01 Oct 2011
By Mr Gan Kim Yong
Venue: Hilton hotel
Mr Gerard Ee, Chairman, Council for Third Age
Nominees of the Active Agers Awards 2011,
Ladies and Gentleman
I am very happy to be here this evening to join you in honouring this year’s Active Agers Award winners. I would like to thank C3A for organizing this Award ceremony. It is an important platform for us to recognize and celebrate our seniors who continue to lead passionate and purposeful lives regardless of age.
Ageing : A Collective Responsibility
2. Over the next two decades, the profile of our society will see a deep and profound change as our population ages. The first cohort of Baby Boomers will turn 65 years old next year and by 2030, the number of seniors above 65 in Singapore will increase approximately three-fold to almost one million. This means one in five Singaporeans will be above the age of 65.
3. Ageing affects each and every one of us intimately, but it is also our collective responsibility to ensure that our seniors of today and tomorrow enjoy a high quality of life. As our population ages, the texture of our society will be defined by how the seniors can live, work and play. More importantly, how we, as a society, help our seniors embrace ageing will define us and speak volumes of our collective values as a society and as a nation.
4. Many societies have or are experiencing ageing. Rather than viewing ageing as just a challenge or problem, I see this as an exciting opportunity. This is the moment where the public, private and people sectors in Singapore can come together to co-create solutions and define our own uniquely Singapore response to an ageing population.
The Government’s Role : Supporting Ageing in Place
5. The government will take the lead in ensuring that policies, systems and programmes are in place to prepare for an ageing population. A key focus of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing is the empowerment of seniors to age in place.
6. The Committee will be studying ways to enhance the living environment such that seniors can live safely and purposefully within their existing homes and communities, near their friends and families. We will study how seniors can be empowered with more care options, and how their care givers can be supported, such that they can continue to age in place for as long as possible.
7. However, even in 2030, we expect the majority of the senior population to be ambulant and healthy. The Committee will continue to press on with policies and programmes to enable seniors to stay healthy, feel happy and continue to contribute to the economy and to the society for as long as possible. Therefore, a key area of emphasis going forward will be on the health and fitness of seniors. We have already acted in this area. For instance, through the Wellness Programme and the Seniors for Physical Activity (SPA), we have encouraged senior Singaporeans to be physically active and have regular health screenings. The Wellness Programme has been launched in 42 of the 87 wards in Singapore and People’s Association intends to cover all 87 wards by 2013 and reaching out to 500,000 seniors by 2015 . Going forward, we want to step up on the efforts to help our seniors better assess their level of fitness and better manage any chronic conditions that they may have.
The Community’s Role : Embracing and empowering seniors
8. However, government’s efforts alone are insufficient. The quality of life of our seniors also depends greatly on the social environment they are in. Is this a society that accepts and embraces seniors as an integral part of our community? Is this a society where seniors feel respected, welcomed, and above all, loved? Is this a place where seniors may live alone but are not lonely?
9. We need to work together with the numerous partners within the community – the non-profit organizations and community groups, employers and businesses – to build an inclusive society that embraces seniors, no matter what age, no matter whether they are rich or poor, healthy or sick.
10. With the formation of the Council of Third Age, we have begun to build an active ageing eco-system over the past few years, where more and more organizations are stepping forth to offer a wide range of activities for seniors to participate in.11. But more must be done. In particular, more seniors would be living alone in the future. We need to leverage on the creative
energies of organizations involved in community service to enhance the level of social connectedness of our seniors, and to prevent social isolation from setting in. The government can work with community groups to build capabilities, such as volunteer recruitment and management, such that collectively, we can achieve a quantum leap in terms of improving our outreach and engagement of seniors.
Role of Individuals : Taking Charge
12. Ultimately, the face of our future society will be shaped by the individual choices of our seniors. It is their lives to live and their life choices to make. Seniors themselves must take charge of their own ageing process – their health, their retirement, how active and how engaged they want to be.
13. On this, I am optimistic. Looking at the winners tonight, I can say that our seniors today and tomorrow would be a cheerful, engaged and healthy lot, and will have more than a thing or two to show and share with the younger members of our society.
14. The winners tonight are selected for their dynamism in mind, body and spirit. They are chosen because they embody the true spirit of active ageing, which the Awards aim to promote. Each of the winner tonight demonstrates a “can do” spirit and serves as a role model for us all.
15. Captain Ho Weng Toh and Dr William Wan – two of the award winners this evening – demonstrate that age is no barrier to physical activity. At 91, Captain Ho keeps himself physically and mentally fit by swimming and playing golf and participating in bridge tournaments. Dr Wan also remains physically active, and has even tried new activities such as sky diving and scuba diving since his retirement at age 60. Madam S.I. Seethalakshmi and Madam Rohaini Bte Mohamed are exemplary seniors volunteering their time and effort to contribute back to society. Madam Seetha reads with young children at the National Library Board KidsREAD programme and Madam Rohaini contributes by helping under privileged children. Mr Roland Ng, Mr Geoffrey Kung and Mr Tan Tui Gee are true lifelong learners, who not only have a thirst for learning, but dedicate time to share their expertise and knowledge with their peers and younger Singaporeans.
16. To all seven winners, I offer my heartiest congratulations but also a deep thank you. Thank you for showing us and all seniors what is possible and how full life can be. You are a living proof to all of us that it is possible to add life to years and not simply years to life, and we salute your spirit and your drive. With that, I wish you all a pleasant evening.