better than before
- 74% said their physical health is the same or better than before
Positive about attaining prime of life after 50
With most respondents concurring that their present life situation is the same or better than before, the study also sought to understand if respondents felt that they were in their prime of life2 and what it meant to them.
It revealed that one in two (48%) respondents believed that their prime is after 50 years old. More specifically, close to half (46%) of the respondents believed that they are currently in their prime, while one-third (31%) of the respondents believed that they have passed their prime, and one-fifth (23%) believed that they have not attained prime of life.
When asked about the factors that contributed to them attaining prime of life, finance-related factors emerged tops, followed by health, freedom, personal development, family and social-related factors. More specifically, the findings revealed that to be in prime of life, Singaporeans, aged 40 to 65, want to live their lives on their own terms, with the top three contributing factors being:
- When I am having the financial means to do things that I want to do (49%)
- When I am stress-free and in a happier state of mind (47%)
- When I am having freedom and time to do things that I want to do (44%)
Amongst the 69% who said that they are currently in their prime or have yet to attain their prime, 63% believed that they could maintain or experience prime of life in the next phase of their life.
When asked to outline what this next phase of their lives would look like, the following emerged tops.
- I can do the things that I want because I have more time and fewer responsibilities (75%)
- I have more freedom and control of my life to do what I like (74%)
- I have the experience, knowledge and financial means needed to achieve what I want (69%)
Getting ready for the next phase of life
When asked about the factors that are most important to them in their next phase of life, 89% cited physical and mental health, while 61% highlighted social bonds and connections with family and friends and 54% said it is their wealth and possessions.
However, when it comes to the actions that respondents are taking to prepare for their next phase of life, financial preparedness emerged as the top priority, followed by keeping themselves healthy.
- 78% said they are saving up as much as possible while working
- 74% is practicing prudence in spending
- 72% are keeping mentally engaged
- 70% are maintaining a healthy diet
- 65% are exercising
- 65% are buying insurance
These findings mirrored the top barriers that respondents cited would prevent them from attaining prime of life and they include:
- Contracting a major illness (61%)
- Becoming physically frail (59%)
- Becoming mentally unwell (41%)
- Having to pay huge or unexpected expenditure (34%)
- Losing my job (31%)
Additionally, the study revealed a stark contrast between the attitudes of the respondents and that of their parents’ generation in navigating life. An overwhelming 85% felt that they face greater uncertainties and disruptions in a fast and ever-changing environment compared to their parents’ generation. Despite a more challenging environment, respondents (88%) cited that they do not want to be a financial or physical burden to their children in their later years. 78% believed that they are more financially savvy to plan for their next phase of life confidently as compared to their parents. In comparison with their parents’ generation, 82% of respondents cited having more resources and options to plan, while 77% believed that they have more freedom to deviate from traditional notions of success unlike their parents’ generation, who typically adhered to fixed or traditional success models.
With each generation, we face different challenges as normative expectations shift. In particular, our population demographics reveal that more Singaporeans are remaining single. The study suggests that single respondents had greater concerns with health and finances disrupting their plans for retirement, perhaps because they have to prepare for successful ageing on their own. How do we evolve services that might partner our singles as they navigate through these challenges?”
– Professor Straughan
“With the depth of insights from the study, we hope to raise awareness and spark action among Singaporeans to lead quality lives and to age successfully. To do so, we are introducing the 4Ps approach3 – Pursue, Prolong, Prepare and Protect – to help Singaporeans frame practical and sustainable actions to take in their pursuit to age well. We are also eager to continuously engage them on the narrative of seizing ‘prime of life’ after 50 via the ‘So Steady’ programme, which will include curated initiatives4 for Income customers and members of the public. When it comes to supporting Singapore’s ageing agenda, we see value in an integrated approach that is not only sustainable but also evolves with the times,” added Chew.