Holistic approach shows right track on ageing

UN expert on ageing issues Kornfeld-Matte also commended the Republic's preventive healthcare approach and how hospitals make use of technology - such as robots to deliver food, sort out medication and help move patients.
UN expert on ageing issues Kornfeld-Matte also commended the Republic's preventive healthcare approach and how hospitals make use of technology - such as robots to deliver food, sort out medication and help move patients.PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

UN expert commends Govt's way of working with many players

A United Nations expert on ageing has praised the way Singapore has taken a holistic approach to tackle its greying population, with government agencies, voluntary welfare organisations and the private sector working hand in hand.

Ms Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the UN's first independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, also lauded schemes already put in place after an eight-day visit here at the invitation of the Government.

These included the Pioneer Generation Package and the transport discounts enjoyed by senior citizens. She said Singapore is on the "right track" with its holistic approach towards ageing.

Among her suggestions was to amend the Central Provident Fund scheme so that even those who do not contribute - low-income citizens or stay-at-home mothers - receive a pension, and to make statistics on the sick and the poor publicly available.

A statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after her press conference with the media said: "We explained that the Government was strengthening social safety nets to better protect the elderly through schemes such as Workfare, the Silver Support Scheme and ComCare Fund, as well as subsidies for essential services like healthcare, housing and transport.

"The Government's plans to introduce the Vulnerable Adults Act will strengthen the existing legal framework and better protect the rights of older persons."

By 2030, Singapore will have over 900,000 residents aged 65 and above.

Population numbers released on Monday showed that as of the end of June, 13.7 per cent of citizens were aged 65 and above, compared with 9.2 per cent 10 years ago.

Speaking in French at her press conference yesterday, Ms Kornfeld-Matte said: "Your country is experiencing very rapid ageing and I think it is very important that your Government has worked out and started to implement policies for the elderly."

She thought that the best practices found here were how government agencies worked together to implement policies such as the Pioneer Generation Package.

She also praised Singapore's preventive healthcare approach, and how hospitals make use of technology - such as robots that deliver food, sort out medication and move patients from beds to wheelchairs.

She also commended Singapore for its commitment towards research into ageing and for setting aside up to $200 million under the National Innovation Challenge to encourage research and ideas on how the elderly can live more fulfilling lives as they age.

In her week here, she met Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who also leads the Ministerial Committee on Ageing.

She also had discussions with other officials, the private sector and non-profit and voluntary welfare organisations such as the Tsao Foundation - a non-profit family foundation which focuses on ageing issues. She will present her findings and recommendations of her visit here in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in September next year.

In its statement, MFA added: "We affirmed our commitment to continue to take a whole-of-nation approach, plan long term and invest consistently to build a Nation for All Ages.

"We will also study the best practices and programmes that she highlighted, including ways to provide more statistical information on the state of ageing in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Holistic approach shows right track on ageing'. Print Edition | Subscribe