Vital for eldercare centres to be within community: Gan

SINGAPORE - It is important to site senior care facilities within the community, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong Friday, revealing that the Government is looking for more places to build them.

He said this at the opening of a Jalan Batu senior care centre, the fourth such facility to open this year. Six or seven more will open by early next year, he said.

"Overall, we're looking at 100 facilities of different types but similar to this," he said.

Residents have complained of eldercare centres being built in their estates in the past. Some Jalan Batu residents also protested against the centre's location in the Blocks 10 and 11 void decks.

That sparked a counter-petition by 500 residents, who said they wanted such facilities in their neighbourhood. These residents had their wish.

The centre, called Friends Plus and Friends Special, is run by St Hilda's Church, with St Andrew's Community Hospital (SACH) offering medical support. SACH chief executive officer Loh Yik Hin said a nurse will be at the centre on weekdays to provide home nursing to those in the area. If need be, the hospital, which provides the centre with therapists, will send a doctor.

Mr Gan told more than 400 residents, caregivers and volunteers at the opening: "Part of the reason why we want to locate aged-care facilities in the community, aside from making aged care more accessible, is also to tap on the energy and the 'heartware' already existing in the community, to foster a more inclusive environment for our seniors to age in."

He said on the sidelines of the event that, on the whole, Singaporeans accept that the need of the bigger community is important.

He said these centres not only bring health screening to the heartland, but also get older people to strengthen themselves via exercise, helping to prevent falls, all of which is a central part in Singapore's health-care strategy.

The centre offers volunteer opportunities too. Lasalle College of the Arts students, for instance, conduct art therapy there.

The Jalan Batu centre cost $1 million to set up, with the Health Ministry footing 90 per cent of the bill. It offers rehabilitation, day care and social services.

Mr V. Balasubramaniam, 88, said he and his wife go there for physiotherapy. He also drops by to socialise "any time I'm free".

But Friends Plus and Friends Special is not only for seniors. It also gives free tuition to about 30 primary school pupils.

Said Mr Gan: "Through these activities, we bring in the old as well as the young to bond within the same facility."

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