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Elderly dying alone: MND to consider visiting seniors' homes if they default on rent, utilities payments

Following a spate of cases where seniors died alone undetected, the Ministry of National Development (MND) is considering "preventive measures".

These include visiting their homes when they have defaulted on rent and utilities payments, Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told Parliament on Tuesday (May 9).

"HDB will know of cases where seniors die undetected at home "either directly or through other agencies called upon to respond," Faishal said, adding that those living alone in studio apartments or rental blocks have alert alarm systems which they can use to call for help in emergencies.

The 54-year-old was responding to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang) on whether MND plans to track cases of seniors who pass away undetected in their homes.

Yip also suggested preventive measures such as visiting seniors' homes if they defaulted on rent and utilities payments.

There are existing efforts to engage the seniors "at risk", according to Faishal.

These include outreach by Silver Generation Ambassadors under the Ministry of Health's Agency for Integrated Care, as well as support services provided by the Active Ageing Centres

Describing how there are seniors who are not open to community engagements, Faishal said: "The community partners continue to use different ways to build trust and rapport above their check ins and visits.

"We'll work with these agencies to consider the idea raised by [Yip] as we work to enhance community support for seniors."

Recent cases of elderly dying alone

There have been several cases of the elderly dying alone at home recently.

On April 20, just two days before Hari Raya Puasa, an elderly Malay man was found dead and all alone at a Bukit Merah HDB shophouse.

His body was discovered only after a barber shop owner below his unit took notice of a foul smell, according to a recent TikTok video.

And on March 26, An 80-year-old retired teacher was found dead in her Holland Drive flat.

Police found the woman's decomposing body after her neighbours noticed the foul smell.

In January, Shin Min Daily News reported about a man who "visited" his father for the first time in four years, after the latter died alone at home. 

Speaking to the Chinese evening daily then, Zhuang Ming Guang shared that he rarely kept in touch with his father in the past 20 years

"After my parents' divorce when I was five, I have had few impressions of him," the estranged son said. "He was like a stranger to me". 

While the Health Ministry does not track the number of elderly who die alone at home, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) handles fewer than 100 unclaimed bodies each year, the Straits Times reported in April.

The number of residents aged 65 and older here has also nearly doubled to 614,000 in 2020, from 338,000 in 2010, according to the Singapore Department of Statistics. 

ALSO READ: Social worker goes knocking door to door to investigate 'foul stench' complaint, finds decomposed body in Aljunied flat

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