SINGAPORE, Nov 17 — A “wireless alert alarm system” will be placed in the public housing rental flats of about 26,800 seniors that they can use to call for help in emergencies, the Singapore government said yesterday.
The move, covering about 170 Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks, is an expansion of the use of the alert system, which has been installed in the homes of seniors in 50 HDB blocks since 2019.
Some 800 seniors have received emergency medical assistance by using the system, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said yesterday.
Lee was speaking at a joint-ministry press conference to announce plans for the national Age Well SG programme yesterday afternoon. The programme aims to create better living conditions for Singapore’s seniors.
After activating the alert button, seniors can record a short voice message which will be transmitted to CareLine, a 24/7 hotline that responds to callers in distress, or nearby Active Ageing Centres (AACs).
Lee said that the alert systems will better support seniors who do not have anyone they can readily call for help in emergencies. Recipients are those aged 60 and above.
According to a spokesperson for iWOW, the manufacturer of the alert system, the device is a battery-powered red button mounted on a wall, and can be placed in various accessible locations in the flat.
The same system has been installed in 50 rental blocks with “higher concentrations of seniors” since November 2019, Lee said.
Lee also announced the expansion of HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme to Ease 2.0, which will offer a wider range of senior-friendly features to be installed in flats.
These include rocker switches, home fire alarm devices, handrails at multi-step flat entrances, foldable shower seats and widened toilet entrances for wheelchair users.
In response to a question from the media about the timeline of the Ease 2.0 initiatives, Lee said that the Singapore government hopes to be able to launch them in 2024.
Why it matters
Plans for a national programme to support seniors to age well were previously outlined at last month’s launch of the Forward Singapore report.
The report indicated that Singapore’s healthcare system would undergo a “major paradigm shift” to redeploy resources towards more primary and preventive care in the community.
Led by the ministries of health, national development and transport, the Age Well SG programme would support seniors in ageing actively and independently within the community.
This would be done via a “comprehensive nationwide transformation across the areas of housing, transport, active ageing and care services”, the ministries said.
Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung and Acting Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat were also present at yesterday’s press conference.
Other key details announced for Age Well SG yesterday include:
Encouraging active ageing
- The Ministry of Health (MOH) will dedicate around S$800 million (RM2.7 billion) from FY2024 to FY2028 to better resource AACs to connect to a significantly larger pool of seniors
- MOH will expand the network of AACs from 154 to 220 islandwide by 2025. With the expansion, eight in 10 seniors will have access to AAC activities in the vicinity of their homes.
- The operating model of AACs will be improved to bring about greater accessibility and convenience to seniors, among other benefits
- A “Silver Generation Volunteer” programme will be rolled out to encourage seniors to stay meaningfully engaged through active volunteerism, by training and deploying them to AACs
- The Government aims to double the number of senior volunteers trained by the Agency for Integrated Care to around 4,000 senior volunteers by 2025
Strengthening support for seniors with care needs
- The Singapore government will support private sector innovation to widen the range of care solutions for seniors to age in the community
- Five firms are taking part in a “sandbox” to explore the viability of new stay-in shared caregiving models for seniors — which would streamline manpower requirements and offer companionship to seniors
- The Government will help seniors and their caregivers have a more seamless care journey by having a single point of contact to meet their multiple care needs from various providers
- The Government will also enhance the Caregivers’ Training Grant from S$200 to up to S$400 in 2024, and will allow caregivers to tap their SkillsFuture Credit to pay for eligible caregiver courses to further reduce the cost of training
Improvements to the living environment
- HDB will progressively roll out senior-centric upgrading works
- These include enhancements such as barrier-free access ramps and rest points along routes frequented by seniors
- They will cover more than 20 older precincts with a higher density of seniors in Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Merah, Queenstown and Toa Payoh
- The supply of Community Care Apartments will be ramped up, with up to 30 to be launched by 2030 following the positive response to the first two projects at Bukit Batok and Queensway
- The Friendly Streets initiative is set to be expanded to all towns by 2030
- The initiative, launched earlier this year, aims to create more inclusive and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods via features like barrier-free crossings and traffic calming measures — TODAY