Change mindsets and revisit policies to facilitate ageing-in-place: Academics
Provide free healthcare for those over 65 years of age and bring in social entrepreneurs in developing retirement homes.
These were some of the suggestions experts and academics made at an ageing-in-place-focused discussion today at the National University of Singapore.
According to a recent United Nations report,
By 2050, the number of Singapore residents aged 60 years and above is expected to rise- from the current 15 per cent, to 38 per cent.
Dr Amy Khor is Minister of State for Health.
"I think we are only at the beginning of the journey. Prime Minister recently said that we are not ready for an ageing society. I agree. Much more needs to be done."
In particular, experts at the discussion said some health and social policies need to be revisited.
Associate Professor Paulin Straughan is with the NUS Department of Sociology.
She says providing them with free health-care will get them to be more pro-active about their health.
"We have enough problems getting people to go for screen tests, just because they are so scared of finding out bad news. But the double whammy is, not only do you find out bad news, it's going to cost you a lot more money. And if you don't have the money to pay for it, it's going to cost your children. It will damage the inter-generational relationships. A lot of older folks are afraid of that. If we lift means testing, and we go with a healthcare policy that provides free healthcare for those 65 and above, you encourage the older adults to take pro-active steps to prolong good health."
"So go for screen test- why? don't have to be afraid. If you find out something, we will step in, and provide you with the healing that you need."
"And it will also I think, take off some of that tension between the generations because it's very hard to think of caring for aged parents, especially if you have to care for your own family, and own young dependent children. If we need to raise public funds, to fund a national healthcare system, for older adults- 65 years and above -, I would be quite willing to see an increase in taxes, specifically to fund this. Because at the end of the day, it benefits all of us."
Prof Straughan added society also needs to remove the stigma associated with living alone- as this creates the misconception that those who do have been abandoned by their family. This mindset is especially important as Singaporeans are living longer, with many who also remain single.
Professor Straughan also spoke about land costs being a barrier to setting up retirement villages.
She suggested revisiting acquisition laws to make it affordable to manage such facilities.
Other experts at the session said partaking in such discussions will go a long way towards facilitating ageing in place, and changing mindsets.
Associate Professor Phua Kai Hong is from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS.
"With the national conversation going on, we need a lot of bottom-up feedback. We also have a lot of good research, a lot of good thinking and ideas, which needs to be discussed, and to be debated. The more we talk and have this discourse and share ideas, hopefully policies can be improved and refined."
About 120 government and industry representatives, academics and researchers attended the discussion.
-By Monica Kotwani
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