Make room for seniors in town planning

Current population statistics show that one in eight Singaporeans is aged 65 years or older. In 12 years' time, this figure is going to change to one in four.

Plans to accommodate this growing group would require a shift in thinking in many areas of society.

For instance, the Government has announced large-scale housing development plans for areas such as Bidadari, Punggol, Tengah, Paya Lebar and Jurong Lake District.

To accommodate the ageing population, we should consider incorporating eight to 10 blocks of low-rise, nursing and retirement homes with full facilities in each of these massive new public estates.

Doing this would help us create a harmonious and civil society in a modern, pre-planned integrated township.

Even the Housing Board's Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) projects could incorporate four to five blocks with elderly-friendly facilities to cater to this group.

This way, the elderly can cash out their old HDB flats and live in nursing or retirement homes with minimum disruption to their lives and in a familiar environment.

These nursing and retirement homes built by the Government can be managed by the town councils, which know their own constituencies well.

Currently, there are provisions for studio flats with shorter-term leases within upcoming and existing HDB estates, but long-term healthcare services or caregivers are still needed when the elderly owners or occupants are sick or immobile.

We must be socially responsible and share our space and resources with the elderly, the sick and those with physical or mental disabilities.

This will allow them to live out their remaining years with reasonable comfort, near to family members and within public subsidised housing estates.

Let us change our priorities on land usage and avoid the "not in my backyard" mindset.

Sum Kam Weng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Make room for seniors in town planning'. Print Edition | Subscribe