SINGAPORE - To enable seniors to age better at home and in the community, the Ministry of Health will be launching a pilot for new services that bundle both home and centre-based care services.
It will also encourage active ageing through various ways, including establishing a new National Silver Academy, which is a network of education institutions and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) offering courses to seniors.
The academy, which does not have a physical campus, will offer courses, including selected ones by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities without taking examinations. For these courses, seniors can sit in the same classroom, and learn together with regular students.
Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor outlined these initiatives when she spoke about successful ageing during the debate on the ministry's budget plans on Wednesday (April 13).
To serve the needs of seniors - both at home and in centres - in a more integrated way, new Integrated Home and Day Care packages will be launched.
There will be three or more care packages with different combinations of care services, depending on the needs of seniors who may have a wide range of conditions.
Further pushing for bigger integration of care, MOH will pilot a new Integrated Operator (IOP) Scheme this year.
Under this scheme, request for proposals will be launched to appoint operators for "three-in-one" care facilities or services comprising nursing homes, eldercare centres and home care.
"Going forward, we need to better integrate different forms of aged care services so that seniors can receive continuous, seamless and person-centric care even as their care needs evolve," said Dr Khor.
Under the active ageing banner, new initiatives include learning programmes for seniors, and a community befrienders' programme.
A new National Silver Academy will offer over 10,000 learning places across 500 courses this year, with a wide variety of topics. Those aged 50 years and above can start to register for courses from next month.
Those who sign up for short courses offered by post-secondary education institutions and VWOs under the academy will receive a subsidy of up to 50 per cent off the course fee. Currently, such courses offered by the post-secondary education institutions are largely not subsidised by the Government.
The academy will also offer courses from art colleges LaSalle and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, as well as community-based organisations.
For instance, seniors can also attend inter-generational learning programmes conducted by students in school after school hours, on topics such as technology or music.
Said Dr Khor: "We hope that the National Silver Academy can not only fulfil seniors' aspirations to keep learning, but also help shape a new mindset regarding ageing.
"I think having seniors learn with younger students in the same classroom will foster inter-generational interactions and at the same time inspire our younger generation that learning does not stop at any age."
Moving on to community mental health, Dr Khor said the focus going forward will be on dementia, as dementia patients are expected to spike with the ageing population.
Capacity of dementia care services in the community are being expanded. By 2020, there will be 3,000 dementia day care places, 1,970 dementia nursing home beds and 160 eldersitters.
There will also be a focus on encouraging communities to rally around dementia patients, she added. Networks under Dementia-Friendly Communities will be trained to recognise and provide assistance where necessary to persons with dementia.
A "safe return" system for lost seniors will also be piloted.
She said: "We need to rally the whole Singapore 'kampung' to play a part in supporting seniors with dementia and their caregivers within our communities."