Speech by Minister for Health, Mr Gan Kim Yong, at the Launch of Friends Plus and Friends Special @ St Hilda’s Link, Friday, 17 May 2013

Bishop Rennis Ponniah

Advisor for Mountbatten Constituency, Mr Lim Biow Chuan

Rev Canon Soon, Vicar of St Hilda’s Church

Board Directors of St Hilda’s Community Services Centre

Distinguished guests

Good morning. I am happy to be here today to celebrate with you the opening of the Friends Plus and Friends Special @ St Hilda’s Link.

2. As I step into this centre, I can already feel the warmth of the hearts of the “Ang Sah” volunteers and the strong bond of friendship among residents in this community. Indeed, St Hildas Community Services is an old friend to many of the senior residents here in Tanjong Rhu. As early as 1999, St Hilda’s has started reaching out to our seniors in this estate, and came to be fondly known by our seniors as the “Ang Sahs” (red T-shirt).

3. I understand that St Hilda’s started out in a humble un-used bin centre, which they turned into the “Coffee Bin”, to provide a place where seniors can gather, socialise, eat and play bingo together. Six years later, in 2005, St Hilda’s managed to set up a proper centre for seniors called Friends @ St Hilda’s Link at Block 10, for seniors in the estate to socialise and participate in many programmes together. I was told that it was in Friends at Block 10, that some seniors also learnt English for the first time, at a good mature age!

St Hilda’s Friends Plus and Friends Special

4. Today marks yet another milestone for everyone in this neighbourhood, with the opening of Friends Plus and Friends Special. Over the last decade, the population in Tanjong Rhu has aged. It became clear that we need more facilities, beyond a social gathering space, to support seniors here to age in place happily and with dignity.

5. The new premises that we open today, Friends Plus and Friends Special, are equipped to provide additional services, including full social day care, as well as day rehabilitative care, for seniors in the area. Seniors recovering from a stroke, accidents, falls, or fractures can be supported and rehabilitated at the day rehab centre at Block 11, and need not travel all the way to a hospital. Together with the active ageing and social programmes provided by Friends@ St Hilda’s Link, we now have a comprehensive senior care facility here that provides a seamless range of social and health related aged care services to seniors, to help them age in place.

6. This facility also sits within a larger network of partnerships among healthcare institutions, to bring seamless care to residents in the East. St Hilda’s has partnered St Andrew’s Community Hospital (SACH) to support the day rehabilitative facility at Block 11 with professional therapy manpower and expertise, and SACH will also use the centre as a base to provide home healthcare services to home bound seniors who may be discharged from Changi General Hospital or SACH.

7. St Hilda’s has also formed partnerships “upstream”, to bring better primary care and preventive programmes to seniors in this area, such that our seniors can stay healthy and add more healthy years. It has linked up with SATA CommHealth’s
mobile clinic, which will visit the centre regularly to bring primary care and health advice to the door step of seniors here, and reduce the need for them to travel out to polyclinics regularly.

8. I am also pleased to learn that the St Hilda’s team has rolled out a Preventive Maintenance Programme on falls prevention, since 2010, to keep our seniors healthy and mobile for as long as possible. Under this programme, St Hilda’s provide falls risk screening services to seniors every Saturday, where at-risk seniors are offered a customised programme to strengthen their condition. I look forward to seeing the programme grow over time to keep more of our seniors healthy within the community.

Integrating Social and Healthcare to Serve Ageing Communities

9. Our population will be rapidly ageing in the next one to two decades, and there will be more communities like this one in Tanjong Rhu, as the residents age together. The key challenge for us as a society, is how we can organise ourselves to provide a supportive environment, to help our seniors to remain healthy, active and age happily in place.

10. This requires partnerships to be formed across the healthcare and social work sectors, across the acute and intermediate and long term care sectors, and between the public and people sectors. While the government can come in to support with funds and infrastructure, we also need dedicated healthcare professionals, as well as the strong pairs of hands of volunteers and VWOs with warm hearts like St Hilda’s, to build each estate into the best place for our seniors to live in.

11. Part of the reason why we want to locate aged care facilities in the community, apart from making aged care more accessible, is also to tap on the energy and the ‘heartware’ already existing in the community, to foster a more inclusive environment for our seniors to age in. I am therefore very happy to see that apart from the “Ang Sahs”, the students from the LaSalle College of the Arts also visit the centre regularly to conduct art therapy sessions, and students from nearby schools, such as Dunman High School and Tanjong Katong Secondary School, also drop by regularly to say hi and bond with the senior residents here. These programmes will contribute towards building a caring society.

An Asset for Everyone

12. This centre has already started to benefit the local community in tangible terms. I met Mdm Ong Yet Tee, who is a 84-year-old resident living at Block 11. She suffered from a fall which fractured her left wrist last November and was advised by the hospital to go for physiotherapy. With the opening of Friends Special, Mdm Ong can go for her physiotherapy sessions at the centre just below her flat, instead of having to travel all the way to the hospital. She shared that St Hilda’s has not only helped to reduce her pain within less than two months of services, she also saved on transport costs and does not need to wait very long. In addition, she is constantly encouraged by dedicated staff and volunteers who motivate her to be active to maintain her functional fitness.

13. But I hope that this centre will also be an asset for everyone living in this area, not just the old, but also the young and the working adults. By providing a good day facility for seniors, caregivers can go to work everyday with the peace of mind that their parents are well taken care of in the day. The expanded centre also has a study corner for youths living in the area, and weekly tuition classes are conducted here as well. In addition, St Hilda’s also organises recreational and educational activities for children, such as speech and drama classes and hip-hop workshops. Through these activities, we bring in the old, as well as the young, to bond within the same facility.

Conclusion

14. In conclusion, I would like to commend the dedication and hard work of the St Hilda’s team of committee members, staff and volunteers in the expansion of the centre over the past year. I would also like to thank Advisor Lim and his team of grassroots leaders for their support. Most importantly, we would like to thank the residents here for their support for the centre, and I hope that it will grow as a facility to be a real asset for everyone in this community. 15. I wish you all a great day ahead.

Thank you.

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