Senior citizens speak up

The Straits Times | Nov 13, 1993
By: Mardiana Abu Bakar

KEEP out the hanky-panky, was the message that Mr Peh Chin Hua, Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar GRC, sent to senior citizens recently.

He sounded this warning at the Golden Swing '93, a folk dance event for the elderly, at the People's Association, on Oct 18.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Peh noted the rise of "a new social disease" among the senior citizens' groups here - elderly people having extra-marital affairs.

So far, the response from the senior citizens to this warning has been muted.

One reason for this could be the refusal by the 100,000-strong senior citizens' clubs of the People's Association to make any comments to the press on the matter.

Office bearers of the clubs were instructed not to speak to the press (see other story).

Together, the clubs are the largest grouping of senior citizens here. But there certainly is unhappiness over the remarks.

Life! spoke to 15 senior citizens: eight of them members of an informal group who meet regularly; four members of Singapore Action Group of Elders, and three, who do not belong to any group.

In a nutshell, these are some of their reactions:

We need the company of our peers and no one should say anything that would make it seem wrong for us to get together and pass the time pleasantly together as a group of adult men and women.
Most of us are not interested in hanky-panky, and no one should cast aspersions or doubts on this.
Married or otherwise, we might be drawn to other people our age from the opposite sex, but that does not mean that there is hanky-panky going on.
We can do without this stereotype of being dirty old men and women, thank you.
Why are we being singled out? Are we doing it more than young people?

SOME expressed indignation at the speech while others felt it was insensitive and unnecessary.

Said Mr Ng Yew Wing, 65, a member of Sage and a former operations manager of John Little: "If there are so few, why is there a need to say it? Are the older people doing it more than the younger people?"

Mr Peh had also cautioned: "The new disease could affect you and your families. It will only bring about pain and suffering."

Widow Madam Chin Kwai Lean, 78, a member of an informal group of senior citizens which meets once every month said: "Mr Peh should not, with one bamboo stick, wipe everybody from the boat."

A housewife all her life, Madam Chin joined the group two years ago after her husband died, to be part of a circle of people.

"Most of us are getting old or are lonely and want some companionship. The young people are so busy, and when they have time they mix among themselves only.

"I think it is natural for old people to like each other and want to be together. This does not then mean that there is hanky-panky going on. They could just be very special friends."

A good example is Madam M.Tan, 61, a retired clerk who is separated from her husband. She forged a very close friendship with a man when they were members of the People's Association Retirees Club about seven years ago.

They went dancing together but there was definitely no hanky-panky, she said.

She took care of him when he had a stroke two years ago, going over every day to his son's house, which is about two streets away from her home in Bedok, to look after him while his son was at work.