Ageing Singapore to get first retirement village

Ageing Singapore to get first retirement village

SINGAPORE - After more than two decades of debate and deliberation, Singapore's first retirement living community will finally be built at Jalan Jurong Kechil.

Property developer World Class Land (WCL), a subsidiary of jewellery group Aspial Corp, told The Sunday Times last week that it plans to build the facility on a 10,170 sq m plot of land, roughly the size of 11/2 football fields.

It won a tender last November by offering close to $75 million for the 60-year leasehold land earmarked for residential use.

The tender documents said the developer is free to build private flats, condominium units or a retirement living community. At the time, WCL did not reveal which option it would take up.

Contacted last week, a spokesman said the company is excited about the project, but is not ready to reveal what will come up. "The details are still in the planning stage and subject to approval from the authorities," she said.

The project has to be completed within five years of the tender being awarded, which means by November in 2017.

A spokesman for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the site was released with special conditions "to facilitate the development of a private retirement housing product by the market".

These include:

A choice of 30-year, 45-year or 60-year lease options, all shorter than the usual 99 years. The developer tendered for the 60-year option.

Special provision of elder-friendly services. The developer, for instance, can use the 10 per cent bonus gross floor area to build services such as medical clinics and "communal living facilities" like activity rooms and a cafeteria or restaurant.

Removal of restrictions on the maximum number of units that can be built - popularly known as the "anti-shoebox rule". This will allow the developer to build smaller studio apartments popular in retirement communities overseas.

Singapore is among the fastest ageing countries in the world. The number of those aged 65 and above will nearly double over the next few years, from 352,000 in 2011 to 600,000 by 2020.

The news of the future development was applauded by retirees, like Mr Ngiam Tong Yuen, who have been waiting for such living options for years.

The engineer and his wife, Jean, who are in their mid-70s, live in a spacious bungalow in Braddell Heights. "This place is far too big for us," he said.

But a smaller flat is not all that he is looking for.

"A retirement community can offer seniors much-needed companionship from like-minded peers," said the father of two adult children.

"That's especially vital if, as you age, you lose your spouse or your friends."

Senior living champions such as Mr Tan Kee Hian, while equally excited, added a word of caution.

"A senior living facility is much more than building just a block of flats," said Mr Tan, who spent two years trying to raise capital to start a retirement village. Its value comes from the services, facilities and on-site care management, such as having a dedicated village manager to deliver high-quality services and nurture a community.

"I hope the developers pay heed not just to the housing needs but also the lifestyle and care services, which are what seniors want and value more."

While Mr Tan hopes more land with similar senior-friendly incentives will be made available for retirement villages, the authorities are taking a more cautious approach.

Said the URA spokesman: "We are monitoring the response and outcome of this pilot site before deciding whether more such sites will be released in future."

radhab@sph.com.sg


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