Thursday 26 January 2012

New welfare programme for elderly - "Hands For Homes"

By Evelyn Choo, Channel NewsAsia, 23 Jan 2012 

A new welfare programme, providing housekeeping services for the elderly living in the central district, will begin in April.

Called "Hands For Homes", it will replace mattresses to prevent bedbug infestations - a common problem among senior citizens living in rental flats.

Some 6,000 households stand to benefit over the next three years.

A rental flat of 72-year-old Yeo Hock Soon used to be infested with bedbugs.

But with his mattress replaced, Mr Yeo can now sleep comfortably at night.

"We threw away everything, but then the dog still managed to sniff out two bugs! If it didn't, the bugs would have multiplied. We needed to get rid of everything," said Mr Yeo.

The issue had been a bugbear for many living in the block of flats at Chin Swee Road, with four in ten households facing this problem.

Mr Koh Chui Seng, programme coordinator at the Kreta Ayer Seniors Activity Centre, said: "A few of our members, because their house has a lot of these bedbugs, when they come down to our centre, it makes a few of our members feel very scared - they want to keep away from (them)."

Two-thirds of Singapore's HDB rental flats are housed in the central district, with most of its residents being elderly with little or no income. They are the targets of this programme, which aims to provide housekeeping services and distribute elderly-friendly household items.

Besides mattresses, residents will receive induction cookers to enhance kitchen safety, and have energy-efficient light bulbs installed in their homes. They will also receive non-slip mats to prevent falls.

It will take an estimated S$200,000 a year to run the programme.

Spearheading it is the Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Dr Lily Neo, who admits that manpower will also be an issue.

Dr Neo says Hands for Homes will require six to 10 volunteers per flat.

She said: "There are days when I can't find volunteers to help me with the eradication process, then I will tap on some of the residents - elderly or those who are capable - who are willing to volunteer their time. So I'm tapping on them by reimbursing them."

Hands for Homes will be piloted in Tanjong Pagar GRC from April 2012. The programme will then be expanded to other GRCs in the district, such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan-Toa Payoh and Moulmein-Kallang. 

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