Seniors discuss ideal place to grow old in

SINGAPORE -Some 60 seniors met to discuss their common concerns as part of the ongoing Singapore Conversation.

They found that despite having similar backgrounds, they held diverse views on the ideal place to grow old in.

They talked about the current ageing-in-place policy, where seniors remain in the community in their own homes.

Financial consultant Albert Lim, 67, suggested that space be set aside for retirement villages in non-central areas such as Woodlands.

"This would provide cheaper housing for the elderly, as there will be economies of scale in building retirement villages and the land value in these non-central areas is lower," he said.

But retired university lecturer Avadhani Popuri Nageswara, 79, felt that might isolate the elderly.

He suggested instead that the Government build a "niche" retirement community within each housing estate. "This would help integrate seniors better with the community at large," he argued.

The dialogue was organised by RSVP Singapore, an organisation of senior volunteers, at its headquarters in Junction 8 shopping centre.

The event was billed as part of the ongoing government consultation exercise on Singapore's future. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who heads the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) committee, was the guest of honour.

Most of the attendees were retired professionals, including doctors, civil servants and teachers.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Heng noted that the Housing Board's studio apartments, located in some housing estates, are a type of retirement village.

"The studio apartments allow the elderly to unlock the value of their existing flats and to live together with other seniors," he said.

The question, he said, is how the Government could enhance that and provide more elder-friendly facilities and activities for the senior residents.

Other issues raised included the need to inculcate right values in younger Singaporeans, age discrimination in the workplace, health care for seniors, features to enhance barrier-free access in housing estates and more government help for voluntary welfare organisations that help seniors.

In response, Mr Heng said the needs of the elderly in future would be different from those of today.

"In 20 years' time, the elderly at that point will be different. In terms of composition, I think there will be many more who are better educated, who have good jobs and so on, and we shouldn't be looking at the elderly like the way we look at the elderly (now)," he said.

Mr Heng also said an update on the OSC may be given next week.

twong@sph.com.sg

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