Towards an elderly-friendly community

Set foot on the older estates like Ang Mo Kio and East Coast in Singapore these days and chances are you will be greeted by the sight of renovation works. Anti-slip floor tiles, alert alarm systems and lifts that stop on all levels; these additions are part of the Housing Development Board (HDB) efforts to create an elderly-friendly environment through upgrading schemes such as Home Improvement Programme (HIP), Interim Upgrading Programme (IUP) and Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP). Elsewhere in the Marine Parade estate, a 5-year pilot currently in its 2nd phase seeks to address the problem of accommodating an increasing elderly population.

In line with the concept of ageing-in-place, the HDB has been tasked to manage the hardware aspects of the environment while the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) will handle the software aspects by offering community support and services.

Social support services like Senior Activity Centres, Neighbourhood Links and Senior Citizen Clubs encourage active lifestyles among the elderly and complement the physical infrastructures of the community. As part of the blueprints of “Successful Ageing for Singapore,” the Committee on Ageing Issues (CAI) has also recommended both the HDB and MCYS to work with Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWOs) and Grassroot Organizations (GROs) to provide these services in the community. The Silver Connect Programme initiated in 2005 by Singaporean Member of Parliament (MP) Irene Ng is an example of such services, catering to the lonely and vulnerable elderly in the Tampines Changkat community.

Meanwhile, the CAI also looks to offer alternative housing options to the elderly. Studio apartments released by the HDB are becoming increasingly popular with close to 100% take-up rates since its launch in 1998. Equipped with senior-friendly features, these units are situated in close proximity to amenities and transportation, serving to improve ageing-in-place.

Monetisation of housing assets is another important factor to consider in order to mitigate the “asset-rich, cash-poor” problem among the elderly. The Subletting of Whole Flat Scheme allows the elderly to monetise their HDB flats (by subletting), encouraging them to live with their married children. Furthermore, reverse mortgage schemes provide the elderly with an income from their homes to suffice their needs.

As we can see, building an elderly friendly environment requires a comprehensive framework that include both the hard- and software aspects. Ideally, this means creating an inclusive elderly-friendly environment encompassing both physical infrastructure and community facets for ageing-in-place. In addition, it is also important to provide alternate housing and monetisation options to a generation of elderly with varying needs and aspirations. Tomorrow, we will focus on accessibility for seniors and explore the building blocks towards a “barrier-free society.”

(Source: Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports: Committee on Ageing Issues, Asia One)

(Image Source: Singapore Tourism Board)

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