Thursday 18 July 2019

Singapore's first dementia care village to be built in Sembawang

Plan envisions safe, home-like environment with help for residents to live independently
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 17 Jul 2019

A special village, the first of its kind in Singapore, will be built to care for dementia patients and improve their quality of life and the residential options available to them.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said yesterday that a site in Gibraltar Crescent has been put up for sale by public tender for the village.

Dementia care villages encourage residents to pursue their own lives as much as possible despite their age and condition, as opposed to nursing homes, which have sometimes been criticised for being too institutionalised.

The move comes amid a growing incidence of dementia in Singapore. A 2015 study by the Institute of Mental Health found that one in 10 of those aged 60 and above here has dementia. And, according to the Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA), there were almost 82,000 people with dementia in Singapore last year. This number is expected to hit 103,000 in 2030.

MOH and URA said the planned village will be specially designed to provide a safe, home-like environment where residents are assisted to live independently.

The village will provide tailored services and programmes to create meaningful participation and social interaction among its residents.

"We hope that (it) will offer insights into market demand for such facilities and the community needs of persons with dementia, which will contribute to the development of suitable dementia care models in the future," MOH said.

The site for the village comes with a 30-year lease. It is located near Sembawang Park and comprises a cluster of 10 state bungalows on two land plots. The larger plot is 26,350 sq m, while the other is 1,756 sq m.

The maximum permissible gross floor area (GFA) is 9,170 sq m, with another 900 sq m for extensions to the 10 existing buildings.

The Straits Times understands that the bungalows must remain structurally intact.

Ms Joan Pereira, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, called the concept of a dementia village "an ideal model of care for persons with dementia" as it encourages independence in a safe environment.

"Together with other assisted living options, such facilities will reform the way we care for Singaporeans and allow our elderly greater flexibility in choosing how they want to live their golden years," she said. The village will complement home-based care and dementia daycare services currently available.

ADA's chief executive officer Jason Foo backed plans for the village as an alternative to residential care for patients who wish to be more independent.

He added that ageing in place is still possible with dementia-friendly communities and an inclusive society.

"We should give persons with dementia and their caregivers the choice of the best option suited to their needs," he said.

The site set aside for the village is zoned as residential, and at least 60 per cent of its GFA must be used for residential development. The remaining 40 per cent can be developed for residential use, health, medical care and other uses.

To pick the most suitable proposal, the URA will get tenderers to submit their concept proposals and tender prices separately.

Concept proposals will be evaluated against criteria such as suitability of the proposed overall model of care for people with dementia and quality of the care programmes and services. Shortlisted concepts will go to the second stage of evaluation, which will be based on price only.

The tender closes on Nov 19.

What Singapore's first dementia care village in Sembawang could be like
By Timothy Goh, The Straits Times, 17 Jul 2019

Dementia care villages, such as the one planned for Gibraltar Crescent, encourage residents to live as independently as possible despite their age and condition.

One such village is De Hogeweyk in Amsterdam, where patients are encouraged to shop for their daily needs at a supermarket and eat at restaurants.

Rather than being confined to a room or a bed, residents there are allowed to wander around the village. They also live with other residents in an apartment and have to manage the household with help from staff.

This style of living is said to help slow the rate of decline in dementia patients by discouraging dependency.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority said the Gibraltar Crescent village is meant to complement home-based care and dementia daycare services currently available in Singapore.

Associate Professor Reshma Merchant, head and senior consultant at the National University Hospital's division of geriatric medicine, said a dementia village is meant to create happiness and enable residents to lead meaningful lives.

She added that it would be important to ensure, where possible, that the village incorporates the concept of "ageing in place" and is not just restricted to those with dementia.

Hence, she said, there should be facilities in the village for seniors of varying functional and cognitive trajectories, including those with early stages of memory loss, as moving someone with moderate or advanced dementia to a completely new environment may create insecurity and accelerate cognitive and functional decline.

The village at Gibraltar Crescent is one of several initiatives in recent years aimed at dealing with Singapore's ageing population and the issues that arise from it.

On March 7, the Ministry of National Development announced that it was working towards the launch of its first assisted living pilot site for public housing in Bukit Batok next year, and was also exploring such retirement housing models for private residential sites.

The assisted living model in public housing will see seniors buying a home bundled with customisable care services such as housekeeping and 24/7 emergency support.

Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong also announced that MOH will roll out a Caregiver Support Action Plan over the next two years to enhance financial support, flexible work arrangements and respite care options for caregivers.

In 2017, Singapore's first "retirement kampung", Kampung Admiralty, opened its doors to its first residents. The site's two Housing Board blocks house a medical centre, a hawker centre, rooftop vegetable and community gardens, and an active ageing hub.


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