Sep 30, 2013

    After-hours care among services the elderly need

    THERE are gaps in Singapore's eldercare services that need to be plugged if more old people are to continue living at home after they become frail.

    One of them is the need for after-hours care, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

    Today, support services for the elderly, such as day and rehabilitation care, are largely available only during office hours. These services need to be extended to accommodate family members returning home late or elderly people living alone who might need help at night.

    Another is having medical care, such as a GP clinic or polyclinic, near apartments for the elderly - which Singapore can include in its development plans, said Mr Gan.

    The minister was sharing with the media some ideas from his four-day study trip to Japan earlier this month that can be applied here.

    He revealed that he had set up a Homecare Working Committee comprising professionals in the field and service providers in April this year. The committee will draw up a masterplan on how to develop the services needed to help the elderly age in the community, and how to find and train the manpower needed.

    Seeing how Japan is coping with the needs of its ageing population reaffirms that Singapore is heading in the right direction, said Mr Gan, who chairs the Ministerial Committee on Ageing.

    In 20 years' time, Singapore will be facing similar challenges Japan is dealing with now.

    Singapore's move to get companies to re-employ those eligible up to age 65 from 62 - and eventually to 67 - is something it has learnt from Japan, said Mr Gan, who was manpower minister before taking on his current portfolio.

    Japan wants to keep people working for even longer.

    He said: "Our target is 67, but if we live longer and longer, we clearly need to adjust according to lifespan."

    Singaporeans are living longer - about 15 years more than in 1965. Said Mr Gan: "We need to build in flexibility and adapt strategies as the demographic pattern evolves."