Woman died alone: 'Nobody ever came to visit her'

The 75-year-old woman lived alone in a one-room rental flat in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4.

Madam Yik Tho also died alone in the same flat in Block 257, although the date of her death is unknown.

A neighbour, who passed by the dead woman's flat every day, had noticed an unbearable smell coming from the flat for almost a week.

When the neighbour knocked on the door and did not receive any response, she finally called the police on Nov 27.

The neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Madam Sue, a 30-year-old working as a service staff in the food and beverage industry, also called The New Paper. She said she did so to raise awareness about the issue of lonely seniors.

Madam Sue, a mother of four children aged between eight months and 12, said: "No one knows much about her because she kept to herself.

"I feel sorry for her. If no one called (the police), who would have known that she had died?

"This is a wake-up call to children who have elderly parents who live alone, to check on them once in a while."

Mr Ismail Selamat, 65, who lives next to Madam Yik, was shocked to see the police outside his neighbour's flat last week.

"There was a strong smell coming from the flat, but I didn't suspect anything. She leaves the flat early every morning and comes back in the evening. I think she was working and she seemed healthy."

The Thye Hua Kwan Senior Activity Centre is right under her block but she did not go downstairs to join the activities, added Mr Ismail, who is unemployed.

Mr Ismail and Madam Sue are not aware if the dead woman had any family.

NATURAL CAUSES

A police spokesman said they found Madam Yik lying motionless in her flat after receiving a call for assistance at about 2pm on Nov 27.

She was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.

No further police assistance was needed as it was established that she had died of natural causes.

Mr Ismail, who is single and has been living alone in his one-room flat for the past 15 years, admits that he is a little worried that he might end up in the same plight.

He said: "But I am lucky to have a sister who comes by to visit me every week. Nobody ever came to visit her (Madam Yik). Although we never talked, we are still friends and I am sad that she died like this."

Support system in place for elderly living alone

There is a network of social support, such as voluntary welfare organisations and charity groups, who ensure that the elderly who live alone are cared for, said MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling.

Ms Tin, who has a significant number of elderly residents in her ward, acknowledges that there might be some seniors who are self-reliant, or those who might not be comfortable socialising with other seniors.

"Usually we try to persuade them to join activities so that alarm bells would ring if they have not been appearing," said Ms Tin.

Madam Fion Phua, founder of the volunteer group Keeping Hope Alive, suggests that seniors who do not wish to join activities at seniors' activity centres could be encouraged to work with young people instead.

"Some elderly keep to themselves because they don't like to be talked about, or to be the subject of gossip.

"But we can still engage them and make them feel useful by asking them to conduct classes, for instance by teaching children how to do crafts," said Madam Phua.

Her group has been visiting one-and two-room flats, cleaning up the flats of seniors who live alone.

A spokesman for Lions Befrienders, which reaches out to more than 5,000 vulnerable seniors here, said they encourage the elderly to get to know their neighbours.

"Also try to leave their main door open (with gate closed) so people passing by can look into the house in case anything happens," she said.

The Lions Befrienders also conduct weekly visits to those who are at risk of social isolation and might not be keen or confident enough to venture out of their homes.


This article was first published on Dec 2, 2015.
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