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03 Feb 2020

3rd Feb 2020

Professor Victor Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM)

Professor Linda Fried, Dean, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University and Co-Chair of the International Commission of the Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity

Our Co-Chairs of the Workshop

Professor John Beard, ARC Centre for Excellence in Population Ageing Research, University of New South Wales

Professor Sharon Inouye, Director, Aging Brain Center, Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Harvard Medical School

Distinguished guests; Colleagues from Singapore; Ladies & Gentlemen

Introduction: Redefining Ageing

1.         First of all, a very good morning to one and all and let me welcome our overseas delegates and guests. Let me also thank you for having confidence in Singapore’s public health system. I am pleased to join you at the Health Care and Public Health Systems for Healthy Longevity - Workshop of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine’s Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity Initiative, where many of you here who are researchers, engineers, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, policy makers and health leaders have gathered to discuss a key global issue – that is ageing.

2.         Dramatic breakthroughs in medicine, public health and social and economic development have resulted in unprecedented extensions of the human lifespan across the world in the past century. Globally, population ageing is a key demographic phenomenon shaping many societies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the proportion of the world’s population aged over 60 will almost double from 12% to 22% between now and 2050.

3.         Singapore is no different. By 2030, there will be over 900,000 Singaporean seniors, with one in four aged 65 and above, compared to one in seven today. We are one of the most rapidly ageing countries in Asia, topping the world’s longest life expectancy at almost 85 years. While Singaporeans also have the longest Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) in the world at almost 75 years, we will still spend an average about 10 years in ill health. It is inevitable that as we age, the human body will undergo physiological and functional changes, rendering us more susceptible to disability and diseases. Hence it is important that we continue to explore ways to keep our seniors healthy for as long as possible.

4.         Ageing, however, is not all doom and gloom, if we are able to create opportunities for seniors to stay healthy and connected to the community, and to delay the onset of frailty. We can do this through developing multidisciplinary solutions to maximise the number of years lived in good health and a state of well-being. This would enable people to contribute to society for as long as they can and in whatever ways they choose to.

5.         That is why in Singapore we launched the Action Plan for Successful Ageing in 2015, a S$3 billion national blueprint that covers more than 70 initiatives across 12 areas at three levels – at individual, at community and at national levels - to enable Singaporeans to age confidently and gracefully in place. At the individual level, we aim to provide opportunities for seniors to continue working, learning and growing as they enjoy many more years of healthy life. At the community level, we want to make Singapore a cohesive and inclusive community where seniors can age actively and happily. We have involved the public, people and private sectors to strengthen community support for our seniors and to care for them. At the national level, we want to transform Singapore into an age-friendly city where Singaporeans can age-in-place gracefully and confidently. My colleague from the Ageing Planning Office in MOH will share more about the Action Plan during the workshop. Recognising that our future seniors have different needs and aspirations from seniors of today, we will be reviewing the Action Plan, and we hope to draw ideas from participants over the two-day workshop.


Singapore’s Participation in the Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge

6.         Beyond the domestic, we have plugged into the global circuit, seeking out opportunities to draw learnings that feed into a cycle of continuous improvement, in order to create ongoing positive changes that would better support Singaporeans to age gracefully in place.

7.         Singapore is honoured to be part of the Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge and to be able to host the second international workshop under the Global Roadmap initiative. This would support the development of recommendations to foster healthy longevity through strategies related to the enablers of health, public health systems, and science and technology.

8.         Today, we are privileged to have with us speakers, delegates as well as the NAM Oversight and Commission members from 16 countries around the world who will share their insights and offer us expert and evidence-based perspectives on what an ideal public health and healthcare system should encompass to mitigate the challenges of ageing and promote healthy longevity. This two-day workshop will enhance and examine potential approaches across the entire spectrum of norms, institutions and systems that provide health and social-related services to address the multi-dimensional needs of our older populations.

9.         As Singapore’s first partnership with the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, alongside more than 50 other countries, this opens up opportunities for meaningful collaborations so as to translate the challenges presented by ageing into opportunities, thereby fostering healthy longevity globally. We hope to gain new insights on approaches and practices that could be adopted across the entire healthcare ecosystem to benefit our seniors, as well as build a strong network of global thought leadership on ageing. Singapore also looks forward to obtaining greater exposure to the international ageing research landscape, so that our local researchers, scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs for example, can tap global networks to accelerate research, innovation and entrepreneurism in healthy longevity both globally as well as domestically.


Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards

10.       As a reflection of our commitment to this worldwide movement, Singapore will be supporting 45 Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards from 2020, this year, to 2022, under the Healthy Longevity Global Competition initiative. Launched in Singapore last month, the Catalyst Awards will reward bold, innovative ideas from any discipline that could extend the human health span through disease prevention, mobility, functionality, social connectedness, longevity, and more.

11.       Research and innovation can serve a spectrum of needs, and is central to transforming the ageing experience. Beyond the new ideas themselves, it is also equally important to translate innovation into tangible impact for our seniors and society. We look forward to bold, innovative ideas and solutions that could eventually be translated and scaled up in Singapore to grow the ageing innovation ecosystem, enhance the efficiency and quality of care as well as improve the well-being of our citizens as they age. We also look forward to leveraging these innovations to create meaningful opportunities for our seniors to stay active and engaged at work as well as in the community, and thus age with purpose.

12.       An example of a technological solution which Singapore piloted is the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB’s) National Steps Challenge (NSC), which encourages our participants to increase their physical activity levels through tracking steps via a pedometer. Participants will be able to earn points for achieving daily steps targets, that can be exchanged for rewards such as shopping vouchers. Almost one in five of the participants are 60 years and above! By gamifying what is typically considered a mundane activity with technology, we have seen sustained physical activity levels and the formation of healthy habits among both younger and older Singaporeans over time.

13.       We also launched the Dementia Friends mobile app in 2018 to allow families of a missing person with dementia to trigger an alert, so that users can help locate the individual by reporting sightings of him or her through the app. The biggest value of this technology stems from a broader effort to train and equip members of our society to be part of Dementia Friendly Communities, and extend a helping hand to persons with dementia when needed. Even with the intrusive pace of technological change, we must ensure that our solutions remain high tech, and high touch, with efforts underpinned by an inclusive society and caring communities.



14.       I am sure that the next two days will provide everyone here with an open and dynamic platform for robust discussions, and ample opportunities for close collaboration. Indeed, I wish everyone a most successful event. Thank you.

Category: Speeches Highlights