Feb 19, 2012

Singapore - Helping elderly S'poreans live independently

SINGAPORE: Elderly Singaporeans without family support can look forward to more independent, assisted living within the community.

The government has started its pilot project of senior group homes, where seniors above 65 live together in a cluster of rental flats.

Singapore's first senior group homes currently take up three units of an HDB rental block in Pipit Road.

These group homes are meant for seniors too frail to live on their own, but who do not need or want to live in a nursing home. They are also likely to be on public assistance allowance.

As they are paired with other seniors in the same flat, it is hoped that residents can provide one another companionship and mutual support.

John, a 73-year-old retired technician who is wheelchair-bound, moved in recently to one of the group homes.

He said: "Three people in a room, sharing is a wonderful concept, a wonderful idea. The only thing that can go wrong is if all three people start fighting among themselves, which I think is highly not probable because most of the old people are quite gentle people and they're not aggressive. So it will definitely work."

Benefits for those living in senior group homes include social services like meal delivery and medication assistance from voluntary welfare groups.

There is also a full-time staff on site from Mondays to Saturdays during office hours to attend to them. Each resident also wears a wrist device with a panic button, which alerts social workers by phone and SMS in case of emergencies.

The homes, except for the bathrooms, are also monitored by CCTV as a safety feature.

Satyaprakash Tiwari, executive director of the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, said: "We thought it was appropriate, but before we (installed it), we asked the elderly for their feedback. From the focus group it was a very good, positive response. Then we moved forward with getting this IT gadget to be placed in the home."

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Halimah Yacob, said priority will be given to elderly Singaporeans who are discharged from hospitals and have nowhere to go.

If successful, the programme will be expanded to support other seniors as well.

Mdm Halimah said: "We could give, allow our seniors the independence, the ability to control their own lives in this kind of facility.

"We don't want them to live in nursing homes. It's very dismal, in my view, to have nursing home beds all over Singapore, and all our seniors ending up there because they don't have the family support, because they are frail. I think we owe it to them to give them the opportunity to continue to live for as long as they can in the community.

"We developed the idea after visiting other facilities in the UK, in the Netherlands...We need to assess the effectiveness first, before we can scale up (the programme)."

Residents at the senior group homes pay a nominal sum of S$50 a month in rent.


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