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MCYS SPEECH NO: 13/2007 DATE OF ISSUE: 08/03/2007

Speech by Mr Lim Boon Heng, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office at the Committee of Supply Sitting 2007, 8 March 2007, 4.45 pm

INTRODUCTION

1.

Baby

boomers

who

are

better

educated,

more

affluent and have better health will hit 65 years old in 2012.

With longer life expectancy, the baby boomers have more

time, more money and would want to be meaningfully

occupied and enjoy life. How do we meet the needs of the

current cohort of seniors as well as the aspirations of the

baby boomers? How do we face up to the challenges of

this demographic shift and harness the opportunities of the

Silver Revolution?

MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON AGEING

2. Mr Sin Boon Ann has asked about the Ministerial

Committee on Ageing.

The Committee will build on the

work of past committees on ageing issues.

The three

basic pillars for successful ageing are – Participation,

Health and Security.

To achieve this, the Committee will

pursue four strategic thrusts – employability and financial

security, holistic and affordable healthcare and eldercare,

ageing-in-place and active ageing.

3. The work that we

will

do will

be premised on the

family as the foundation of society, because from the older

person’s perspective, having close family bonds is vital to

their emotional well-being. Family bonds in Singapore

remain strong. A survey on the frequency of contact

between adult children and their parents showed that 70%

have contact on a daily basis and 20% have contact at

least once a week. [Handout 1].

4.

As

Ong

Ah

Heng

alluded

to,

we

cannot

be

complacent. Several MPs have noted some weakening of

family ties. During the Debate on the Budget Statement,

Mdm Cynthia Phua, Dr Lily Neo and Dr Maliki have said

that the elderly should remain close to the family and

children be encouraged to look after their elderly parents. I

agree. Our housing grants encourage children to live close

to their parents. Professor Kalyani Mehta, Mr Seah Kian

Peng

and

Dr

Lim

Wee-Kiak,

have

asked

for

some

financial assistance, even possibly a ‘golden’ bonus, for

children to support their aged parents. While we will see

how to help needy families cope with the added costs of

supporting aged parents, our major thrust would be to

have programmes that strengthen family ties, and better

services to support the family to care for their seniors.

Having

said

that,

I

number of singles

also

who

note that

there is a growing

will need the support

of the

extended family and the community.

explore other solutions.

For them, we will

5. The major function of the Committee is to coordinate

our national response to ageing. Relevant Ministers are in

the

committee

and

we

will

invite

resource

persons,

including Members of Parliament, to join workgroups to

develop specific issues. The Committee will benefit from a

wide cross section of views and experiences, including

learning from the experience of other countries.

Work and Financial Security

6. The first key thrust is to enhance employability and

financial security. I am heartened that we have achieved

the employment rate targets for those aged 55 to 59 years,

from 56% to 61%, and for those aged 60 to 64 years old,

from 34% to 42%. These were the targets for 2011, but we

had reached them in one year, thanks to the buoyant

economy and measures like the ADVANTAGE! Scheme

by the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older

Workers. So a new target of 65% for those aged 55 to 64

is being set for the medium term.

7. As women, on average, live longer than men, there is

naturally concern about financial security of women in their

senior years. Again, we must maintain family support for

them. Mr

Yeo Guat

Kwang

highlighted

the

need

to

increase job opportunities for women. To help women

achieve greater financial security in their old age, we will

help women remain in the workforce and facilitate re-entry

into

the

workforce.

Women

received

less

education

compared to men so the jobs for these women will be the

low-skilled types. Nothing wrong with these jobs.

8. The WDA, NTUC and SNEF are promoting age-

friendly employment practices, training for older workers to

make the necessary adjustments to continue working

longer, and changing public perceptions towards older

workers. More progressive firms will rework their HR

packages to retain employees beyond retirement age.

Indeed, retirement should become a thing of the past as

more of us continue to work well into our golden years. We

should work as long as we can, and as long as we want.

Focus should be on employability not on retirement age.

Support Services for Ageing in Place

9. The second key task for the Ministerial Committee is

to support

the family

in

its

care for the elderly.

