Can elderly homeowners consider renting spare rooms in their houses or flats to low-income families?
This is an idea floated by Nee Soon Member of Parliament (MP) Carrie Tan, speaking in Parliament at the Budget 2021 Debate on Thursday (Feb. 25).
This arrangement would be mutually beneficial as it would help to meet the caregiving needs in rental households and give them a better environment, while providing the elderly with social interaction, she argued.
The amount charged for rental could be subsidised by the government, and be set at "appropriate rates", Tan said.
Seniors live alone while low-income families have caregiving needs
Tan noted that in 2019, there were nearly 67,600 seniors above 65 who lived alone, including many who want to live in the same flats where they raised their families.
However, these homes might be under-utilised, with several vacant rooms.
Tan said these seniors living alone are more likely to be socially isolated, and face increased risk of "adverse health outcomes".
At the same time, Tan said, almost 10 per cent of rental households have more than four people, with many unable to meet their caregiving needs under existing channels.
In light of this, Tan said her suggestion provides a "simple solution" to these issues.
"Share to Care" strategy also alleviates class division & segregation
Tan's proposed solution, which she calls the "Share to Care" strategy, would also help to alleviate the issue of class divisions.
She noted survey findings from last year that "class segregation and class division is emerging as the biggest fault line in Singapore," warning that this trend could threaten Singapore's social cohesion and national unity.
This situation, she argued, is "likely to be made worse by the effects of the Covid[-19] recession" — hence, the need to "spend less, yet achieve more".
Tan also spoke about the need for progressive workplace policies to address rising rates of burn-out and stress among younger working Singaporeans, and about additional support for low-wage stay-home caregivers, and offered suggestions to build a more effective social safety net.
Tan acknowledged that some of her ideas "may seem daunting and fraught with challenges," but called for "courage, trust and collaboration".
Top image via Carrie Tan on Facebook and by John T. via Unsplash