Key findings (2019)

What older people need in Singapore: A households budgets study (May 2019)

In this study, we conducted focus group discussions to ascertain how ordinary Singaporeans think about what constitutes basic needs in Singapore today, and to determine the household budgets necessary to meet these needs. We focused on four household types: (1) male, 65 years and older, living alone; (2) female, 65 years and older, living alone; (3) couple, 65 years old and older, living together; (4) male or female, 55-64 years old, living alone.

This page provides a brief introduction to some key findings. For more detail, please see:

Key findings

Participants put together household budgets that:

  • Reflect the lived realities and ordinary habits of people living in contemporary Singapore.
  • A general public can agree on as basic or minimum—it should be neither extravagant nor inadequate.
  • Reflects some degree of diverse needs along ethnoracial and religious lines.
  • Embodies the values and principles ordinary Singaporeans embody, as well as concrete and specific items that map onto those values and principles. 

Participants developed a consensus-based definition of “basic standard of living”:

A basic standard of living in Singapore is about, but more than just, housing, food, and clothing. It is about having opportunities to education, employment, and work-life balance, as well as access to healthcare. It enables a sense of belonging, respect, security, and independence. It also includes choices to participate in social activities, and the freedom to engage in one’s cultural and religious practices.

In particular, participants emphasised:

  • Basic needs must go beyond subsistence and enable “quality of life”;
  • The importance of independence and autonomy – not being a burden to loved ones, and being able to exercise preferences and choices;
  • Basic needs must enable social participation and connection to others.

Participants discussed and generated lists of items and services related to housing and utilities; things needed in a two-room HDB flat; personal care items and clothing; food; transport; leisure and cultural activities; and healthcare. Respondents explained their reasons for including items as basic needs. Their discussions shed light on how things such as travel, gifts, and special-occasion clothing matter for quality of life, independence and autonomy, and social connections.

Based on the detailed list of items and services, the budgets required to meet basic standards of living were:

  • $1,379 per month for single elderly households
  • $2,351 per month for coupled elderly households
  • $1,721 per month for single persons aged 55-64