Two

strategic

thrusts

Ageing-in-place

and

Affordable

Healthcare and Eldercare – aim to allow seniors to live

with their families and within the community for as long as

possible. Work on accessibility has been progressing well

and the physical environment to support ageing-in-place

will be a reality given time. Ms Grace Fu mentioned about

what the BCA, the LTA, will do to make accessibility a

reality over the next few years.

Eldercare Services – Affordability and Quality

10.

We need to strengthen support services within the

community.

The delivery of step-down care services like

nursing

homes,

rehabilitation

services

centres can be improved.

We would

and

put in

day

care

place the

infrastructure for services to ensure they are accessible

and affordable. We want to attract more private sector

players to provide a wider range of care services and

options

to

meet

varying

needs

and

circumstances

of

families. It is equally important to establish community

networks of mutual support: this will lower the cost of care

for the elderly. So for ageing-in-place, the physical aspect

is only part of the solution. Mutual support is the next part.

11.

Appropriate training will be provided to staff in the

elderly sector to ensure better programmes for seniors.

Currently, the Social Service Training Institute have some

courses on caring for the elderly. However, in view of the

ageing population, it is important to develop a systematic

training framework for eldercare staff, so that they can

develop

and

deliver

better

quality

programmes

and

services. And I must stress that we must train family

members,

too.

Mr

Ong

Ah

Heng’s

idea

of

using

professionals and a professionals network to promote

hobbies among the seniors is indeed interesting. I will ask

MCYS to study it further, as it is complementary to the

efforts to enskill and professionalise the eldercare sector.

12. Several members have asked for more subsidies.

Eldercare services under MCYS include day care centres

and sheltered homes. For such eldercare services, the

subsidies range from 50% to 75% of the costs for families

in the bottom 30 th household income percentiles.

This

already shows that the Government is commited to help

needy seniors and families.

13. However,

help

community,

too.

The

must

and

Voluntary

does

come

from

the

Welfare

Organisations

operating the eldercare services do assist needy families,

by waiving part or even all of the fees in exceptional cases.

This Many Helping Hands approach has served us well.

But

as

Mr

Ong

Ah

Heng pointed

out, there

is

still

a

substantial amount to be met by the service providers. We

can lower the cost by getting service providers to work

together and lower costs of operations.

14. Likewise, seniors who are poor and without family,

will be taken care of by the state and the community. We

need more volunteers and more Seniors Activity Centres

and Befrienders to organize social activities for them and

ensure their well-being.

COUNCIL FOR THIRD AGE

15. We agree with Mr Yeo Guat Kwang that preparing

for the ageing population involves enriching social and

family life. One of our strategic thrusts is to promote active

ageing,

to

keep

seniors

as

healthy,

physically

and

emotionally, and independent for as long as possible.

16. To focus on active ageing, we will form the Council of

Third Age by June this year. The Council will harness the

wealth of experience that seniors possess.

The Council

will champion active ageing and imbue positive perception

of ageing and the elderly.

Centre for 3 rd Age (C3A)

17.

The Council will be supported by a Centre for Third

Age or C3A for short, its operational arm. The C3A will

catalyse innovative programmes, including sustained inter-

generational programmes; play an aggregator role, work

with

corporates

to

provide

better

value

packages

of

products and services for seniors; and provide the platform

for seniors to network and form new friendship.

PA and the Heartland Seniors

18.

The C3A would reach out to seniors in the heartlands

too.

The C3A would work with organizations like the

People’s

Association

and

the

NTUC

to

create

more

opportunities and engage seniors in active ageing.

The

People’s Association (PA) offers a comprehensive range

of

programmes

at

the

Community

Clubs

(CCs)

and

Residents' Committees (RC), from healthy living to lifelong

learning, social recreational and cultural pursuits, to meet

the various needs and interests of seniors. The NTUC has

established what is calls the “Silver Collar Dragon Boat”,

which means the pooling the resources of its constituent

organizations, to provide more services and activities for

seniors, and to reach out to more of them. More than

150,000 older adults aged 50 and above are members of

PA’s Passion Card, and over 400 senior citizens’ clubs in

the PA network.

The NTUC itself has more than 10,000

seniors in its Third Chapter.

The C3A would reach out to

more seniors through the PA and NTUC networks.

