Friday, 28 August 2015

$3 billion plan to help seniors age well: Action Plan for Successful Ageing

$3 billion plan to help seniors live more fulfilling lives
On the cards are active ageing hubs and programmes for learning and volunteering
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2015

In a push to brighten the golden years, a $3 billion five-year plan will give Singapore's seniors opportunities to learn, volunteer and live independently, well after retirement.

The new Action Plan for Successful Ageing will open senior centres for social activities as well as daycare in at least 10 upcoming HDB projects, and launch a free PAssion Silver card with perks for those aged 60 and over. Up to $200 million could also be set aside for ageing-related research.

Announcing the measures yesterday, Health Minister and Minister- in-charge of Ageing Gan Kim Yong said the goal was to help seniors live more fulfilling lives.

"The ageing population need not be a burden to us," said Mr Gan. "In fact, longevity is something that we can celebrate."

There have been similar government-initiated plans for active ageing in the past, for instance in 2010, when $100 million was set aside to keep seniors healthy and involved in their communities.

By 2030, one in five people - or some 900,000 - will be aged over 65. By then, there will be only 2.1 working-age citizens to support each one aged 65 or above, compared with 5.2 as of last year.

In coming up with this action plan, the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, of which Mr Gan is chairman, spoke with more than 4,000 Singaporeans young and old over the past year.

The plan will also launch a National Seniors' Health Programme to address ageing-related health concerns that aims to reach out to at least 400,000 seniors aged 50 or above by 2030.

Active ageing hubs will be built in future Housing Board developments. They will be similar to senior activity centres but larger, said Mr Gan, and incorporate both social programmes and rehabilitation or daycare services.

Other plans on the cards include more elderly-friendly public transport and even therapeutic gardens designed to help seniors who have dementia and stroke.

Ms Peh Kim Choo, director of the Tsao Foundation's Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing, said the changes were a breath of fresh air.

In the 1990s and into the 2000s, she said, much of the conversation about ageing revolved around the problems to be caused by the so-called silver tsunami.

"But this time round, it paints a vision. It talks about possibilities for the person growing old," she said.

Ms Anthea Ong, president of the Women's Initiative for Ageing Successfully (Wings), also welcomed the "systemic effort" to reframe ageing as an exciting and productive phase of life.

And if things go according to plan, this will be just the start.

"We hope people will come forward with more suggestions as time goes on," Mr Gan said.

Ms Serena Seah, 58, said activities such as cooking courses could interest housewives with grown children, who would have the time. She attends courses such as line dancing to keep fit and mobile.

Here's a glance at the highlights of the Action Plan for Successful Ageing, a $3billion national plan to help Singaporeans age confidently and lead active lives, with strong bonds with family and community.
Posted by Ministry of Health on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Legwork crucial' for active ageing scheme to succeed
Social service professionals highlight need to reach out to seniors who have little education or lack Internet access
By Linette Lai and Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2015

Building facilities for senior citizens is not enough. They must also have a reason to get out of their homes and participate in activities, social service professionals told The Straits Times yesterday.

They urged the Government to keep this in mind after it announced the Action Plan for Successful Ageing on Wednesday, saying that programmes must appeal to a wide range of interests and efforts must be made to involve those who are socially isolated.

"You can't have a fixed programme and expect every senior to love it," said Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee, who has spent more than 30 years working in social services.

"What you can do is have a place... for seniors to come find out what is available, become friends, and form cliques and interest groups."

Spearheaded by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, the $3 billion five-year plan will give Singaporeans the opportunity to learn, volunteer and live independently long after retirement.

Infrastructure improvements such as active ageing hubs and eldercare centres in at least 10 new Housing Board projects are on the cards. More details will be revealed next year.

Ms Janice Chia, founder of social enterprise Ageing Asia, suggested offering incentives such as membership fee rebates to keep seniors coming back for schemes to encourage healthy living.

"It's not about giving someone a membership and just building the facilities," she said. "You need to drive them to want to do it."

She added that fitness centres should be staffed with trainers who motivate seniors "like they would their own parents".

Mr Ee said a lot of legwork has to be done to involve socially isolated people who may have little education or access to the Internet.

"If there is a flier, they don't know what it is about," he explained.

"So the only way to reach out to them is legwork, volunteers go down and befriend them... there is no substitute for that."

Some senior citizens told The Straits Times that they are interested in finding out more about the action plan.

"I've just stopped working, so it's been very boring," said former receptionist Alice Choo, 57.

"I would be interested to learn maybe computer skills or cooking, but there's nothing solid out yet."

Ms Serena Seah, who runs a business supplying paper rolls, said that she wants to keep active even as she grows older.

"Otherwise, you're just waiting for your queue number to be called and it's time for you to go," said the 58-year-old, who has picked up line dancing and occasionally volunteers in her free time.

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