Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Age Well SG Inter-Ministerial Press Conference
Nov 16, 2023
Ageing Well in Our Communities
Minister Ong has just set out how we will encourage active ageing through expanding our network of AACs, pushing senior volunteerism, and strengthening community care and support for our seniors.
With a rapidly ageing local population, it is very important to empower our seniors to lead independent lives as active members within a cohesive local community.
So let me now share what MND will do, under Age Well SG, to improve the physical environment in our homes and neighbourhoods, so that our city becomes even more age-friendly.
There’s a bit of context, over the years, MND has been making our homes and estates more liveable, through upgrading programmes such as the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme, the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) and the Estate Upgrading Programme (EUP) for private estates.
We will now be making a bigger, more concerted push under Age Well SG to address seniors’ needs in the built environment.
This will involve 2 key ingredients:
First, closer partnership with residents and the community to carry out new upgrading works to make it easier and safer for seniors to engage in their daily activities.
Second, tighter collaboration and coordination among agencies, such as HDB, BCA, AIC, NParks, LTA and others.
Making Homes and Neighbourhoods More Senior-Friendly
Today, we provide senior-friendly features within our HDB homes to help seniors go about their daily activities safely and confidently.
Going forward, under the expanded EASE (Enhancement for Active Seniors) 2.0 programme, we will offer a wider range of senior-friendly features.
Examples of features include rocker switches, home fire alarm devices, handrails at multi-step flat entrances, foldable shower seats, and widened toilet entrances for wheelchair users. We have some EASE 2.0 features on display, like the shower seat, so you can try them out.
We consulted MOH, AIC, and healthcare professionals like occupational therapists when deciding on these new features. We have also taken in public feedback and suggestions from surveys and in-home trials on the features conducted with members of the public.
We will also continue to provide more support to our lower income seniors living in public rental flats.
These are seniors with limited family support, and may not have anyone whom they can readily call for help during emergencies.
Therefore, we will progressively expand the provision of the wireless Alert Alarm System, or AAS, to all seniors aged 60 and above living in public rental flats.
Since November 2019, HDB, GovTech and MOH have provided the wireless AAS for seniors living in about 50 rental blocks with higher concentrations of seniors.
The wireless AAS has served as an important lifeline for seniors to call for help when they experience distress, or when they come to an emergency. As demonstrated earlier, the AAS is linked to CareLine, a 24/7 hotline that responds to callers in distress, as well as nearby Active Ageing Centres.
Over the years, we have received positive feedback from seniors and community partners about AAS.
a. One of them is Mdm Khoo Ai Choo, a 67-year-old tenant staying in a one-room rental flat at Redhill Close. Recently, Mdm Khoo had to use the wireless AAS after she fell in her living room. After activating the alert button, she was promptly attended to by CareLine staff, who verified her condition remotely and alerted the SCDF to send her to the hospital. Mdm Khoo shared with my colleagues that she feels safer at home with the wireless AAS, especially since she does not have a mobile phone.
b. Just like Mdm Khoo, about 800 seniors have also received emergency medical assistance through the use of the wireless AAS over the last 3 and half years.
The expansion of the wireless AAS is estimated to benefit around 26,800 more seniors living in around 170 rental blocks. We hope that, as a result of this effort, more seniors will feel more assured when they live independently in their home.
Let me now move out of the home and into the neighbourhood. HDB already upgrades our estates through programmes such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme, or NRP, as well as other programmes. MND will add a “silver lining” to all these schemes. What this means is that we will enhance these estate upgrading schemes to make our HDB precincts even more senior friendly. In the next 5 years, we will progressively roll out senior-centric upgrading works to over 20 older HDB precincts in Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Merah, Queenstown and Toa Payoh. This will potentially benefit more than 21,000 households in these towns.
We have been proactively planning ahead and rejuvenating our precincts and towns over the years. These precincts are home to a substantial population of seniors living there since day one.
Over time, as our residents grow older, their needs will evolve. For example, while these precincts have extensive barrier-free access linkways, some of the routes may be too long or winding for seniors to use to get from these blocks to nearby amenities.
We are going to enhance these estates to meet these new needs by transforming spaces along routes frequented by our seniors.
There will be more barrier-free access ramps, like the one we walked past earlier, and rest points along the way so that seniors enjoy safer and more comfortable commutes on feet in their estates. Larger and more colourful signages with symbols will help seniors find their way home.
More amenities that support health, such as fitness trails and therapeutic gardens, will be installed within our precincts. These will not only help seniors stay active but also encourage community bonding through group activities.
One example is the upcoming Active Health Fitness Trail at Queenstown’s Mei Ling precinct. It is an exercise path that links up various fitness corners. Seniors can easily access these fitness corners and amenities in their neighbourhood to improve muscle strength and mobility.
Improving our neighbourhoods is important, but how we go about doing it is equally important. We will reach out and work more closely with the community to identify their needs. For example, through “Community Improvement Walks”, we will invite residents to take us on routes that they frequent, to better understand how these areas can be improved. To ensure that residents’ needs are met more holistically, HDB has formed an inter-agency committee involving colleagues from AIC, LTA, NParks and SportsSG to coordinate the improvement works more closely. This committee will also work closely with the Grassroots Advisors and Town Councils managing the areas.
Apart from our HDB estates, we will also make our private residential estates more age-friendly. Under the Estate Upgrading Programme, or EUP, we will identify and select older private residential estates with higher concentration of seniors for senior-friendly enhancements. These include estates that have benefited from EUP some time ago.
Community Care Apartments: Senior-Friendly Public Housing Integrated with Care and Social Services
I will now move on to share about our upcoming plans for the Community Care Apartments, or CCAs.
How are CCAs different from our regular HDB flats? First, these are HDB flats that are designed specifically with seniors in mind. They come with pre-installed senior-friendly fittings, such as grab bars and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms with slip-resistant flooring. There will also be a built-in wardrobe and furnished kitchen, so that seniors can move in quickly with minimal renovations. You would have seen a model of the flat as we entered the AAC just now.
Second, CCAs are flats that come paired with services. All CCA residents will subscribe to a Basic Service Package, which includes 24-hour emergency monitoring and response service, basic health checks and simple home fixes. They will also have access to communal spaces, where they can participate in active ageing programmes organised by an onsite community manager. Seniors who have higher care needs can layer on additional care services if needed.
We have launched two CCAs so far – in Bukit Batok and Queensway –both were well-received. One of our CCA flat buyers, Mdm Eunice Gan shared with us that she is looking forward to moving into her CCA unit at Bukit Batok next year. As she lives alone, she shared that the living space in the CCA is sufficient for her needs, while giving her peace of mind with access to 24-hour emergency response services. She also hopes to use the cash proceeds from selling her current 3-room flat to help supplement her retirement.
To meet the growing needs of our ageing population, we will ramp up our supply of CCAs. We will launch up to 30 CCAs by 2030, if the model of care provision proves to be effective and scalable. We will launch them in different locations across Singapore, so that more seniors have the option of moving to CCAs while remaining in neighbourhoods that they are familiar with.
The third CCA project at Chai Chee Lane in Bedok North will be launched for sale at the upcoming BTO sales launch in December.
Like the previous two CCA projects, we will be holding a CCA exhibition at the HDB Hub ahead of the sales launch. I hope that seniors who are interested in CCAs to visit the exhibition and find out more.
Closing and Transition
Age Well SG is a transformative programme across the areas of housing, transport, active ageing and care services in order to anchor ageing in our community.
My colleague, Minister Chee Hong Tat, will now share about our plans to create safer and more pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods in our estates.