Sports

19.

Our lifestyle is getting more sedentary. The C3A will

work

with

the

Sports

Council

to

customize

exercise

programmes for seniors and motivate passive older people

to

adopt

a

healthier

lifestyle.

Sports,

like

PA’s

programmes, alleviate loneliness, get seniors together and

build social networks among them.

20. The challenge for the Council for Third Age is to

reach out to the unconverted. The C3A will administer the

Golden

Opportunity!

or

GO!

Fund

and

seed

new

programmes especially targeted at the unconverted.

The

GO! Fund will also support programmes that promote

inter-generational

bonds

and

extended

family

ties

to

ensure that seniors’ well-being is embedded on strong

family values.

Dialogue with Seniors

21. The Council will also consult seniors, through regular

dialogues.

I agree with Ms Eunice Olsen’s suggestion

that we should get feedback from seniors. The Council will

work with REACH on its first public consultation with

seniors. It will focus on garnering ideas on active ageing

and building social networks. Selected seniors from the

public

consultation

process

would

form

seniors

workgroups to develop potential ideas further.

Greater

participation by seniors to develop and plan programmes

for other seniors will improve the perception by others

towards ageing and the aged.

SILVER INDUSTRY

Overview

22.

In 5 to 10 years, seniors will be a large consumer

group. In the United States, Japan, Korea and Europe,

businesses have tailored their products and services for

seniors, fuelling the growth of a “silver industry”. While

Singapore as well as Asia experience rapid ageing, the

same phenomenon will occur in our region.

The baby

boomers have had the benefit of good jobs as Singapore’s

economy took off, and would have substantial savings and

a reasonable level of disposable income, especially if they

continue to work.

Future seniors will spend on pursuing

interests like travel, learning, sports and fashion. [Handout

2]

23. A Silver Industry Committee chaired by Mr Philip Yeo,

Chairman of A*STAR, will heighten awareness of the

business potential of the silver market in Singapore and

Asia and facilitate the growth of the private sector in

developing a variety of products and services. The sectors

that we can grow are healthcare and wellness, travel and

leisure, financial, learning and assistive technology.

Assistive Technology

24. I have circulated some photos to illustrate exciting

possibilities which ride on the use of technology. In Japan,

an elderly can do basic medical measurements at home

and transmit them to the local doctor.

Nintendo has

developed a Brain Training Game to keep seniors mentally

agile.

[Handout 3].

Learning and Travel & Leisure

25.

Learning, travel and leisure, are also growing sectors

Reputable

education

institutes

such

as

the

Harvard

University

offers

the

Summer

School

Programme

for

seniors. Our education institutes do some of these but can

do more.

From 2001 to 2005, 16% of tourists coming to

Singapore are 55 years old and above. As the other silver

industry sectors take off, more seniors could come to enjoy

a wide range of services and amenities here. Our seniors

here will benefit. The larger regional market ensures there

is a critical mass so that more goods and services can be

offered.

Employment

26.

A

developed

Silver

Industry

would

generate

considerable economic multiplier effects for Singapore’s

economy and create jobs for Singaporeans. For instance,

retailers

would

want

older

service

staff

who

can

understand the requirements and psyche of seniors. When

the baby boomers

enter

into their

70s,

there will

be

increasing demand for care products and services. Jobs

suitable for seniors will be created and fueled by the

demands of the silver market. Employers will find an age-

diverse work force makes business sense as this will

reflect their customer base.

CONCLUSION

27.

We

can

all

look

forward

to

ageing

in

a vibrant

environment in Singapore. Over the next 5 years, policies

and programmes will be put in place to ensure that ageing

in Singapore will be exciting, that more jobs be created for

seniors,

age-specific

products

and

services

made

accessible and affordable, to meet the demands and

aspirations of seniors. Our seniors will lead healthy, active

and productive lives, and have strong family ties.

For

those who are frail, families will be supported to care for

them in their own homes and in the community.

Just as

Singapore is a good place to bring up families, Singapore

will be a good place to grow old in.

28.

As

noted

by

Sin

Boon

Ann,

it

is

early

days yet.

Perhaps, in the next COS, we will have more information.