SINGAPORE — In a concerted push to help the growing population of seniors here lead more active and fulfilling lives in their golden years, the Ministerial Committee on Ageing today (Aug 26) announced a comprehensive raft of initiatives spanning areas such as lifelong learning, employment, housing volunteerism.
There are also plans to enhance housing infrastructure, such as by co-locating eldercare and childcare facilities in 10 new HDB Built-to-Order projects in the next decade, to encourage inter-generational bonding. Prospective residents at Bukit Merah, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong West, Toa Payoh, Woodlands, Yishun, Bidadari and Punggol can look forward to these co-located facilities. This will benefit executive condo residents such as those from The Terrace EC , Waterwoods EC and Amore EC in Punggol.
The centrepiece of this S$3 billion national blueprint — put together after a year of consultations with some 4,000 Singaporeans from various walks of life — is a new network of community and educational institutions that will roll out more than 30,000 learning places for seniors by 2030.
Called the National Silver Academy, it will comprise up to 100 voluntary welfare organisations, community organisations and post-secondary education institutions when it is launched next year. It aims to curate a wide range of courses in areas such as information technology, social media, photography and the arts, which seniors can take up not only for employment, but also for interest.
Following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement on Sunday’s National Day Rally that the re-employment age will be raised from 65 to 67 by 2017, part of this action plan will be geared towards helping older workers keep healthy. The National Seniors’ Health Programme hopes to reach out to at least 400,000 seniors aged 50 and above by 2030 through healthy lifestyle campaigns and programmes targeted at seniors.
This programme will build on the Health Promotion Board’s existing efforts, said the Health Ministry yesterday, by covering more aspects of seniors’ health and nutrition, and bringing preventive health services into workplaces.
To enable seniors to live independently and age in place, Active Ageing Hubs will also be built in at least 10 future Housing and Development Board projects in areas such as Woodlands, Bukit Merah, Kallang Whampoa, Queenstown, Toa Payoh, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Bidadari and Punggol.
Bigger than the existing Senior Activity Centres, these hubs will cater to both active and less mobile seniors by providing day care and other services that help in their daily living, such as housekeeping and grocery shopping.
The blueprint also features a national movement to promote senior volunteerism, with a target of encouraging 50,000 more seniors to volunteer by 2030. According to the 2011 National Survey of Senior Citizens, 6 per cent of those aged 55 and above volunteered that year.
About S$3 billion will first be used to kick off the slew of initiatives over the next five years, but implementation will be “progressively carried out” beyond that time frame, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong today.
Speaking to reporters on the announcements, Mr Gan, who chairs the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, said: “All of us know that Singapore’s population will age quite rapidly over the next two decades, but what is important is that this ageing population need not be a burden to us. In fact, longevity is something that we can celebrate, we can look forward to, we can help Singaporeans age more successfully to make their senior lives more exciting, more rewarding, more fulfilling.”
The National Silver Academy courses may be shorter in duration to facilitate seniors’ learning process. Seniors can also take selected courses offered by polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education will also be offered to seniors without sitting for examinations. Institutions and community organisations under the academy can tap a S$4 million fund to offer intergenerational learning programmes to facilitate interaction between the generations.
Other initiatives in the plan include up to S$200 million set aside to promote ageing-related research, more senior-friendly park amenities and transport infrastructure, and a PAssion Silver card for seniors aged 60 and above, which offer priority queue privileges and special discounts at participating merchants.