Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the launch of Dialogue with Time - Embrace Ageing exhibition, 10 November 2017

Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive, Science Centre Singapore 

Distinguished Guests 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

            Good morning. I am delighted to join you today at the launch of the Dialogue with Time – Embrace Ageing exhibition hosted by Science Centre Singapore. 

2.     Like many developed countries, Singapore is ageing very quickly.  By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 years and above, about double that of today. However, growing old is a blessing, longevity is good news. Therefore, instead of worrying about ageing, we want to encourage Singaporeans to positively embrace ageing and maximise our longevity by leading healthy and meaningful lives.  Two years ago, I launched the Action Plan for Successful Ageing as our blueprint to enable Singaporeans to grow old with confidence.  The Action Plan has over 70 initiatives in 12 areas including health and wellness, learning, volunteerism, employment, housing, transport and aged care services to help our seniors to be healthy, active and to age-in-place.

3.     As part of the implementation of the Action Plan, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has worked with the Ministry of Education to educate students on perceiving ageing positively and to promote inter-generational harmony. For example, we have worked together to incorporate issues related to ageing into the national school curriculum.  We have also embarked on school outreach efforts to change the conversation on ageing among younger Singaporeans.  To date, we have reached out to more than 2,000 students.     

4.     Under the National Silver Academy, the Inter-generational Learning Programme (ILP) also aims to improve perceptions and attitudes towards ageing. Youths and seniors are matched in a group learning environment where, through practical classes such as learning to use Facebook and other social media tools, seniors acquire new knowledge while youths learn character building. As at September 2017, over 100 schools have run the Inter-generational Learning Programme, benefitting more than 23,000 seniors and students.


5.     MOH has partnered Science Centre on this exhibition, Dialogue with Time – Embrace Ageing, which seeks to re-frame and present the opportunities of ageing as well as the future of ageing. Through the exhibition’s interactive inter-generational dialogues, experiential play and the displays on the science and technology of ageing, we hope that visitors of all ages can come to better understand and appreciate that ageing is a normal process that is part and parcel of life, and in fact starts from the day we are born. Thus, ageing is not something to be feared, but brings with it opportunities in longevity. 

6.     Our efforts to re-frame ageing through the Dialogue with Time exhibition targets both the old and the young. First, we want to encourage older Singaporeans to appreciate that ageing does not necessarily mean decline and to adopt a more positive perspective that individuals can continue to grow and develop even as their chronological age increases.  Second, we want to enable “middle-age” adult Singaporeans to have a better understanding of ageing and to be prepared for it. And third, we want to enable our young to have a better understanding of older people and develop an empathy for the physiological changes that come with ageing. We also want them to adopt a positive mindset about lifelong learning as they age. Together with Science Centre, we hope to have 10,000 school students to visit the exhibition annually.


7.     Our seniors can remain active and engaged.  In fact, I understand that one unique aspect of the Dialogue with Time exhibition is that visitors will be guided by senior guides who will stimulate discussions and share knowledge of ageing.  One of these senior guides is Mr John Siregar who is 85 years old this year. John was in the Police Force for about 30 years before transiting to work in the sales line for the next 20 years. He continues to remain in the workforce because he views work as an opportunity to occupy time meaningfully and gainfully.  I was told that he actually holds 2 jobs now!  One as an associate trainer with Training Vision Institute and the other as a senior guide with the Science Centre. 

8.     Another example is Ms Samsiah Bte Mustafa, aged 67, who signed up to be a senior guide with the Science Centre because she wants to share about healthy and active ageing.  The role also gave her the opportunity to make new friends.   Besides spending her time at the Science Centre, Samsiah also volunteers as a Pioneer Generation Ambassador, and at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital for the Befriender Programme and Dementia Care.

9.     I hope the stories of John and Samsiah give you a greater appreciation of what active ageing and productive longevity mean.  For seniors in the audience, you may wish to consider becoming a senior guide for the exhibition yourself.  I understand from the Science Centre that the second round of recruitment will take place in March 2018, and this exhibition will be in the Science Centre for at least three years, so there are opportunities for seniors to guide visitors in this exhibition.

10.     For seniors who wish to continue to contribute to society through volunteering, we have also launched the Silver Volunteer Fund as one of the initiatives under the Action Plan. This is to encourage more seniors to come forward as volunteers. To date, we have funded 15 volunteer programmes and created over 7,000 volunteer opportunities for seniors. For instance, the Community Befriending Programme sees seniors signing up as befrienders to regularly reach out to home alone seniors to befriend them, keep an eye on their health and well-being, and encourage them to participate in social activities. As at September this year, there are 700 befrienders and 2,000 beneficiaries in 40 constituencies. 


11.     Besides keeping one’s mind healthy and active through learning and volunteering, science and technology can play an important role to alleviate the challenges that arise from ageing. In the Dialogue with Time exhibition, visitors will be able to learn more about the science behind ageing and the signs of natural ageing.  The exhibits explain the cellular processes of ageing, including cellular division and cellular ageing, as well as changes to our organs and body systems such as cardiovascular, skeletal and nervous systems.  Students can learn about human biology in a fun way. 

12.     Visitors to the exhibition will also learn more about the use of technology to support ageing populations.  Exhibits include robotics, home assistive, telehealth, and mobility devices that will empower and enable our seniors to continue to enjoy their longer life years with a good quality of life in the community.


13.     I hope that through the Dialogue with Time exhibition, visitors will come to view seniors as an asset, able to impart knowledge and skills, engage with the community, and continue to contribute to our nation in a positive way.  I congratulate the Science Centre for developing and hosting this meaningful exhibition and I am sure that it will resonate with Singaporeans of all ages. 

14.     Last but not least, for Singaporeans to grow old successfully, remember to stay healthy, active and engaged! Thank you.

  Return to Top