Friday 26 February 2016

S$3 billion national ageing action plan officially launched

By Kenneth Cheng, TODAY, 25 Feb 2016

Seniors in at least 50 neighbourhoods can look forward to visits and calls by community befrienders, as part of an initiative under the Action Plan for Successful Ageing.

The full report of the S$3 billion plan, which was first announced last August, was officially launched on Wednesday (Feb 24) by Senior Minister of State (Health) Amy Khor.

Calling ageing the most important demographic shift here, Dr Khor, who spoke at an SGfuture dialogue session, said the plan will enable the Government to build Singapore into the best home to age in.

There are over 70 initiatives under the plan across 12 areas spanning health and wellness, volunteerism, housing and employment, among others, to be achieved over the next 10 to 15 years.

Giving an update on some of the initiatives on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the community befriending programme, was piloted in three neighbourhoods, and will expand to at least 12 neighbourhoods this year, “to keep social isolation and poor health at bay among vulnerable seniors”.

The ministry plans to work with voluntary welfare and grassroots organisations to recruit volunteers in at least 50 neighbourhoods.

Nursing home Jamiyah Home will soon start its community befriending programme in Ayer Rajah and West Coast. Other organisations that have come on board include NTUC Health and Thye Hua Kwan.

Under the programme, befrienders, who live in the same neighbourhood as the seniors with whom they are paired, call and visit the seniors at least twice a month. Befrienders are trained to spot changes in the seniors’ mood, physical condition or living environment, and to surface any issues to a care provider if help is needed.

Also expected later this year is the PAssion Silver initiative. Under the initiative, every Singaporean aged 60 and above will be issued with a card, which will entitle its holder to year-long privileges and benefits.

The MOH has been working with People’s Association and the Singapore Business Federation to reach out to merchants to get them on board the scheme.

The Housing and Development Board is also planning new 10 new Build-to-Order developments where eldercare and childcare facilities will be co-located, including in Jurong West, Toa Payoh and Bidadari.

Dr Carol Tan, a geriatrician in private practice, called the befriender programme’s expansion a “much-needed step”. She also stressed that as the population ages, the focus should be shifted from purely “hospital-centric” care to a more community-based one.

“We should be spending a lot more time and effort on empowering our people to learn how to keep healthy themselves and to do it … in the community,” said Dr Tan, 54, who also chairs The Good Life Cooperative.

Loneliness in old age is a real problem and seniors must socialise to feel connected, said National University of Singapore Senior Alumni president Rosemary Khoo, 73. “It’s excellent ... to have a friend visit, and over time, there will be a bond and somebody cares for them,” she said.

Other initiatives include raising the re-employment age from 65 to 67 by 2017, and launching a new workplace health programme that will reach 120,000 mature workers aged 40 and above.

On Wednesday, Dr Khor also said that the MOH’s review of the long-term care financing system will look at how to provide better protection, while ensuring that the system — which now comprises subsidies and ElderShield — remains sustainable.

However, this will take some time, as MediShield Life was just implemented last year. The MOH will also focus more on preventive health and health promotion, with several plans coming up, she added.

Dr Khoo said all parties – the Government, the community, voluntary welfare organisations and seniors – must play a part to ensure the effective execution of the Action Plan for Successful Ageing.

“Government departments must talk to each other so that implementation is effective and seamless,” said the retired applied linguist.

Seniors, Dr Khoo added, must see themselves as still being able to contribute to society “as assets, not liabilities”.

For Dr Tan, fostering partnerships between the various stakeholders, such as doctors and healthcare providers, is also key. “The Government can’t do it alone.”

An aged person’s overall health and needs – including social well-being – are also pivotal.

Successful ageing, Dr Tan noted, involves a “social approach” that goes beyond healthcare professionals giving out prescriptions or ordering blood tests.

Some seniors also find it a challenge seeking “meaningful activity” to occupy their time, said Mr Eugene Goh, 39, founder of social enterprise SilverForce.

The enterprise, which matches small- and medium-sized firms with seniors to provide a service, such as making carrier bags out of newspapers, helps them “continue to remain productive”.

“For those who need it, there’s also a small source of income,” said Mr Goh.

The Ministerial Committee on Ageing released the full Action Plan for Successful Ageing report today. The Action Plan...
Posted by Ministry of Health on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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