June 1, 2007

Safeguard interests of the elderly in en bloc sales

I REFER to the article, 'Small band of dissenters fights en bloc sale frenzy' (ST, May 30).

I am proud of retiree Mary Chan, who, in spite of being in her 70s and computer-illiterate, put up a valiant fight for her home. Sadly, she failed and will end up losing her flat in an en bloc sale.

As a senior citizen myself, I appreciate the steps taken by the Government to safeguard my health and welfare, e.g., by revamping ElderShield, passing the Maintenance of Parents Act, and extending the employment age.

I appeal to the Government to also safeguard my home and those of others like Mary Chan from being sold off by strangers.

According to press reports, there were 72 en bloc sales last year and this number is likely to be exceeded this year, seeing the frenzy that has taken hold.

There are many more Mary Chans caught in this situation who are unable to fight back. Many have sleepless nights and feel helpless to prevent the loss of their homes. Some descend into depression.

One in five Singaporeans will be 65 or older by 2030.

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said at a BCA-SIA seminar last September: 'With such a high proportion of elderly people, it is important for us to create an environment where our elderly can 'age in place'. What this means is that they can also continue to enjoy living in familiar surroundings and among friends and neighbours.'

One way of ensuring this is for the Government to step in and either stop this en bloc frenzy altogether or make it mandatory for the interests of the elderly to be fully safeguarded before an en bloc sale commences.

Dev Nair (Mrs)