Monday 13 February 2012

Plans for Woodlands eldercare centre to proceed

By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 11 Feb 2012

THE Health Ministry is going ahead with plans for a daycare centre for the elderly in the void decks of two Woodlands blocks, but will take into consideration the concerns of residents who petitioned against it.

To address their concerns about noise and traffic congestion, the ministry said the centre will be sound-proofed and air-conditioned, its opening hours would be limited, and a transport service would take old people to the centre without adding to traffic or parking woes.

The decision to go ahead came even as a voluntary welfare organisation launched an online petition to make people aware of the need for elder-care services and garner support for such centres.

The petition - 'Say yes to eldercare services' - was started by the Marine Parade Family Service Centre and urges Singaporeans to speak out against those who oppose having elder-care facilities in their neighbourhood.

Launched on Thursday, it had attracted more than 1,700 signatures as of yesterday.

Most family service centres are located at the void decks of Housing Board blocks to make social services accessible to the public.

The family service centre's chief executive, Mr Samuel Ng, initiated the petition with some of his younger social workers.

'We want to rally civic-minded individuals to make a stand for public resources to be accessible to our seniors,' he told The Straits Times.

'They have contributed so much to our nation and it's the least we can do for them.'

The Health Ministry's decision on the Woodlands centre was conveyed in a letter to Ms Ellen Lee, a Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC, on Wednesday.

Some of her residents had petitioned against having the 570 sq m daycare centre at the void decks of blocks 860 and 861 in Woodlands Street 83.

Some said the area was already overcrowded with other public facilities. Others were concerned about increased traffic, and there were also those who said such a centre for old people would prove 'inauspicious' as there might be more deaths there.

The petition, signed by 53 of the 60 households in Block 861, was sent to Ms Lee on Jan 3.

The ministry said in its letter to the MP that the service is relevant to the Woodlands area as more than 12,000 of its residents are 65 years old and above. Most existing elder-care service providers were operating at full capacity, it added.

The location was chosen because it is near public transport and has ramp access.

The ministry pointed out that residents in the area would benefit from having such a centre in their neighbourhood when it is completed by the end of the year.

Sree Narayana Mission, a charity which will run the daycare centre, is prepared to provide services such as health screening and home care for residents who do not use the centre.

The ministry will also work with Sree Narayana Mission to allay residents' concerns, and these are some steps they will take:
- Space will be set aside at the void decks for residents, or extra space may be created by building extensions;
- The centre will be sound-proofed and air-conditioned to minimise noise, and will be open from 8am to 8pm;
- There will be a transport service for the elderly using the centre, to minimise traffic and demand for parking spaces;
- More safety features, such as road humps and signboards, will be put up;
- A community garden will be built near the centre to address concerns that the area is too built-up.
Ms Lee, the MP, said she has visited all 120 households in the two blocks to brief residents about the measures proposed by the ministry.

'Most of the residents were supportive of the decision after I clarified with them that their concerns would be addressed,' she said.

One of those who had opposed having the centre, retiree Cheong Peng Kiat, 68, said he was not entirely happy with the ministry's decision to go ahead, but would live with it.

He said: 'I am now trying to gather the residents to work on what suggestions and feedback we want to submit.

'One suggestion is for the centre to take up less space.'

Retiree Chew Yew Tong, who had all along supported having the centre, said he and his wife were looking forward to using it.

'It's going to be very convenient for us,' said the 77-year-old.

Petitions to counter residents' uproar over eldercare services
By Hetty Musfirah, Channel NewsAsia, 10 Feb 2012

News of some residents petitioning against plans to build elderly-friendly facilities in their neighbourhood has prompted some Singaporeans to start a movement to counter the uproar.

In the past two weeks, some residents in Woodlands were up in arms over the proposed construction of an elder day-care centre at the void decks of Blocks 860 and 861 at Woodlands Street 83.

They are worried that building an elder-care centre at their void decks may mean more deaths in the area.

Meanwhile residents in Toh Yi Drive were unhappy over the proposed plans to build a studio apartment block for the elderly near their homes.

Such reactions prompted a group of social workers from Marine Parade Family Service Centre to act.

CEO of Marine Parade Family Service Centre, Samuel Ng, said: "The feedback by my colleagues, the social workers, and friends are that people are getting very upset. Some even say 'what has our society become? Are we (seeing) the downfall of our social values?'

"So...rather than sit there, get angry, lament and life goes on...the younger social workers took on the challenge."

They set up a "I Love Seniors" group on Facebook.

A petition, "Say 'Yes' To Eldercare Services", is also gaining buzz online.

The petition was launched on Thursday night.

And in less than 24 hours, it garnered over 1,400 signatures.

Mr Ng said: " We are not trying to say we want to gather 10,000 (signatures) or whatever.

"We hope this petition is but a platform for people to come on board and voice their value statement, to give their comments...we hope eventually we would say, 'yes, these are the values we want to adhere to'."

The social workers said they are very encouraged by the response so far and are now looking at other ideas to spread the message further.

Elderly residents living near the Golden Jasmine studio apartments at Bishan have also weighed in on the outcry.

Many said they welcome the idea of having the studio apartments in their backyard as they too can enjoy the facilities like the Econ Health and Wellness Centre.

A Bishan resident, Theresa Lim, said: "They can come in and join...the talks, get-together and the exercise. The surrounding is quite clean, there's not much of old people to do any unhygienic action or something like that."

Stakeholders suggest having more facilities involving different groups of residents to help build rapport with the elderly.

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