SINGAPORE (June 14): Researchers in Singapore have determined that an elderly person living alone would need $1,379 every month to maintain a basic standard of living. But, how will they — and the rest of the ageing population — pay for it?

Crucially, the $1,379 figure assumes good health.

The sum covers an annual $500 holiday, budgets for one restaurant meal a month, and allows the person to buy clothes and accessories for special occasions, as well as gifts for friends.

But, it does not take into account expenses on chronic health conditions, which afflict many older people in Singapore.

See: $1,379 – that's how much an elderly person needs to survive in the world's most expensive city

A 2016 study by Lien Foundation and NTUC Income found that one in three senior citizens relies on government subsidies or support from their children and/or spouse.

Meanwhile, the Central Provident Fund (CPF), meant to provide an income for people in retirement, falls far short of that goal.

Last year, CPF paid out an average of $450 a month to those aged 65 to 69, $290 to those aged 70 to 79, and just $220 to those aged 80 to 87.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan thinks the CPF is “ripe for a massive overhaul if it is to maintain its raison d’être of providing for Singaporeans’ retirement needs”. In his view, higher taxes are to be the last resort, even as the state has to play a bigger role.

“Given the demographic changes and our communitarian ethos, the notions of self-reliance and family as the first port of call for assistance, while ideal, may not be appropriate,” says Tan.

See: How to achieve a basic standard of living for older people in Singapore

But how would the state be able to provide more assistance – in a sustainable way? And should the individual abandon the principle of self-reliance?

Join the discussion in our story in The Edge Singapore (Issue 886, week of June 17), available at newsstands now.

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