Health care key to good mix at new complex

SINGAPORE - The service mix at the new integrated building to be built in Woodlands would have looked a little different if some residents had had their way.

Said the MP for Sembawang GRC (Woodlands) Ellen Lee: "Some of my grassroots leaders asked, Instead of a medical centre or senior care services, why not build cinemas, a theatre or karaoke lounges to attract youngsters?"

In the end, the steering committee stuck to its guns. The medical centre would benefit all residents of Woodlands and not just the elderly, said Mr Liak Teng Lit, head of Alexandra Health.

Within three years of the opening of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun, 28 per cent of residents in the GRC, including children, have used its services.

A satellite centre at Admiralty means residents would not need to go all the way to hospital to see a specialist or for simple day surgery.

The multi-agency committee had consulted widely before deciding on the mix for the building.

They tried hard to have a library there because residents wanted one, but the National Library already has a Sembawang branch.

Ms Lee said a few residents also asked for religious services as "most elderly persons go to church, temples or mosques regularly".

Overall, she is delighted with the concept. Not only would elderly residents be self-sufficient, with a supermarket, medical centre, hawker centre, senior activities centre and shops in the building, but young working families would also benefit from the amenities.

In fact, it has the right elements for fostering a vibrant community spirit, said Housing Board chief executive Cheong Koon Hean.

Her deputy, Mr Yap Chin Beng, who co-chairs the steering committee with Mr Liak, said it "pushes the boundaries by bringing multiple agencies together to collaborate and co-create a quality living environment that best serves the community".

Another agency involved is the Ministry of Health's (MOH) Ageing Planning Office, which oversees and implements strategies in response to the needs of the greying population. In 20 years, one million people will be 65 or older.

Ms Teoh Zsin Woon, a deputy secretary at MOH, said the concept of the integrated building would enhance inter-generational bonding and promote active ageing.

"It is designed to provide a green and liveable living environment, with a range of social, health-care, commercial and other amenities in close proximity to support ageing in place."

Woodlands resident Eric Foo, 56, welcomed the idea, saying that running errands would be more convenient. "But hopefully the hawker centre and other noisy places will not be placed too close to the apartments," he said.

Associate Professor Johannes Widodo from the National University of Singapore's Department of Architecture added that such all-in-one developments were "good and necessary" for ageing populations.

"This type of building has been widely used in Japan's big cities. They combine a hospice with kindergarten, wards, shops, clinics and more in one block in the middle of the city.

"The impact for the elderly and kids is very positive," he said.

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