The Glorious Silver Age

Many things are rising in Singapore, escalating prices for one is a common complaint that you would hear on the street. There has also been an increase in the number of sparkling new shopping malls in Singapore (is there really a need?), with JEM and Westgate, both located in Jurong, two of the newest. We can observe a rise in the number of MRT lines and stations being completed over the next few months, which will no doubt make getting around much more convenient. Certainly almost everything is on the upwards curve in Singapore!

Well, guess what? In 2012, retirement age was also raised from 62 to 65 years of age. While the minimum age to retire is still 62, under statutory law governed by the Retirement and Re-employment Act, employers are now required to offer re-employment to eligible employees up to 65 years of age! In fact, in the recent Rally Speech by Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, he even brought up the notion that there are people who want to work till 70 or more. He also pointed out that there ARE Singaporeans who are working in their late 60s already!

Silver age

One of the reasons behind this move is Singapore’s demographic change. Ageing population is no longer just something learnt about in school, but a reality we face now with post-WWII baby boomers turning 65 years old and entering their silver age. This population group number almost a million, a staggering figure considering that our national census numbers our total population at slightly over 5 million in 2013. What this means is that the rapid upwards median age shift will result in a shrinking workforce, and in a few years, the declining working-age population will be faced with more tax and economic pressures to support the old-age population.

Declining birth rates, coupled with increasing life expectancy will further compound and cause this old-age support ratio to fall. It is a good thing that we have one of the highest life-expectancy in the world, although the move to raise retirement age was a necessary one sooner or later, a move to fix a potential “problem”. As much as the raising of retirement age is strategic to maintain economic contribution by the workforce, we found out that there were other “invisible hands” at work behind the scenes. In our workforce, a small but nonetheless significant group plays their part, and continue to work in their silver years not just because of the change in retirement age but because they want to. This group of “volunteer” workforce may be past 65 years of age, and no longer need to “punch ticket” daily from 9 to 5, nonetheless they remain active and play a key role in their respective positions!

There are several main factors cited as motivation for our volunteer workforce:

Table Silver

** Lifelong Learning

Retirement poses a drastic change in pace and lifestyle for people. Many choose to keep working simply so they would not be bored not working, and by remaining in the workforce, they continue to meet new people and interact with others. Work for them could have been a large part of their social life in the last few decades and they want to maintain that. Having consistent cash inflow in the form of salary is one other reason seniors continue working because they hope to stretch their pension as much as possible, and afford comfort and some luxuries for themselves or their families. Financial freedom or independence may be very important to these people, and just because they are retiring soon do not mean they want to be dependent on others.

Silver age

As one enters the elderly age, there is always the fear of mental or physical deterioration, and work is often a welcome respite because it allows for seniors to remain mentally and physically active. This also ties in with the concept of lifelong learning – ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of new knowledge or skills, which provides fulfilment in one’s silver years, and also vital stimulation of the mind and senses.


Khairul Bin Azil owns a moving company, and is still very hands on and involved in the day-to-day work of his business despite advancing in his years, and having a trusted and capable son leading the operations in the company. He loves to remain involved because there are still new things to learn everyday while making more money at the same time!


Taxi Driver Carrico Tan works part-time only now, because having worked for so many years, it felt strange when it was time to retire. Carrico did not like staying home with nothing to do other than watch Korean drama shows, so he figured that driving a taxi part-time was the perfect way to kill time! Many taxi drivers on the road today in fact share the same view, and driving a taxi is indeed a great way to meet new people, stay active and still earn an income.


Koh Yew Choo, or Uncle as we affectionately address to make orders, owns and runs a fishball noodles stall and have been serving up bowls and bowls to happy customers for decades. He sees no reason in stopping anytime soon because the body is still strong and can keep going on and on…well, that’s great news for us!


Mohd Azhari is the Head of Dispatch at his firm, and he has rose through the ranks through years and years of hard work in this company since 1988. Azhari cannot predict a day where he will be retiring simply because he is the breadwinner of the family where he needs to continue working in order to support his 3 children, the eldest in NS and the youngest preparing for ‘O’ Levels this year. What’s more, having spent more than a quarter-century at his company, Azhari cannot imagine leaving his ‘family’ at the company too! Such loyalty from staff is certainly rare these days!


Gladys Chia is a secretary and the sunshine of her company due to her bright and shiny personality. She is a self-declared workaholic, and has no plans for retirement. What a great reason to keep working…because you like to work!

Last but not least, we also discover that passion, the driving force behind, is a flame that does not die out simply with time or age. Our volunteer workforce comprises of people who are ever as excited to pursue their professional goals even if they are of retirement age. The satisfaction of achievement is a strong motivation and people at this age still yearn to be productive, useful and helpful, and have a fun and enjoyable job.

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