SINGAPORE - When Tampines resident Lee Yi Qin heard about a new flat type for seniors in her neighbourhood more than 15 years ago, she was instantly drawn to it.
She visited the showroom and was impressed by the flat's elderly-friendly features. They included handbars, support railings, light switches and peepholes at a lower level, and alarm cords that could be activated during an emergency.
Each flat was also in move-in condition, with floor tiles, wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, a stove top and a water heater for the bathroom in place.
There would also be an array of activities to keep her occupied, as there would be a centre on the second storey for communal activities.
Madam Lee, 79, who applied for a flat with her husband, is a resident of Golden Pines, Singapore's earliest studio apartment block.
While the block is largely well-kept with brightly lit and clean corridors, as well as benches at each level for residents to rest, Madam Lee, who downgraded from a four-room flat, admitted she has some regrets over the switch.
Speaking in Mandarin to The New Paper at the void deck of the block, she said: "I was in such a rush to sell my flat so I could move in here and I didn't get a good price. My old place was near the MRT station. If I sell it now, imagine how much money I would have made."
She had sold her four-room flat for $250,000 and bought the studio apartment for $70,000. Her husband died about 10 years ago.
Madam Lee added with a laugh: "Now, not much of the money we made is left."
Her concerns were shared by several elderly residents at the studio apartment block, a sentiment which National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser did not find surprising.
Dr Tan said: "These seniors are regretful because they feel they now have less savings than expected and a smaller flat, where they previously had a larger flat."
But Dr Tan said they might not have taken into account the fact that they could possibly not have been able to afford the goods and services they had bought if they had not monetised their previous properties.
Studio apartments were introduced in 1998 to provide a housing and monetisation option for the elderly.
The Government has since introduced other monetisation options.
Golden Pines, a 15-storey and 208-unit block located at Tampines Street 81, was the first studio apartment block to be completed in 2001.
Of its buyers, a third were Tampines residents, according to reports then.