Singaporeans okay with moving to nursing homes in their old age

About half of nearly 1,000 Singaporeans said in a survey that they would be willing to move into a nursing home when they get old. However, six in 10 would prefer single or twin-bed rooms rather than the six- or eight-bed wards that are common here.
About half of nearly 1,000 Singaporeans said in a survey that they would be willing to move into a nursing home when they get old. However, six in 10 would prefer single or twin-bed rooms rather than the six- or eight-bed wards that are common here. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

But that is only if they get personal space and privacy: Poll

Singaporeans are willing to live in nursing homes or shared communities with other seniors in their twilight years, but provided they have some privacy.

About half of nearly 1,000 Singaporeans said in a survey that they would be willing to move into a nursing home when they get old, but six in 10 would prefer single or twin- bed rooms rather than six- or eight- bed wards that are common here.

The reason for wanting the smaller rooms was to maintain privacy.

A similar picture also emerged for assisted-living facilities.

About half of the respondents said they would be willing to move into these homes, where seniors get help for personal care like bathing and going to the toilet. But nine out of 10 said they would prefer single or twin-bed rooms.

Such group homes are common in countries like Australia and Japan, but do not exist in Singapore.

About 950 Singaporeans and 50 permanent residents aged 30 to 75 took part in the survey commissioned by insurance cooperative NTUC Income and philanthropic organisation the Lien Foundation.

Yesterday's release of the findings came about two weeks after the foundation published a report on nursing homes which found that despite the growing elderly population, seniors have few housing options other than nursing homes.

The report estimated that 50,000 seniors here will need some form of residential care facilities by 2030, though there are currently only about 12,000 nursing home beds.

On the lack of choice in retirement living arrangements, Mr Gabriel Lim, the Lien Foundation's programme manager, said: "I wonder how many Singaporeans choose a nursing home for their family members with the same care that they choose a handphone."

The survey also found that eight in 10 Singaporeans worry about growing old. Topping their worries is whether they can look after themselves when they are old.

The fear of running out of savings was next, followed by healthcare and medical expenses.

One of the bright spots in the findings was that nine out of 10 respondents were aware of services available to the elderly, such as daycare centres and homecare services.

Researcher Radha Basu, who wrote the report on nursing homes, said: "Dormitory-style living continues to be the default option in Singapore nursing homes, including in new homes. Clearly there is a disconnection between what consumers say they want and what's on offer, including in new facilities."

In conjunction with yesterday's survey, NTUC Income also launched an insurance plan covering diseases that affect older people like Parkinson's, dementia and Alzheimer's. The new plan covers policyholders until the age of 100.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'S'poreans okay with moving to nursing homes in their old age'. Print Edition | Subscribe