Ageing with Dignity

Posted by Laura Ng on

Ageing with Dignity

“Dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with dignity,” said Hicks Ph.D.. As they age, the elderly may struggle to reconcile the maintenance of dignity with their loss of independence. However, these two are not mutually exclusive.


Why is maintaining their dignity so important to the elderly?

A common way that the elderly in Singapore maintain their dignity is by working. When they retain their jobs, they are less likely to suffer from depression and dementia. This is because they are financially independent and have a sense of purpose through contributing to their workplace. Compared to the elderly who do not work, they are typically happier and have healthier social relationships. In more extreme cases, some of the elderly in Singapore turn down offers of social assistance, as they would rather be self-reliant.


How can we show them the respect they deserve whilst caring for them?

Not having a job does not equate to the loss of dignity. In fact, these are some ways that the elderly can exercise independence without having their health and safety compromised.


  1. Let them make their own choices

It is important to remember that the elderly are individuals with their own beliefs, styles, and experiences. When we acknowledge this by allowing them to make their own decisions, they get a sense of control over their lives. This empowers them to be independent and boosts mental health in the process.

  1. Offer help only when necessary

In cases where they are physically capable of completing everyday tasks on their own, allowing them to do so would help them to maintain a sense of normalcy. This also eases them into accepting limitations when the time comes.

  1. Respect their personal space

For the elderly, their need for personal space does not fade as they age. They are more likely to be comfortable with being cared for when they feel that their privacy is respected. This can be shown by asking for permission before touching them and closing the door when they are changing or using the bathroom.

  1. Be tactful

It can be hard for the elderly to ask for help when it comes to grooming and personal hygiene. If they are experiencing incontinence issues, suggesting the use of diapers can be off putting for them. It is thus important to be tactful when doing so. For instance, frame the topic in a more positive light, such as by promising to work with them to find a comfortable solution that will enable them to improve their appearance.

It takes time for the elderly to accept the role reversal whereby their children very often become their caregivers. By affirming them and having honest conversations with them, this can be turned into a positive life transition that allows them to retain their rights and independence. Doing so would help them feel respected and encourage them to be more willing to receive help. Only then would they be able to fully enjoy the emotional, mental, and physical support they deserve.


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