Written by  2015-05-04

Do Singaporeans Need Retirement homes?

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As part of the aging industry, I have been invited to many conferences and listened to many speeches on eldercare services, especially retirement homes or real estates for the aged.

These are usually in large countries whereby the older persons increasingly require help in their instrumental activities of their daily living.  This group is unlike those dependent on activities of daily living,  who needs more intense nursing care and supervision.

We do have some sort of such system present in Singapore, although not obvious, already integrated into Singaporean life. For example, in retirement villages, the dwellers will go to the lobby canteen for their meals, either a short walk from their apartments or at the ground level of their block. In Singapore, especially in older estates, our older persons can easily take a lift down their block and have a meal of their choice. For those more dependent, there are private meal delivery services or meals on wheels run by charitable organisation.

There are activities for older persons in these retirement villages. In Singapore, there are community centers, day activity centers (increasing in numbers), Resident Corner Centers, even elderly gyms in the pipeline to support the older persons. All these are options for the older persons, although they are less coordinated and more cumbersome to navigate at times for the less educated.

There may or may not be monitoring services in the apartment in these retirement villages. In Singaporean versions, studio apartment purposefully built to house older persons has call buttons in the living area and the toilet. New smart homes initiative with bulk of the apartments wired can in future be fitted with ambience monitor for falls and activities monitoring non-invasively such as Sound-eye. There can be a 2 way intercom for the older persons at home to reach out from their abode easily.

There are initiatives such as EASE program to renovate and remove barriers and improve access to the older persons. Those with more resources have no issues doing up the apartment for the older persons to live in comfortably as I had frequently observed.

The only lacking component in the whole scheme of this structure is a central person or service in charge. For retirement villages, there are staffs that will supervise and support this group of older persons. In Singapore, this task falls onto the children or close relatives who may not be trained to maximise this support structure. Some cases without such social network are either supported by befriender services or getting volunteers or neighbours to check on them daily.  There are charitable organisations that provide cluster support for more needy clients. Ironically, for the bulk of middle to upper class of Singaporeans, they do not have such support.

Both retirement models and the Singapore models have its good and bad points. One of the downside of retirement village is residents are all aged, and there will be depressing periods that friends passes on in the village. In Singapore model, the older persons walking in the markets will see toddlers, school children, youths and just about everyone with every age group. There  will be more vibrancy in their lives.

For those who are less supervised, with less ability to lead an active life without assistance, many helping hands approaches can be introduced. The family, the private or voluntary welfare organisation and the government all can chip into this model. Family can and should usually act as the central coordinating and monitoring persons, supported by either private or volunteer welfare organisations (VWO)  in terms of service linkage.  Those with more resources can hire a private case coordinators if family in not keen to be involved. Those more needy ones can be supported by VWO such as cluster support programs. On the government side, policies to fund VWOs for such programs and manpower planning to allow trained carers especially from overseas to work here would be crucial.

Due to Singapore being a city state with limited land mass, services are already being clustered together unlike bigger countries. Instead of building and running so call retirement villages, we can integrate the services of these retirement villages into our current housing arrangements. Those older persons identified to require more such support can still be housed in their own home, renovated and monitoring installed, daily activities sorted and meals provided for either through hawker centers/food courts or meal delivery. A regional virtual elder service centre housed in nearby community centres, RC centers or day activity centers can provide trained manpower or service linkage.


In my opinion, Singapore may not require such retirement village as we can seamlessly integrate services in our system.

Read 6409 times Last modified on Monday, 04 May 2015 04:20


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