Design solutions for the healthy, active senior

A group of senior citizens exercising at Bishan Park.
A group of senior citizens exercising at Bishan Park. PHOTO: ST FILE

The studies commissioned by DesignSingapore Council ("Involving the elderly in design"; Tuesday) are precisely the types of research we need in order to find out how to help our seniors age gracefully and with dignity.

The council and the Ministry of Health's Ageing Planning Office deserve much credit for focusing on seniors as individuals, and improving their lives from their own perspectives, rather than from a bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all approach.

Having served seniors for the past 20 years, staff and volunteers at Lions Befrienders Service Association (Singapore) have learnt that seniors do not fit into neat compartments.

They have varied needs, likes and dislikes, opinions and personal preferences.

Respecting these individual differences requires all of us to change our stereotypes of seniors (for example, that they are frail or have no more drive).

At Lions Befrienders, we have our Individualised Living Improvement Intervention Plan that considers each senior as an individual who still has aspirations, dreams and, in many cases, still wants to lead an active, productive and useful life.

In this connection, my suggestion for DesignSingapore is that, in addition to designing products to meet the needs of dementia patients and elderly people with disabilities, it should take a close look at the healthy, active senior.

He wants to stay connected to friends and family members, thus, the Radio Friend - an always-on Internet-based conference radio which works like a voice-based Internet chat room, connecting lonely seniors who live close to one another - designed by Team Kibo is a brilliant idea ("Using insights to spur creativity"; Tuesday).

The GoodLife Makan kitchen is another excellent example ("Seniors cook up camaraderie in novel void deck kitchen"; Jan 29).

Apart from these, think of games and recreational activities that encourage social interactions (the bingo and chess games in our senior activity centres are very popular).

Can there be musical instruments that are easy for seniors to master? The possibilities are enormous.

Together, let us make Singapore a home where seniors can age in place, connected to family and friends, and live meaningful, fulfilling lives.

Chey Chor Khoon (Dr)

Executive Director

Lions Befrienders Service Association (Singapore)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Design solutions for the healthy, active senior'. Print Edition | Subscribe