Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday paid tribute to the pioneer generation who persevered through the hard times in the early years of Singapore's independence and built the country together.
To express the country's gratitude, he announced the much-anticipated Pioneer Generation Package which will give them more subsidies at polyclinics, GP and Specialist Outpatient clinics, additional Medisave top ups and help with premiums for the new national insurance scheme, MediShield Life.
The package will benefit about 450,000 people in this special generation. It will apply to those who are 65 years old or older by the end of this year, and who became citizens before 1987.
More details will be announced in the Budget speech on Feb 21.
Speaking to about 1,000 guests from that generation at a party at the Istana, Mr Lee recalled their journey in the early years, many of whom had migrated here from other lands to start a new life.
This generation took part in the drama and excitement of the anti-colonial struggle, the battle against the Communists, and the fight against the communalists which led to separation from Malaysia and independence, he said.
"Despite difficult times and the real danger of failure, you persevered, put Singapore first, and worked together to build our nation," he added.
This generation started Singapore on the path of development and raised successive generations, and "taught us the values and spirit that enabled us to succeed", he said.
Speaking earlier in Malay, Mr Lee also noted that the Malays who chose to remain in Singapore after independence had given this country its multiracial context.
In his English speech, he paid tribute to those who contributed in ways big and small, starting with the mothers and housewives, and the farmers, samsui women, traders and factory workers.
He also held up the people who kept Singapore safe, from the volunteer corps during Konfrontasi, to the earliest military and Home Team regulars, and national servicemen, as well as doctors, nurses, teachers, government officers responsible for public infrastructure, grassroots volunteers, unionists and political leaders.
Elaborating on the package, he said it will focus on healthcare as its affordability is top on the minds of older Singaporeans. The benefits will be provided for the whole lifetime of this generation, with more given to those who are older.
He stressed that the package, though targeted at healthcare costs, has a broader impact. The pioneer generation can save some of what they would have spent on healthcare, for their other needs in their retirement years. The package will also reduce the financial burden on their children, he said.
On the qualifying criteria for the package, he said the target group is the first generation of Singaporeans who were living in Singapore after independence, and who were either citizens at the time or in the early years of the Republic.
Those who are 65 and older by the end of this year were about 16 or older at independence. They would have started working, and would include the first batch of national servicemen called up in 1967.
Those who became citizens before 1987 are included for practical reasons: the manual records before that year are incomplete.
Mr Lee also encouraged all Singaporeans to honour the seniors in their own fashion, adding that over the next year, more events will be held to honour other groups belonging to this generation.
Earlier, guests at the two-hour party watched a video paying tribute to their generation and heard a song composed by former lead guitarist of the 1960s group, the Stylers, John Teo, 67, titled Sing Singapore, Move On Singapore.
President Tony Tan and Mrs Tan, as well as Mr and Mrs Lee, later mingled with the guests.