Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the 9th International Ageing Asia Innovation Forum, 15 May 2018

Ms Janice Chia, Founder & Managing Director, Ageing Asia, 

Dr Lam Ching-Choi, Member of the Executive Council, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 

Her Excellency Paula Parviainen, Ambassador, Embassy of Finland, Singapore, 

Distinguished Guests, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Good morning. 

            It gives me great pleasure to join you at the 9th International Ageing Asia Innovation Forum, which brings together some 250 international guests from over 15 countries for a meeting of minds. 

RETHINKING AGED CARE 

2          The world’s population of over 60 years old will almost double from 12% to 22% between 2015 and 2050. Singapore is no exception. By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be 65 years old or older, and the number of seniors in Singapore is projected to double to more than 900,000. This demographic shift presents challenges but also opportunities. We face growing healthcare demand, compounded by weakening social support from a rising trend of smaller families, shrinking workforce, and increased fiscal and care burden on the young. But the good news is that healthy life expectancy is also increasing, with people staying healthier for longer.  Seizing the opportunities arising from productive longevity, is therefore crucial to Singapore’s success as a nation. 

3          The theme for this year’s forum, “Rethinking Aged Care: Health Longevity, Affordability and Sustainability”, is therefore apt as population ageing is triggering a major re-think among societies across the world, on how we deliver care to our elderly, in a sustainable way. Singapore’s approach has been to increase accessibility to healthcare by growing our healthcare capacity and capabilities in a sustainable manner, while enhancing the quality and affordability of care. In tandem, we are building communities of care and a strong social support system. 

GROWING HEALTHCARE CAPACITY 

4          Healthcare 2020 outlines the Ministry of Health’s strategy to improve accessibility, quality and affordability of healthcare. We have made good progress but more still needs to be done. Since 2011, we have added 1,700 acute hospital beds, 1,200 community hospital beds, and 5,300 nursing home beds. To support ageing in place, we have added 4,200 home-based and 2,900 centre-based care places. We have also grown our healthcare workforce by about 36%. 

5          Over the next few years, we will continue to add healthcare facilities across Singapore. We are planning new and expanded facilities such as acute and community hospitals as well as specialist centres in various parts of Singapore. We are also strengthening our primary care foundation by building new polyclinics, expanding existing ones, and establishing more Primary Care Networks comprising General Practitioners. Our hospitals will also partner with primary care and community care providers to bring about seamless care for patients. 

ENHANCING QUALITY OF CARE 

6          To enhance the quality of care, we have pioneered new models of care, to transform the way we care and support our seniors to age in place, within the communities where they live in the company of friends and loved ones.  Kampung Admiralty is one example. It has been touted in the media as our first “retirement kampong” where seniors can access a continuum of social and health services to support them as they grow frailer. Seniors who live at Kampung Admiralty are just minutes away from a supermarket, hawker centre, eldercare facilities and a medical centre. I will leave Mr Liak Teng Lit, Co-chairman of the Kampung Admiralty Steering Committee, to share more on this later in the forum.    

7          To expand the range of housing options available to seniors, MOH is also working closely with the Ministry of National Development (MND), Housing Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to pilot new forms of housing developments that are twinned with care services. Both Ministries are studying the potential sites for such “assisted living” developments, within both private and public housing. I hope the discussions on assisted living at this forum will spark off some interesting ideas which we can consider applying.   

8          In preparing for an ageing society, Singapore has also gleaned insights from pockets of innovations in other parts of the world. One good example, which Dr Lam Ching Choi may have heard of, is the 24/7 personal care emergency assistance service by Hong Kong’s Senior Citizen Home Safety Association (SCHSA), or 平安钟(ping an zhong). Changi General Hospital is piloting a similar home care and safety service.  Known as Care Line, this is a 24/7 tele-care service that supports seniors living in the community. More than 1000 seniors are enrolled in the service today, and can now tap on Care Line when they need help such as reminders for medical appointments, alerts on active ageing activities in their area, information about programmes, and even urgent assistance if unwell.  Instead of a separate home-based device, Care Line taps on smart phone technology and has developed a mobile application to provide assistance at home and in the community at the tap of a button.  We hope to scale up this innovation, to support the growing number of seniors living alone.   

IMPROVING HEALTHCARE AFFORDABILITY AND SUSTAINBILITY 

9          Over the past five years, the Government has moved to significantly improve healthcare affordability to assure our seniors that their health will be looked after when they require it. We introduced “MediShield Life” in November 2015, which means that all Singaporeans will have protection against large hospitalisation expenses for life. We have increased subsidies for intermediate and long term care services and broadened eligibility to cover up to two-thirds of households. We also extended drug subsidies to subsidised ILTC patients. 

10        We launched the Pioneer Generation package in 2014 for our special generation of citizens who helped build Singapore, to better take care of their healthcare expenses for life. About 300,000 Pioneers have benefitted from subsidies under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) at participating GP and dental clinics in the community, and about 250,000 to 300,000 Pioneers have enjoyed Pioneer Generation subsidies at polyclinics and subsidised Specialist Outpatient Clinics 

11        We also appointed the Eldershield Review Committee to review Eldershield, a long-term care insurance scheme targeted at severe disability. The Committee is looking into enhanced benefits such as higher payouts and an extension of the payout duration upon claims, to better provide for disability and long-term care in old age. People are living longer, which means more will live to an age where disability incidence is higher. It is critical that we prepare Singaporeans for disability and update our aged care financing schemes to give them peace of mind.   

BUILDING COMMUNITIES OF CARE 

12        Underpinning all these initiatives are our efforts to build communities of care which help our seniors age well in each community. We have developed the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) as our uniquely Singaporean response to population ageing. CNS is a national programme that adopts a proactive approach in keeping seniors well by promoting preventive health and active ageing programmes among well seniors, befriending lonely seniors living alone, and sewing up social and healthcare support for frail seniors. 

13        CNS connects stakeholders within a locality and draws in the energies of the wider community to jointly engage and support our seniors, including community-based voluntary welfare organisations, grassroots organisations under the People’s Association, the regional health systems as well as government agencies. As we roll out CNS nationwide, we hope to support care integration across settings and form a network of community nodes across the island, so that our seniors are well supported to age in place. 

CONCLUSION 

14        Rethinking aged care and supporting our ageing population is not a task that can be accomplished overnight. To succeed in these efforts, the public, private and people sectors will have to work in partnership to reimagine new possibilities and solutions. 

15        On this note, I would like to thank Ageing Asia for their good work in driving research and innovation in the ageing landscape, as well as developing capabilities in the aged care sector. I believe that today’s forum will facilitate the discussion of many innovative and creative ideas. I wish everyone fruitful conversations.

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