Tuesday 24 July 2012

Eldercare facilities 'need to be in estates': Health Minister Gan Kim Yong

Younger folk can benefit from such centres too, says Health Minister
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2012

IN THE latest call to Singaporeans to counter the not-in-my-backyard (Nimby) syndrome, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday urged greater understanding on the building of eldercare facilities in housing estates.

These facilities need to be sited within the community so that the elderly can age in place, he said, adding that they could also cater to younger residents.

'We have to recognise that we do have challenges with an ageing population, and we need to build good facilities to serve our elderly in time to come,' he said, after visiting eldercare facilities as part of a ministerial tour of the Bukit Timah ward.

Mr Gan is the latest minister to speak on the Nimby syndrome, which remains a hot topic ever since several groups of residents protested against the building of eldercare facilities in their estates.

In February, some residents in Woodlands petitioned against the building of an eldercare centre in a void deck. That same month, another group in Toh Yi Drive - in Bukit Timah - also objected to building studio apartments for the elderly.

Yesterday, Mr Gan took pains to explain the need for such facilities within the neighbourhood, while speaking to reporters after his visit.

With land being scarce, he said that 'there is really no outlying spaces for us to build these facilities, so it's inevitable that many of them will be in the community'.

Also, he added, eldercare facilities need to be built near where elderly residents live.

At the same time, the minister acknowledged the concerns that some people had about such facilities. These have included noise and the impact on housing prices.

He said the Government would engage residents to find out how to address those needs, and called on Singaporeans to come forward with ideas so the authorities could fine-tune the design and programmes of the facilities.

In this way, he added, they could 'tailor the facilities to the needs of the community and better balance the interests of those who are living there, and those who need the facilities'.

During his ministerial visit, Mr Gan drew encouragement from what he saw at St Luke's ElderCare centre in Clementi.

There, younger people accompanying elderly relatives were allowed to use the centre's exercise equipment.

'I think it's important to encourage our eldercare facilities to work closely with the community so they can see them as part of the infrastructure, not so much of a burden or liability,' he said.

Elderly residents such as Mrs Angela Mak, 63, and her husband Mak Yew Long, 64, agreed.

The retired couple drop in regularly at the centre to use the exercise equipment and meet other residents.

'I think we should have more daycare facilities like this,' said Mrs Mak.

'I don't understand why some people don't want them around their estate. All of us will grow old some day, so we need these kinds of facilities.'

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