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16 Nov 2023

16th Nov 2023

        As you are aware, during this year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister spoke about Age Well SG, as another national programme to prepare ourselves for the ageing population. During the release of the Forward Singapore report, Age Well SG was also one of our key initiatives. Today, together with Minister Desmond Lee and Acting Minister Chee Hong Tat, we will be explaining some of the details of Age Well SG. 

2.     Age Well SG covers a few areas. I will talk about the healthcare aspects, and also with regard to social inclusion of seniors through the Active Ageing Centres (AACs). Minister Desmond Lee will share plans on how we are shaping our built environment and neighbourhoods to be more aged-friendly and inclusive. Acting Minister Chee will share how our roads and transport infrastructure will be improved to be more aged-friendly. Let me start with my part first.
Encourage Active Ageing 

3.     The key priority for us in Age Well SG is to recognise that for many seniors, their biggest enemy is social isolation and loneliness. That is when your health really deteriorates. We want them to be socially connected with friends, love, friendship and care. 

Invest in Active Ageing Centres

4.     The first thing we will do is to invest in our AACs. We will dedicate about $800 million over the next five years to fund the programmes and services in our AACs. Each AAC will find that their budget will increase by at least 50%. Currently their annual budget hovers at about $400,000 per AAC, which will now go up to $600,000. At the same time, if they achieve certain outcomes, there will be a further tier to achieve and obtain. So there are significantly more resources for each and every AAC.

5.     But with greater resourcing, we also have higher expectations for AACs. You have seen many of the activities that NTUC Health is doing in this AAC. We hope these will become regular features conducted almost on a weekly basis in every AAC. If I were to summarise three major shifts for AACs on how they operate from AACs 1.0 to AACs 2.0:

6.     First, they need to expand their outreach very significantly, such that they can connect and engage with the great majority of seniors living in the area under their charge. It is not difficult to fill up an AAC with the same visitors every day. It is much more difficult to be able to reach out to the great majority of seniors living around the AAC and be able to engage them meaningfully. They will be supported by our Silver Generation Ambassadors (SGA) by the Silver Generation Office, and hopefully also by volunteers that they can recruit. You do need a lot of volunteers to do that kind of outreach work.

7.     Second, having engaged the seniors, they must be able to persuade them to come to the centres and join the activities. We need to improve the quality and range of programmes. We want them to be evidence-based, meaning that these are activities that will help seniors become healthy, including physical exercise and social interaction activities. They must also suit the preferences of the seniors living in their vicinity.

8.     You have seen some key activities today, such as:

• Communal dining, which is always an attractive way for seniors to make friends and be socially included; 
• Physical exercises, which many seniors need; 
• Learning opportunities, where we saw some seniors learning a bit of coding; and 
• Volunteerism, which I will talk about later.

9.     The third major thing they must do is to feel that their work is not confined within the premises of the AACs. It must spill outside the AAC, the more the better. They must be able to work with community partners, such as People’s Association, Voluntary Welfare Organisations, Health Promotion Board and Sport Singapore. They all have their own programmes, so it is how you synergise everything to work with other partners in a more effective way, using the budget and resources that is now given to every AAC. By extension, it means making use of all the spaces in the community – coffeeshops, pavilions, RC centres, community centres. We need to use as many of them as possible.

10.     In addition, we will be expanding the number of AACs islandwide. We have 154 today, and we will expand to 220 by 2025. I recently met with our AAC providers at a townhall and explained some of these changes to them. I think we have very strong support from our AACs. They know it is not going to be easy. It is a major transformation of the way they operate, but I think they are all raring to go. 

Create More Opportunities for Seniors to Volunteer

11.     The second area I want to talk about today is creating more opportunities for seniors to volunteer. Volunteerism is a very important way for seniors to feel that they can continue to contribute to society and the people around them. It will be a core function of the AACs to drive senior volunteerism. 

12.     Today, we have around 1,900 seniors who are volunteering as Silver Generation Ambassadors. We must be able to have more of such programmes, where we can take in big numbers of senior volunteers. The volunteers shared that volunteering gives them a sense of purpose and a way to contribute to the community regardless of their age. It also helps them to remain healthy.

13.     The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will roll out a new Senior Volunteerism Programme to train senior volunteers to support other seniors at our AACs. Volunteers can do a few things – organise and carry out active ageing programmes; befriend neighbours in need, and perhaps bring them to a health screening nearby or deliver a meal to them. Whatever ideas that you may have are welcome, and we will try to implement them.

