Speech by MOS Faishal Ibrahim at Frasers Property’s “Inclusive Spaces 2021: Bridging Generations”

Sep 17, 2021

Very good afternoon. I’m very happy to be able to join you again for this very important event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in various sectors of society. Therefore, it is ever more important to build an inclusive and caring Singapore, to continue strengthening our social fabric and resilience. As part of URA’s public engagement on the Long-Term Plan Review, we have asked Singaporeans what societal values they feel are important. For many participants, the term “inclusive and caring” resonated the most.

As our society deals with COVID-19, many Singaporeans have looked beyond their own needs. They have reached out to neighbours, colleagues, and even strangers – to ensure that we would all make it through the pandemic, together. And I’m heartened that the public, the Government, and real estate industry experts such as Frasers Property, share in the vision of building an inclusive and caring Singapore. We will need to work together to realise this vision.

I’m delighted to be back for this year’s Inclusive Spaces. I had attended the inaugural edition of Inclusive Spaces two years ago, which had focused on addressing challenges for persons with special needs. Today’s event focuses on inclusivity across generations. It has brought youths and active seniors together, to co-create spaces which enhance our seniors’ physical, mental and social wellbeing. This will promote inter-generational engagement.

Infrastructure for an Ageing Society

This is especially timely and relevant, as Singapore is ageing rapidly. Census 2020 revealed that residents aged 65 years and above formed 15.2 per cent of our resident population. This proportion will only increase in the decades to come.

Hence, the Government has been strengthening support for our seniors from multiple angles. To improve seniors’ quality of life, MOH is refreshing the Action Plan for Successful Ageing, along the themes of Care, Contribution and Connectedness. In particular, the Connectedness thrust, which aims to support seniors in staying connected to the community, includes efforts for the built environment. Such efforts aim to enhance the public and personal experiences of seniors, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing.

To facilitate seniors’ mobility and universal access, firstly, BCA’s Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment provides a set of mandatory requirements and design guidelines, to address seniors’ physical needs within buildings and their surroundings. These include the requirements for accessible ramps, toilets, parking lots and lifts.

We are also continually upgrading our public infrastructure and designing new facilities with universal design, and to be barrier-free. These include MRT stations, bus interchanges, common spaces in public housing estates, and in public parks. For example, under HDB’s Designing for Life roadmap, we will facilitate easier wayfinding by providing signages with pictorial symbols and larger font sizes.

Within homes, HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors programme (EASE) offers highly subsidised senior-friendly fittings for HDB flats. These include grab bars, slip-resistant floor treatment for toilets, and ramps to improve accessibility for wheelchair-bound seniors.

Next, to facilitate ageing-in-place, we take a life cycle approach to town planning, and ensure that a town’s design and amenities evolve in accordance with its changing demographic needs. Where possible, we continue co-locating amenities and services for easy access by seniors. We have done so with Kampung Admiralty and received positive feedback. We look forward to introduce more of such integrated developments where suitable, such as the upcoming Yew Tee Integrated Development.

This effort is not limited to Government agencies. There could be even greater synergy with the support of the private sector, namely our real estate companies. We are already seeing an active example of private sector collaboration at Northpoint City. Within Northpoint City is Nee Soon Community Club, the first CC in Singapore to be housed in a shopping mall.  Residents, especially seniors, can relax in its air-conditioned facilities, while participating in programmes that promote community and inter-generational bonding. Also housed in Northpoint City are the Yishun Public Library that encourages lifelong learning, and Yishun Town Square, which hosts a variety of community activities, such as fitness clinics and performances.

We also seek to expand the array of housing and care options for seniors. For example, HDB, MND and MOH launched the pilot Community Care Apartments (CCAs) project in Bukit Batok early this year.  This new assisted living option within public housing integrates senior-friendly design features with care services, and facilitates community building through design and programming. This pilot was very well-received, and we are studying plans for a second pilot site. More details will be shared in due course. Meanwhile, the Government is keen to support private sector models of assisted living, to give our seniors even more options to age gracefully in their homes.

Last but not least, to care for seniors’ physical and mental well-being, we are expanding our network of parks, park connectors, and therapeutic gardens. These provide green spaces of respite, with active community programming. By 2030, every household will be within a 10-minute walk from a park, and we will have 30 therapeutic gardens in parks across the island. Isn’t it exciting? And will give you many more options to be near and visit the parks.

While our parks are designed for everyone, they are especially popular with seniors. In fact, seniors aged above 70 are our most frequent park visitors! And including our little ones, here who I see on Zoom, who often go with your parents. Keep doing it, stay healthy and it is good for your mind as well.NParks is also engaging communities and organisations to adopt senior-friendly design features in their gardening spaces, and to organise activities that promote inter-generational interaction in these spaces.

Across these different angles of support, all of us – individuals, organisations, and the Government – have a part to play in shaping an inclusive, age-friendly society and built environment together.

Bridging Generations through Co-Creation

I therefore commend Frasers Property for organising today’s event, and taking the lead to drive greater inclusivity in public spaces. This event promotes inclusion not just as an outcome, but also as a process. It brings people across generations and diverse backgrounds together, in dialogue and collaborations. We welcome more of such initiatives. I’m very encouraged to hear how active seniors and young students came together, to apply Design Thinking principles to co-design ideas that can improve our seniors’ daily experiences.

I appreciate all participants’ time and effort, and look forward to hearing your ideas. I hope that everyone had a rewarding experience and will share some of your insights with your family, friends and the community. Together, we can all contribute towards an inclusive and caring Singapore.

Thank you.