Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health & Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, at YMCA-Central Singapore CDC Silver Fiesta 2013, 14 Nov 2013

Ms Denise Phua, Vice-Chairperson of Central Singapore CDC,

Mr Stephen Loh, President of YMCA,
Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

2          I am very happy to join you here at the YMCA – Central Singapore CDC Silver Fiesta 2013. This Fiesta is a timely reminder that we can all embrace and celebrate ageing. Collectively, we can also aspire towards a Singapore where we can all age actively, healthily and happily within a caring society.  

 

Adopting an All Hands-On-Board Approach

3          Singapore’s population is ageing. Come 2030, one in five Singaporeans will be above the age of 65. As a society, we need to come together to help our seniors have a good quality of life while they age.  Even while the government builds capacity for aged care facilities, we also want to help seniors remain active and healthy so that they can age well and remain independent for as long as they can.          

4          This requires an all hands-on-board approach. The government cannot do this  alone.

 

Government Taking the Lead

5          Our policies, programmes and systems must be supportive of the vision that we want for an ageing population. A key priority is to enable our seniors to age in place. 

6          The City For All Ages (CFAA) project was started two years ago to fund initiatives aimed at making communities more senior-friendly so that the elderly can live comfortably and confidently in familiar surroundings for as long as possible. To date, the project has benefited elderly residents in 11 constituencies and we will be rolling this out to another three constituencies within the next few months.

7          We have also been emphasising on the health and fitness of seniors. The People’s Association has progressively rolled out the Wellness Programme to all 87 constituencies in Singapore to encourage seniors to stay physically active and have regular health screenings. It is on track to reach its target of reaching out to 500,000 seniors by 2015. I am also heartened to hear about the formation of Healthy Lifestyle Clubs (HLCs) at Central Singapore CDC that encourage residents, including seniors, to exercise regularly, form new friendships and build social networks. Residents enjoy monthly activities such as mass walks, qi gong and tai ji through these HLCs. I encourage all seniors to participate in these health and fitness activities to not only stay physically and mentally fit but to also remain socially connected.

 

Calling for Community Champions

8          To enable all our seniors to age actively and with dignity, we need champions in the community to work with us – and with each other - to build a warm and welcoming environment for our seniors.

9          It is very encouraging to see this happening within the Central CDC community through several programmes. One example is the FairPrice Foundation-Central Singapore Bright Homes Programme where volunteers from schools, the grassroots and the community befriend and regularly reach out to lonely seniors living in 1-2 room rental flats. Currently, more than 900 volunteers are onboard this programme engaging more than 1,000 seniors.   

10        Over at the YMCA, volunteers gather monthly to bake goodies and distribute them to the elderly through the Y Food of Love food distribution and visitation programme.  Through the Y Makan Fellowship, seniors are treated to a meal, games and songs as youth befrienders bring cheer to them.

11        We need more programmes like these and we want to work with partners – businesses, non-profit organisations, and community volunteers to spearhead this. We are ready to support these ground-up efforts to form more “helping and caring” communities in our neighbourhoods - where ageing is not a burden and every senior will know that he or she matters and is never alone, and where our younger generation can benefit from the wealth of experiences and knowledge of our seniors.

 

Taking Personal Responsibility

12        It is never too young to start embracing ageing . Ultimately, each of us has a personal choice and responsibility to make our senior years our very best ones. Having a positive attitude towards ageing will determine the actions we take, and the decisions we make.  As we age, we can do three things to live life to the fullest: stay healthy; stay active; and stay happy.

Stay Healthy

13        Our bodies will naturally experience wear and tear as we age. But with a healthy diet, regular exercise and good lifestyle habits, most of us will still be fit and well to go about our daily activities even as we grow old. Going for regular health screenings is also important. It is easier to treat health problems when they are discovered earlier. So, do go for the health screening and join in the health talks that are offered at this Fiesta! 

Stay Active

14        Secondly, to age well, it is important to stay active, both physically and mentally. There many interesting ways to do this. We can offer to care for our grandchildren, join an interest group, put our talents to good use by volunteering, or attend courses to learn something new each day. There are also many opportunities for seniors to help fellow seniors.

Staying Happy

15        And finally, be happy and embrace ageing. It is a process that we will all experience one day. Ageing becomes a much more enjoyable experience when we share it with family and friends. This is why building strong relationships is very important even as we age. Let us bring the “kampong spirit” back into our communities by looking out for each other.

 

Conclusion

16        I would like to thank the YMCA and Central Singapore CDC for organising this meaningful event and for planning an exciting programme.

17        I would also like to thank the youth volunteers from Anglo Chinese Junior College and Raffles Institution who are with us.  Your time and effort spent today is a reflection of the respect, care and love we have for our seniors. It sets a good example for how we can make Singapore a caring society for our seniors.  I hope that you will continue to bring cheer to even more “Uncles and Aunties” in our community. Your efforts will not only impact their lives, but also enrich our society.

18        And finally, to all our seniors, thank you for coming to this Silver Fiesta today. Have a good time, enjoy yourself, and I wish you good health and happiness always.

 

Thank you.

 

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