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The Straits Times
Oct 24, 2022
The elderly man and his mother who were found dead in a flat in Tampines on Saturday were a reclusive pair.
And while they were known to the grassroots and community volunteers, they had refrained from participating in activities, Mr Desmond Choo, an MP for Tampines GRC, said on Monday.
The 70-year-old man and his 92-year-old mother were found dead on Saturday morning in their Tampines flat on the 11th storey of Block 285, Tampines Street 22.
Neighbours had noticed a smell about a week before the pair were found lying motionless in the flat and pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Choo said grassroots and community volunteers had reached out to the pair at least five times in the past seven years, with little success.
“It’s unfortunate and very sad, and we understand from the police that there was no foul play suspected, and they are likely to have died from natural causes,” he said.
“In the past 36 hours, the grassroots team has been working with the police, trying to find their next of kin or friends.”
Mr Choo said that while the elderly mother was observed to be frail, the son had previously appeared to be healthy.
He added that the pair seemed self-sufficient, and were not on any support schemes for the lower-income.
Mr Choo urged the community to prevent such cases from happening again.
He said: “Outreach to the elderly is something we’ve been keenly working on, and it’s important to strengthen the community network and actively encourage participation.”
Residents in the estate said they were shocked when they heard about the incident.
A neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Madam Wang, said she hardly saw the mother but would sometimes see the son buying food in the afternoon.
“I’m not sure if they had any relatives because if they did, I’ve not seen any of them visit in the past 10 years,” added the housewife, who is in her 60s.
“I heard that the son used to be a civil servant and had a stroke before. It’s quite sad what happened.”
Ms Karen Wee, executive director of social service agency Lions Befrienders, said it is often challenging when seniors do not want to be engaged.
She said volunteers knock on doors weekly, and it takes a lot of persistence to get seniors to open up.
“Out of every 10 doors knocked, maybe only four will open, and only one will sign up for further engagement,” she added.
“The issue is, if they don’t want to open up, then there’s just no way we can do anything.”
Lions Befrienders currently serves about 6,000 seniors islandwide through various programmes and activities.
Asked why some seniors resist engagement, Ms Wee said: “Some have a fear of strangers, others may be distrustful because of something that happened to them in the past.
“Others may be more private and don’t want to be disturbed, and there are also those who don’t see any value in being engaged.”
Ms Wee added that persistence is key, and in many cases, the seniors open their doors only after the fifth visit from volunteers.
“In some cases, it takes months of persistently knocking on the door before they finally open it,” she said.
“I think there needs to be greater awareness about support available for the elderly, and for neighbours to look out for them and let us know if there are such seniors in their community.”
Mr Choo said: “If you know of seniors living alone, please alert the residents’ committee, and we’ll be very happy to bring together resources to support them, be it in mental health or social assistance.
“And if you are a senior yourself, I ask that you please step forward. There are people who care for you and want to support you.”