Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2015
The literature on widows and widowers has focused mostly on coping and adjustment aspects as well as factors that have enhanced the adaptation of the surviving spouse to the newly achieved status of widow or widower (Lopata 1973, 1987, 1996; Silverman 1986; Utz et al. 2002; Chambers 2005). It has been reiterated that gender is a mediating factor that explains different strategies of adjustment, and that socio-cultural or contextual influences have a bearing on the choices made by the surviving spouses. Against this scenario, a multi-disciplinary research project titled “Widowhood: The Asian Experience” was undertaken on widows and widowers age 50 years and above in Singapore in 1997– 2000, funded by the National University of Singapore, because of a lack of research on this particular age group.
THE SINGAPORE CONTEXT
According to the Singapore Census of Population 1990 and 2000, there were 127,300 widows and 129,200 widowers in Singapore (Singapore Census of Population 1990 Release No. 1: 51 and Singapore Census of Population 2000 Advanced Release No. 8: 1). While widowhood is not related to chronological age, the demographics show that the majority of widowed persons belong to the age group 50 years and above. Two key points should be mentioned here. First, Singapore is a rapidly ageing society and the percentage of its population 65 years and above will increase from 7 per cent in 1999 to 19 per cent in 2030 (Inter-Ministerial Report on the Ageing Population 1999). Second, because of the gender differentials in life expectancy and the fact that women tend to marry men older than themselves, the phenomenon of “feminization” of ageing occurs, that is, in the older age groups women form the majority. Owing to these two demographic factors, there are a larger number of widows as compared to widowers above the age of 65 years in Singapore. The proportion ratio is about 5:1 (Singapore Census of Population 2010).