Friday 18 November 2011

Removing hurdles in the way of elderly

Marine Parade town levelling kerbs, steps to help seniors get around in pilot project
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 18 Nov 2011

WHEELCHAIR-BOUND Lim Chew Kee used to look for ramps whenever she made her way around Marine Parade estate.

Now, with the estate embarking on a project to level most of its kerbs and steps, the 70-year-old need no longer plan her routes beforehand when she goes out for meals.

'I can be wheeled anywhere now. There are no fixed points which I have to go to, to get around,' said Madam Lim, a housewife, who has been living in Marine Parade for the past 26 years.

The improvement works mark the beginning of the second phase of a Marine Parade pilot scheme which looks into the needs of elderly residents and how to support them better.

Ideas that work may be replicated in other towns. Marine Parade was selected for the pilot - announced last December - because it has a high proportion of elderly Housing Board residents. According to HDB figures in 2008, 23.4 per cent of Marine Parade residents were aged 65 or older.

During the first phase, which has been completed, surveys, focus-group discussions and audits were carried out to understand the needs of senior residents. During the second phase, ideas and recommendations will be implemented.

The levelling of the kerbs is among suggestions from 2,600 elderly residents polled. Over the past three months, steps and kerbs around seven blocks in Marine Drive and Marine Terrace have been levelled. Work will be completed at 17 other blocks by the end of next March. By the end of 2015, most of the estate's 73 blocks will have been covered.

More improvement works will be carried out in the months ahead. About 500 homes will be retrofitted with elderly-friendly features. Work is expected to commence next year.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of National Development (MND) worked with grassroots organisations to identify six senior households in Marine Parade who were representative of the different types of flats within the estate.

Flat audits were then conducted by occupational therapists to assess whether the seniors faced any difficulties in conducting their daily activities within the home.

Over the next year, MND will test a set of modifications, such as anti-slip floor tiles and grab bars in bathrooms, levelled steps in the home, and larger peepholes for doors.

This will be accompanied by briefing sessions on fall prevention and on how to use the new home modifications properly.

Over the past few weeks, Marine Parade Senior Activity Centre staff have visited some 166 seniors who live alone and referred them to a group of about 70 volunteer nurses and social workers. These nurses and social workers have been visiting the seniors to assess the condition of their health and refer them to the services that they need.

Under the 'Nice' - or Nurses' Initiative for the Community's Elderly - scheme, the nurses are matched to the elderly based on dialect, race and health condition.

The town council in Marine Parade is also looking at introducing other elderly-friendly features in the estate, such as better designed seats, larger signboards, and drain covers with smaller gaps so that wheelchairs do not become trapped.

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