Government to make S'pore 'age friendly'

PHOTO: Government to make S'pore 'age friendly'

As Singapore faces a rapidly ageing population, it is essential that the Government prepares for this well ahead of time, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament today.

By 2030, the population of seniors above 65 years old will nearly triple to reach over 900,000, and one in five residents will be over 65 years old.

Mr Gan said that a survey by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA) showed that seniors here prefer to age in place gracefully and with dignity, within a closely knit community.

Thus, MCA has identified "ageing-in-place" as a key focus, to be achieved through 1) building an inclusive environment and 2) providing good aged care.

Inclusive Environment

Mr Gan highlighted the need for Singapore to become "age-friendly", so that seniors can move around safely and confidently within their homes and also within the community.

To achieve this,the Government has rolled out the Enhancement for Active Seniors programme, to make HDB flats safer for seniors, and the City For All Ages project, which improves the environment within the town to help the mobility of seniors.

In tandem, MCA will continue to promote active ageing by promoting follow-up post screening, to minimise the risk of downstream health complications for seniors. MCA will also promote senior volunteerism and lifelong learning.

MCA is also seeking to integrate elder services with housing developments, such as studio apartments which come with elder care centres at the ground floor, said Mr Gan.

He encouraged private developers to build retirement housing as a specific area of silver industry the Government is striving to promote.

Good aged care

The second area of MCA's focus is to enhance aged care in terms of better accessibility, affordability and quality, Mr Gan said.

Most urgently, aged care services and facilities need to be improved upon in terms of access, as it takes several years to build the infrastructure and train the manpower, he added.

By 2020, the number of nursing home beds will be increased by about 70 per cent to 15,600 beds, to meet the needs of severely dependent seniors.

Other changes include doubling the capacity of home-based healthcare services, more than tripling the capacity of home-based social care and tripling the number of day social and rehabilitative care places.

MCA will also support families in caring for their loved ones at home, through a $120 grant per month for families to hire a maid and stepping up caregiver training.

Mr Gan also announced that the government will bear the full capital cost of expanding aged care services for voluntary welfare organisations under a Build-Own-Lease (BOL) model.

For private operators, MCA will be opening up the provision of subsidised nursing home services through the use of portable subsidies or, inviting the private operators to tender to operate BOL projects.

In all this, the Government will ensure healthcare for the elderly is affordable, said Mr Gan.

He said middle income families will be extended government subsidies, while the lower income will enjoy even higher subsidies. About 30 per cent more patients will see their financial burden of long-term care eased, he said.

However, the quality of aged care will not be compromised, where services will be improved upon for greater efficiency.

For instance, Integrated Day Facilities will be built within communities, to serve as "one-stop" facilities providing both health and social care services, he said.