Fear of Solitude: Elderly Woman Prefers Void Deck to Dying Alone in Flat
In many societies, the tragic phenomenon of elderly individuals growing old and dying alone, with their bodies remaining undiscovered until they decompose, is becoming increasingly common.
Singapore, in particular, has witnessed such sad occurrences. For instance, just this June, the decaying bodies of two elderly men were found in a Bukit Merah HDB block within a month of each other, each having died a solitary death.
A study by the Centre for Ageing Research and Education (CARE) at Duke-NUS Medical School reported that approximately 39 percent of Singaporeans aged 62 and older feel lonely.
This 2015 study also found that people aged 60, who perceive themselves to be sometimes lonely or mostly lonely, can expect to live three to five years less, on average, compared to people who perceive themselves as never lonely.
The profound sadness of this situation is not just in the loneliness itself but in the prospect of facing one’s final moments and last glimpse of the world… in solitude.
To avoid such a fate, Mdm Tan, a woman over 60, has devised a heart-wrenching strategy.
She chooses to sleep at the void deck of her HDB block.
Her rationale is poignant – she hopes that, should she pass away there, at least her body will be found promptly.
Mdm Tan does have a family, as is the case with many elderly individuals living alone.
However, feeling like a burden to her children and grandchildren, she chose to live independently.
Despite the attention of social workers, who have reached out to her, she has declined assistance, preferring to explain her situation rather than accept help.
As reported by Lianhe Zaobao, Mdm Tan resides in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and is often seen near Block 345.
She is frequently observed roaming the HDB void deck during the early hours and often sleeps on the cold, hard benches, unprotected from the elements.
Her frequent presence at the void deck has led many to mistakenly believe she is homeless.
Contrary to this assumption, Mdm Tan co-owns a house with friends at Ang Mo Kio Street 31, but her housemates are often away.
The increasing reports of elderly individuals dying alone have heightened her fears for her own safety, prompting her to spend more time wandering at night to avoid a similar fate.
In her conversations with Lianhe Zaobao, she mentioned that she still returns home to sleep, but has increased her nightly walks to maintain her health and aid her recovery.
Formerly employed at a food court, Mdm Tan had to cease working after a fall injured her, but she remains hopeful of returning to work soon.
According to Mr Zhang, a 60-year-old resident, Mdm Tan does not appear to be struggling financially.
He has observed her getting her hair done at a salon and purchasing food independently.
Her coherent responses during conversations further dispel the notion of her being homeless.
Perhaps the carts of luggage she carries, filled with large items like plastic bags and clothes given to her by others, contribute to the misconception of her homelessness.
Despite her solitude, Mdm Tan receives occasional acts of kindness from residents like Mr Zhang, who sometimes buys food for her, leaving it on a table if she is not around.
These gestures of care offer some comfort in her solitary existence.
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