SINGAPORE - Social workers and health-care staff must join forces to look after the elderly as the population ages, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing urged on Monday.
"In 10 to 15 years, the landscape of Singapore will be drastically different," added Mr Chan.
The changes involve "new and emerging social needs" that range from taking care of more elderly people to providing them with companionship.
Mr Chan was speaking at a graduation ceremony for students from the School of Health Sciences at Nanyang Polytechnic - including the first 25 to complete its new social work programme. Some 1,600 received their diplomas on Monday.
He said Singapore needs a holistic system that meets the elderly's medical and socio-emotional needs by bringing together health care and social support.
"More important than the quantity of students we can graduate to join the sector is the quality of ideas that we have," he added.
He advised students to keep in touch with their peers from the other faculties and to treasure the friendships they had forged.
"The way to develop new ideas, new models of care... does not require only strong institutional links, it also requires personal links," he said.
Graduate Theodore Koh said he felt proud to be part of the pioneer batch of social work programme students.
The 20-year-old - one of eight men on the programme - added: "I've grown a lot in this course. I've learnt skills on how to talk to people, help people and empower people to achieve their dreams."
Mr Chan also presented awards to the top seven graduates. Among them was Mr Joshua Tan, who received the Lee Kuan Yew award, which is given to the top technology or computer-science students from each polytechnic.
The 20-year-old information technology graduate said his love affair with the subject began in primary school. He started creating websites at the age of just 10.
At a separate ceremony on Monday, Mr Tan received an award in recognition of his all-round achievements, which included taking part in IT contests and volunteering at community events.
The inaugural prize is sponsored by Ngee Ann Kongsi, which made its first donation of $3 million to Nanyang Polytechnic on Monday.
The gift - which will also fund 30 scholarships and bursaries for financially needy students each year - is the largest received by the school.
All together, more than 5,800 students from Nanyang Polytechnic will graduate this year.
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