Helping seniors get around with Ease

74,000 households have opted for HDB scheme that makes flats elderly friendly

When Mr Krishnamuthi Palappan had his left leg amputated a year ago due to complications from diabetes, moving around at home, especially when going to the toilet, became a struggle.

"It was very difficult to move from my wheelchair to the toilet seat," said the former security officer, who lives in Serangoon.

With the help of social workers, he applied for grab bars to be installed in his master bedroom toilet under the Housing Board's Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme earlier this year.

The scheme, launched in July 2012, allows home owners to fit their flats with elderly-friendly features such as grab bars, ramps and slip-resistant treatment for toilet tiles. Home owners pay only a small part of the cost.

Almost 74,000 households have applied for Ease as of the end of last month, said HDB. Of these, about 45,000 opted for Ease under the Home Improvement Programme, while another 28,600 applied for the safety features directly.

Mr Krishnamuthi, who had his leg amputated a year ago, qualified for the Ease scheme after the age criterion for direct applications was lowered from 70 to 65. "Going to the toilet is so much easier now," he says.
Mr Krishnamuthi, who had his leg amputated a year ago, qualified for the Ease scheme after the age criterion for direct applications was lowered from 70 to 65. "Going to the toilet is so much easier now," he says. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

In response to feedback from residents and grassroots leaders, Ease was enhanced in August last year.

The minimum age criterion for direct applications was lowered from 70 to 65, and the improvements were extended to the second toilet in a flat. Because of this, 24,000 households had grab bars installed and slip-resistant floor treatment done in their second toilets.

Some 5,300 households, or a fifth of direct applicants, also became eligible with the lowered age criterion.

Mr Krishnamuthi, 69, who lives with his wife and younger son, was one of them. He said the six grab bars in his toilet are "very helpful".

"Going to the toilet is so much easier now," he said.

Part-time aviation security officer Lam Kee San, 78, also opted for anti-slip tile treatment and grab bars in the kitchen and master bedroom toilets of his Tiong Bahru flat.

The widower, who lives with his daughter, said: "When it's wet in the bathroom, it's bound to get slippery, which is dangerous.

"It's hard to say when these safety features will come in useful, so I thought I should get them just in case, especially since they're subsidised by the Government."

The full improvement works cost $2,500, but the Government pays up to 95 per cent of the cost. This means Singaporean households pay only between $125 and $312.50, depending on their flat type.

Flat owners who wish to apply directly for Ease can visit HDB's website or any HDB branch.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'Helping seniors get around with Ease'. Print Edition | Subscribe