Singapore on right track with ageing policies, says UN ageing expert

A UN ageing expert has said that Singapore is on the "right track" with its policies for the elderly, althought it was noted that areas such as pensions and wages can still be improved.
A UN ageing expert has said that Singapore is on the "right track" with its policies for the elderly, althought it was noted that areas such as pensions and wages can still be improved. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - While Singapore is on the "right track" with its policies for the elderly, areas such as pensions and wages can still be improved, said a United Nations (UN) ageing expert.

Ms Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the UN's first independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, was in Singapore from last Wednesday till Thursday (Sept 21-29) on the invitation of the Government to study the human rights of elderly here.

At a press conference on Thursday, she said in French: "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 said it was particularly important that actions are being taken now before the ageing situation worsens.

The ageing expert was appointed in 2014 and has since visited four countries - Slovenia, Austria, Mauritius and Costa Rica - to do a similar assessment. She takes the position on a voluntary and independent basis and is not paid for her work.

Ms Kornfeld-Matte said the best practices found here were that Government agencies worked together to implement policies such as the Pioneer Generation Package, that Singapore's approach to health was in preventive care, and that the hospitals made use of technology - such as robots that deliver food, sort out medication and move patients from bed to wheelchairs.

She was also impressed by the senior citizen concession card which offers discounted rides on public transport and slows down the traffic lights so the elderly have a longer time to cross roads.

But not all is rosy when it comes to ageing in Singapore. Ms Kornfeld-Matte suggests Singapore implements a minimum wage, amend the Central Provident Fund scheme such that even those who do not contribute - low-income citizens or stay at home mothers - receive a pension, and make statistics on the sick and the poor publicly available.

The expert also suggested that policies to do with the elderly be "institutionalised".

She said the work done by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, for example, could be made permanent under one ministry with its own rules, structure and budget.

In her week here, Ms Kornfeld-Matte met with Government officials from the Ministries of Health, Transport, Social and Family Development, and also visited Whampoa Community Club, university researchers, and Tsao Foundation among others.

She is scheduled to present her findings and recommendations of her visit to Singapore in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in September next year.

kxinghui@sph.com.sg