Sunday 30 September 2012

More than 100 facilities for elderly to be built in estates

Sites within neighbourhoods identified for first batch of centres
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2012

MORE than 100 facilities to provide care for the elderly will be built within communities over the next three years as the country gears up to meet the needs of an ageing population.

The amenities, developed by the Ministries of Health and Community Development, Youth and Sports at a cost of $500 million, will be ready by 2016.

Sites - for 10 nursing homes, 21 of 39 senior care centres, and 45 of 55 senior activity centres - have been identified. The ministries will inform residents before making the exact locations public.

This is just the first batch of facilities. The plan is for every neighbourhood to have its own aged-care facilities.

Announcing this yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said: "By locating these facilities within the community, seniors can continue to age in place gracefully near their loved ones and within an environment they are familiar with."

He hopes residents living near these new facilities will "welcome and embrace" these amenities and view them as necessary. Mr Gan told The Straits Times that he hopes not to see a repeat of the "not-in-my-backyard", or Nimby, syndrome that had cropped up in some areas.

Residents of Bishan had complained when they found out that a nursing home was to be built in their estate. Residents of Woodlands and Tanjong Rhu had objected to plans for eldercare centres, and people living in Toh Yi Drive were against proposals to build studio apartments for the elderly.

Once suitable sites are found for nursing homes, Mr Gan said, they will not be changed, even if there are strong protests from residents. Instead, the authorities will try to explain to residents why that site is necessary.

If there are other suitable sites nearby, they too might be developed, as a total of 20-25 nursing homes, adding 6,600 beds, need to be built by 2020.

Mr Gan, attending the mid-Autumn Festival celebration at Man Fut Tong Nursing Home in Woodlands, said that, in 20 years' time, one in five people here, including him, will be over age 65.

"How we respond to the needs of some 20 per cent of the population will surely define us as a society. I hope that we will be a society that embraces ageing and our seniors with a big and loving heart," he said.

"Having a heart for our seniors means planning ahead to ensure that they will be well-supported when they need to be cared for."

Senior care centres provide daycare for the frail elderly and those with dementia, rehabilitation, and basic nursing services. At senior activity centres, the elderly can make friends and provide social support for each other.

Nursing homes will be leased to operators - either voluntary welfare organisations or commercial operators. Over half the beds will be for poorer residents supported by government subsidy.

While senior care centres and senior activity centres can be located in Housing Board blocks, nursing homes require about 0.3ha of land and their sites should be within reach of public transport to make family visits easier.

Mr Tan Tau Tin, 63, pops into the Man Fut Tong Nursing Home at least once a day to visit his 102-year-old mother, Madam Tan Cheng Jang, as he lives nearby. "It would be difficult to visit so often if the home were far away," said the retired cook.

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