Growing old

I must be old. I was at Clementi Mall last weekend and for the first time, I noticed how difficult it was to get around the mall, and I am not talking about the crowds. Rather, it was the narrow escalators, narrow passageways and a minuscule lift that could barely accommodate a stroller or a wheel-chair, not mentioning the many odd steps one needed to overcome, to get from the MRT station to the mall. As I witnessed elderly aided by their domestic helpers, struggling to get from one place to another, I could not help but wonder if Singapore is really to move into her 50s, a.k.a. her golden years.

Our land constraint is a reality, and so is our aging population, a reality that we need to deal with. While I am heartened to see more elderly friendly facilities being incorporated e.g. extended time at pedestrian crossing for senior citizens, I really think more could be done, to make it easier for wheelchair bound folks, elderly who rely on walking sticks and families with strollers to get around. Wider passageways, replacing stairs with sloped pathways, larger lifts are solutions that come to mind immediately, but not quite feasible in the immediate term and in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Then it hit me. This is as much a ‘people’ problem as it is an infrastructure problem. Am I willing to walk at the pace of an elderly along a crowded walkway, trotting along patiently behind her instead of elbowing my way ahead? Am I willing to give way to families with strollers and folks on wheelchair, letting them have the lift while I wait for the next one or take the escalator? Just today, a young lady “tsked” at me as I tried to get out of an empty lift that she was rushing into, blocking each other’s way. Truth be told, I was not at all inclined to give way, and I did not, justifying my actions with her bad attitude and poor manners, which is not quite the point. *blush*

In our fast-paced society, giving way and waiting has become unnatural. The drivers on the road will tell and show you so. We justify our behavior by claiming prudence in our use of time and commending our desire to be efficient, but perhaps we are merely impatient?

Time is needed for our physical infrastructure to catch up with our aging population and so do our social graces. We will all have our turn at growing old and getting weak, and if we hope others would be patient with us in future, let’s pay it forward now by being patient with others, even when we don’t think they deserve our kindness.

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