14.     Seniors can sign up through the Age Well SG website or approach a nearby AAC to help them sign up. We will have training and try to match them to a volunteer role that is suitable to them. We aim to double the number of senior volunteers trained by AIC to around 4,000 by 2025.

Strengthen Support for Seniors with Care Needs in the Community

15.     Next, strengthening support for seniors with care needs in the community. So far I have spoken about more preventive measures, through the AACs and volunteerism. But there are also seniors with care needs, and we can do more and do better in the community. 

Develop More Caregiving Options 

16.     The third initiative is to develop more caregiving options. The private sector has a role to play in innovating new models of care to meet the care needs of our seniors.

17.     One possibility is a shared caregiving model. As seniors live together, they may form a new kind of ‘family’, building relationships and supporting each other. They also form new social circles that offer good companionship and mutual support. 

18.     At the same time, within this new household of a few seniors, we can have caregivers of less than the ratio of one caregiver to one senior, so that this caregiver can take care of more seniors. In that way, we also reduce the manpower needed to deliver care services. 

19.     In September this year, MOH and AIC, with the support of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), launched a sandbox to explore new models of stay-in shared caregiving for seniors. Participating companies will be supported by MOM. They will be eligible for work permit quotas and some foreign manpower concessions to give them the flexibility to recruit the necessary caregivers to support this programme. Five companies have been selected to onboard the sandbox and we aim to serve an estimated 800 senior clients in the community.

Improve Coordination of Aged Care Services 

20.     The fourth initiative today is to improve coordination of aged care services. This will address a fairly fragmented landscape that we see today. 

21.     A frail senior might need the support of different service providers, for example, day care and homecare. That will be two service providers. Due to the fragmented nature of the sector, their families might have to interact with multiple service providers and undergo repeated assessments from each provider. It creates unnecessary stress as well as inconvenience. 

22.     We will improve coordination within the aged care landscape. Within each local area, we will appoint a single provider who will coordinate all services needed for each senior so that our seniors will have a more seamless journey without having to move from pillar to post.

23.      Let me illustrate this with an example. 

• After a senior’s hospitalisation, say following a fall, he returns home, but needs follow-up care. The provider will provide a single care assessment and use this assessment to develop a holistic care plan, which may involve a few services by a few providers that would best support the care needs of this recovering senior. 

• The appointed coordinating provider will also be the one in charge of connecting him with all these relevant services. 

• Once he is better, and able to move about, he will be encouraged to go to his nearby AAC or Senior Care Centre, to participate in various activities so that he can quickly recover and return to a healthy social setting. 

• All this happens between him and his appointed care provider, without requiring additional referrals or assessments by many different parties.

24.     These changes to our aged care landscape will be made progressively throughout the island, starting from the second half of next year.

Enhance Caregiver Training

25.     The final area is to enhance caregiver training and we hope to make it as easy as possible for every Singaporean family to have a trained caregiver. 

26.     As children to our aged parents, we can be caught under-prepared when our loved ones become sick or frail. Caregiver training is essential. It teaches the preventive steps we can take with loved ones to delay the onset of frailty and prepares us for responsibilities that may come our way when we need to become caregivers. 
27.     Today, the Caregivers’ Training Grant (CTG) provides $200 of annual subsidies per senior, for caregivers to tap on when attending caregiver training. We will enhance our support for caregiving training.

28.     In 2024, we will double the CTG. Caregivers will be able to tap on up to $400 in CTG subsidies per year, double the $200 today. We will also allow caregivers to tap on their SkillsFuture Credits and SkillsFuture subsidies for selected courses. This will take effect by the end of this month. 

29.     AIC and SkillsFuture Singapore will work closely together to improve the range of training courses and make them more accessible. We intend to scale up the number of subsidised training places for caregivers to 4,500 each year across 200 courses. AIC and SkillsFuture Singapore will add more places if needed to ensure that the needs of caregivers are met.


30.     To close, I will reiterate some key points. Ageing will be the biggest social development of our generation. In the past, there were circles all over Singapore. In my growing up years, one by one the circles became junctions. But now we see circles coming back. In the past, we built HDB flats with two steps to the apartment. Now the two steps are what make the difference between isolation and social inclusion. MND is now putting in ramps so that seniors can come out of their house and be included in society. 

31.     We are making these small adjustments to big policy changes, so that Singapore can be a place that is friendly to all generations. 

32.     Today's announcements lay out further moves that the Government is making to make us an aged-friendly society and living environment. Step by step we are transforming the system.

Category: Speeches Highlights