Helping the elderly helps the young

Mr Dzul (second from right), wife Aslinah Mahmood (right), 32, and son Muhammad Daniyal Azlan live with his parents (from left) Hajah Manisah Haji Aliman, 64, and Haji Sahban Lam, 65.

SINGAPORE - Every month, sales manager Muhammad Dzul Azhan Haji Sahban, 33, gives his retired parents an allowance.

"I'm the only child. They've taken care of me until now. Out of filial piety, I give them a token amount," he says.

His father, a retired pharmacy assistant, and factory operator mother live with him, his wife and 10-month-old son in a five-room Yishun flat.

Large government transfers of money to the old, as with the Pioneer Generation Package, are recent measures.

But for a long time, many adult children here have been giving their parents money.

About 80 per cent of those aged 55 and over received financial support from their married children in 2008, up from 51 per cent in 1987, shows the Housing Board's latest sample household survey.

Children also help out with parents' medical expenses.

In 2010, about 45 per cent of the total amount of Medisave withdrawn for the elderly's health-care expenses was from their children's Medisave accounts.

So the pioneer package will end up helping the young, too. Mr Dzul, whose 65-year-old father qualifies for the scheme, says: "It indirectly helps young couples in the sandwiched class like us. We take care of our flat, our children and expenses, and our parents' allowance and medical bills. With the package, we can save for our future."

And when the Government gives money to grandparents, some may pass it on to their children. For example, MrDzul's parents paid part of his flat's renovation bills. They also look after his son when he and his wife are at work in the day.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.