Ever since we were young, we have been taught by our parents and teachers to respect our elders. Asian cultures in particular advocate exalted reverence and admiration for the older generations. Through education and the media, children have been conditioned to accept that the elderly are older and thus, supposedly, wiser.

However, an older person does not necessarily equate to a more matured or civilised individual. Sad to say, it has been my general observation that the senior citizens in our country are not setting a prime example for the younger crowd to emulate. With such poor role models, I worry about the future.

I live in the heart of Chinatown, which is populated with an aging majority. Every so often, I get to notice first hand the ungracious behaviours of some of our senior citizens. The aged here are keenly aware that society places them on a pedestal, and so they go about behaving like it is their absolute right to be treated with privilege.

They also act as if the world owes them a living. Why do some of the elderly insist on abusing the elevated societal status accorded to them? Greater status comes with greater responsibility. Do our greying populace necessarily deserve the special treatment that we are instructed to bestow upon them? Respect does not automatically come with age, but has to be earned.

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If you want to see examples of our senior citizens misbehaving look no further than onboard our public transportations, such as on the buses and trains. The elderly amongst us are very likely to squeeze right in front of you, pushing and shoving with no consideration for your safety or comfort. Makes you want to throw your hands up in exasperation and go, “Eh aunty, what is the rush? Aiyoh, no need to be so kiasu la!”

The irony of it all is that the old and retired are supposed to have all the time in the world. They should be the ones taking it slow and easy, so as to savour their golden years to the fullest extent.

Just the other day, I was walking to the train station on my way to work when this plump aunty slammed right into my right arm causing me to drop my handbag. Some of the contents inside my bag spilled out and were scattered all over the pavement.

Even though it was she who bumped into me, I uttered a polite apology out of courtesy and force of habit. She started to lambast me in Mandarin as her willowy husband stood there with a disapproving sneer on his face.

I was abhorred by the old couple’s rudeness and lack of social etiquette. Not only was the elderly lady not sorry, she was totally being a mean bitch. I figured it was pointless to stay around to reason things with people with no class, and so I picked up my belongings and composed myself before leaving in a huff. The unpleasant incident totally ruined my day and left a very bitter aftertaste.

Nauseating visions of elderly men pissing and spitting on the streets openly in public are a common sight in my neighbourhood.

A few weeks back, I witnessed an elder spit right beside a child and her mother at the bus stop near my home. The annoyed mother proceeded to tell the old man that what he was doing was ethically wrong and that he could be fined for such unhygienic practices. The old man was offended and arrogantly reprimanded her for being out of line. Seriously now folks, who was truly being morally disrespectful in the first place?

You can also find older people throwing tantrums like little kids if they do not have it their way during lunchtime at the hawker centers. They cut the line seemingly oblivious to the queue of patrons in front of them and exhibit table manners that leave much to be desired. Raise your hands all you ladies out there who are just plain sick of disgusting leers, sexual taunts or wolf whistles from D.O.Ms who loiter around HDB void decks. If they are truly senile or uneducated, then such brash and uncivilised behaviour could perhaps be forgiven.

I feel that old people should do more constructive things with their retirement time rather than idle it away. They could perhaps engage in some volunteer work instead of being a nuisance to the public. Holistic and healthy communal activities such as tai chi or line dancing are great ways for them to live the rest of their lives to the fullest.

Yes, there are indeed some gracious nice old folks out there, just not enough of them. Now that all has been said, we will still gladly give up our seats to the elderly on the MRT and treat them with the utmost respect at all times.

Our senior citizens should also honour the younger generations and treat us civilly in return.

About the Author: Born to a Spanish father and a Japanese mother, Eliza was born and raised in Singapore. She is a journalist by profession and a member of Mensa. Fluent in English, Mandarin and Spanish, this sophisticated babe also plays the piano and possesses a black belt in karate. She currently shuttles between Singapore and New York City, where her boyfriend works as a banker. In her spare time, Eliza reads poetry and writes screenplays for indie Hollywood filmmakers.

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