Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Residents soften NIMBY stance on eldercare centres

Residents soften NIMBY stance on eldercare centres
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 14 Apr 2014

Eldercare facilities are opening their spaces to the community, in a move aimed at addressing fierce opposition by some residents when plans to build these centres were announced two years ago.

Regular updates on their construction are also being provided, which Members of Parliament (MPs) said may have led to the softening of the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) attitude some residents held previously.

The Sree Narayana Mission Multi-Service Centre in Woodlands Street 83 — a daycare facility for the elderly — has set aside a study corner for students on weekdays, for instance.

Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee said she has not received any complaints since the centre opened about a year ago, a contrast to the controversy that broke out in February 2012 when 90 per cent of the residents in one block launched a petition against the move. Some residents had feared the loss of their communal space.

“I think there are still NIMBY sentiments, but not as intense as before because MPs have taken the extra precaution of making the information available to their residents before any facilities are introduced,” said Ms Lee.

Earlier this month, charity organisation Ren Ci unveiled a new nursing home in Bukit Batok, which will allow the public to use its multi-purpose hall and gymnasium after working hours. Residents in the estate had previously objected to the home and expressed concerns about possible traffic congestion and the loss of a hard court area for recreational activities.

The Health Ministry plans to build 10 new nursing homes islandwide by 2016. An MOH spokesperson told TODAY that some of the new homes have been designed to incorporate communal space, which can be used by the local community. “We hope that such communal spaces within our nursing homes can engender a greater sense of community spirit,” the MOH spokesperson added.

Most residents TODAY spoke to welcomed the eldercare facilities in their neighbourhoods, citing reasons such as the added convenience it brings to the elderly living nearby.

But some, such as a Woodlands resident who wanted only to be known as Ms Hasina, remained unconvinced. While the seniors at the centre have not caused her any inconvenience, she lamented that residents no longer have the option to use the void deck for recreational activities. “I can’t change this issue, we just have to adapt,” said the housewife, who has been living in Block 861 for 16 years.

At Tanjong Rhu, where some Jalan Batu residents had protested against the opening of a senior care centre, others have “kept an open mind” despite their initial objections, said Mr Lim Biow Chuan, the area’s MP.

“I met a few of the residents who had objected and arranged for them to be taken around the centre. They were impressed and happy with the facilities, which they felt would be useful to their neighbours,” he added.

At Bishan Street 13, where construction of a nursing home has begun, the MOH and the contractor keep in close touch with residents whenever there are matters to be addressed, said Mr Wong Kan Seng, the ward’s MP.

In 2012, about 40 residents had petitioned against the home, arguing that the building, which is to be built on an existing football field, would deprive children of the recreational space and block the breeze coming into their flats.

MPs said they expect situations in which residents do not want certain types of amenities in their neighbourhood to emerge again. “I think there will always be people who would rather not have (the eldercare facilities),” said Mr Lim, who felt this could be prevented if dialogues are held before a decision is made.

“At the end of the day, one option at that point in time is to say that, ‘Well, if everyone is against it, we won’t put up an eldercare centre at that block’,” Mr Lim added. “But that, to me, is a cop out and it will not be good for the residents.”

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