Fighting 'subtle' ageism

Fighting 'subtle' ageism
Mr William Wan (left) and Mr Philip Koh are both running for the post of Nominated MP.

Friends have been posting words of encouragement on Dr William Wan's Facebook page since it came to light last week that he was a Nominated MP (NMP) hopeful.

But in the Wan household, the only person in the know was his wife, Ruth.

Said Dr Wan, the general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, 66: "Of course I must tell her. Can you imagine what would happen if I didn't?"

His three children, who are aged 34 to 41, and his three grandchildren, all teenagers studying abroad, are still in the dark.

Other NMP hopefuls include Drama Box artistic director Kok Heng Leun and former national sailor Ben Tan.

When did you tell your wife about your decision?

Just before my friend submitted the papers on my behalf last Wednesday.

Why run for the NMP post?

Coincidentally, three different groups of friends asked me to do so. I declined previously as I believed NMPs should represent a physical constituency, but I've since realised there can also be a constituency of ideas.

In the last three years, the environment has changed. Singaporeans are speaking up more. There's also some unhappiness on the ground.

The Government is trying its best to focus on the soft side of life. I think it's important to look at the quality of life.

The NMP post offers a platform to engage more directly with leaders, to debate and persuade in the parliamentary context. Through the non-partisan post, I hope we can foster a kinder and more gracious society.

What causes will you speak up for?

The elderly in our society, especially the poor and abandoned, appear to be invisible. I hope we can be more compassionate in helping them.

For active agers, the biggest obstacle is changing potential bosses' mindset so the former can find legitimate work and support.

Ageism is very subtle in our society. There's a lot we can discuss and I hope we can see seniors as an asset rather than a burden.

Championing ex-offenders is another area close to my heart. People who have paid their dues for the crimes they committed and are willing to reform should be given a chance.

While the Government is doing quite a bit in this area, we have to make kindness a way of life.

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