Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Singapore University of Social Sciences Webinar on “Creating an Age-Friendly Environment and Community”
May 4, 2021
A very good morning to everyone. I am happy to join you today for this seminar on “Creating an age-friendly environment and community”. I would like to thank the Singapore University of Social Sciences for organising this session.
Singapore’s Ageing Population
This topic is particularly relevant to Singapore’s context. Our population is greying, and people are living healthier and longer lives. In 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be above 65 years old, compared to around one in six in 2020.
We want our seniors to age with dignity and lead independent lives. To better plan for this, the Government launched an Action Plan for Successful Ageing in 2015. We aim to cater to the diverse needs of our seniors – from creating more work opportunities, to ensuring that they have access to affordable healthcare and care services, as well as improving their living environment.
A key challenge of an ageing population is to ensure that our public spaces and infrastructure are thoughtfully planned and designed. A recent HDB survey in February this year found that 86 per cent of elderly residents intended to continue living in their existing flats. What this means is that (1) our infrastructure and systems must evolve to support our changing demographics, and (2) we must do more to enable our seniors to comfortably age in place. We are already taking steps to make our urban environment more senior-friendly. Let me briefly elaborate on some areas and initiatives.
Housing options for seniors
Community Care Apartments
Recognising the need to expand the housing options for seniors, MND, HDB and MOH started the Community Care Apartments. This new concept integrates senior-friendly housing with care services that can be scaled according to local needs, as well as social activities to support seniors to age independently within the community.
For example, flats have senior-friendly fittings to allow residents to move around easily, communal space on each floor for residents to mingle and make friends. There has been a very positive response to this pilot project. At the sale launch in Bukit Batok in February earlier this year, we received over 706 applicants for 169 units – that is around four applicants for each flat. Given the good response, we are now studying plans for a second pilot site, and more details will be shared when ready.
This not the first time that HDB has built a senior-friendly development. In 2017, we completed Kampung Admiralty, an integrated public housing development which showcases how seniors can live healthy, active and meaningful lives in HDB towns. It features flats for seniors, with facilities such as a medical centre, an Active Ageing Hub, dining and retail outlets, and a Community Farm, all under one roof. KG was very well-received as well, and the agencies are currently developing a second such project at Yew Tee.
There will not be a one-size-fits-all option. We will continue engaging the public and stakeholders to adapt our housing options to support the lifestyles and health care needs of our seniors.
Senior-friendly neighbourhoods and public infrastructure
Many of our seniors expressed a preference to continue living in their existing homes, we will need to ensure that our HDB flats, public spaces and infrastructure are designed to be senior-friendly as well.
For instance, though the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme, households with seniors can retrofit their homes with items such as grab bars, slip-resistant treatment to bathroom floor tiles and ramps at subsidised rates. At a precinct-level, HDB has also incorporated universal design in their towns to make the living environment more inclusive, e.g. by incorporating gentle sloping ramps and barrier-free routes.
We will continue to partner the community to do more for our seniors. For example, NParks has been progressively opening Therapeutic Gardens that have senior-friendly features. These gardens are specially designed to provide respite and improve the mental well-being of visitors, including our seniors. By 2030 – in 10 years’ time, we will have 30 of such gardens across Singapore.
On our roads, LTA has introduced ‘Silver Zones’ across the island to enhance road safety for seniors. We are implementing a series of traffic-calming measures and senior-friendly road safety features at areas with a high proportion of senior residents. We have seen accident rates within these zones have gone down by as much as 80 per cent.
We have put in place a good foundation, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We will adopt new urban living solutions and innovations, investing in R&D to enhance our urban landscape and improve our infrastructure. For example, In 2017, URA commissioned two large-scale research studies on how the built environment influences the wellbeing of seniors. One study looked at how to make our public housing neighbourhoods safer and more conducive for seniors, the other assessed ways in which nursing homes can be made more person-centric and better integrated into the community. Both studies involved researchers working with Built Environment professionals like architects, as well as the community, in co-creating design ideas to make the environment more senior-friendly and inclusive.
It takes a whole-of-nation effort to build a more inclusive Singapore for all. I have outlined steps that we are taking to make our living environment more senior friendly and how we are nurturing communities of care to support them across various aspects of their wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental.
Our seniors have played and are continuing to play an important role in building Singapore. Our duty is to ensure that they continue to live well, and enjoy their golden years. And Seminars like this bring together experts and leaders – not just in Singapore, but around the world, to discuss this important topic. I wish you all a very fruitful and insightful webinar this morning. Thank you very much.