THE number of elderly people living alone is likely to increase to 83,000 by 2030 - up from 35,000 now.
This number does not include seniors who are left alone at home when their children head out for work in the day.
The rising number of isolated seniors is a cause for concern, said Madam Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, at an ageing forum yesterday.
'It is important that when their sons or daughters go to work and the elderly are living alone, there's someone to pop in and say 'how are you',' she said.
She also said widening the scope of senior activity centres (SACs) to reach out to such vulnerable seniors is crucial.
The centres in their current form will not be effective in meeting future needs, she added, noting that there will be more single seniors, and many will not live in rental flats.
Currently, these centres are located at the void decks of selected one- and two-room rental blocks. They will now also cater to those not living in rental flats.
This means that more elderly folk will benefit from current measures implemented by some centres, which send staff or volunteers to make weekly home visits.
Such measures are important against the backdrop of recent reports about the elderly dying alone at home. In the latest case just three days ago, an 81-year-old man was found dead in his Jurong rental flat by his neighbours. He is believed to have fallen in the kitchen.
Since 2007, more than 50 elderly people have been found dead in their homes.
Some rental flats have an Alert Alarm System, where the elderly can pull a cord to get help from centre staff.
An electronic display box outside the home will also be activated so that neighbours can offer help after office hours.
Retiree Lim Ngak Boon, 73, has fallen down thrice in his flat in Toa Payoh in the last two years, but the alarm system has brought swift help each time.
Yet this system may not be helpful for the elderly if they cannot access the cords because of a fall or if they feel faint.
This is why Lion Befrienders, which operates four SACs and will open three more by the year end, piloted a project in 2009 that installed wireless motion sensors in the homes of two senior citizens living alone.
If the sensors detect a lack of motion for a pre-set period of time, an SMS will be sent to alert a caregiver or volunteer.
Lion Befrienders hopes to install these sensors in 1,000 homes within one year.
With more SACs being built over the next few years and greater resources pumped in to widen their reach, it is necessary for them to adopt such systems, said those who work with the elderly.
'Many elderly folk are resistant to other living arrangements. They have got used to living alone for so many years, they wouldn't want any changes,' said Mr Anthony Teo, a senior programme coordinator at Thong Kheng SAC.
The forum, an annual event, brought together 200 business, government and community leaders from more than 13 countries to address key issues that will have an impact on government policies towards eldercare. It was organised by consultancy firm Ageing Asia.
Additional reporting by Miranda Yeo and Sara Pua