Therapy on wheels for senior citizens

 To help make up for the shortage here, the Lien Foundation hopes to extend the reach of therapists by putting them on "therapy" buses which will make stops at eldercare facilities.
To help make up for the shortage here, the Lien Foundation hopes to extend the reach of therapists by putting them on "therapy" buses which will make stops at eldercare facilities. PHOTO: GYM TONIC PROJECT

Finland's population may be similar in size to Singapore's, but its 13,000 practising physiotherapists mean it has 10 times the number here.

To help make up for the shortage here, the Lien Foundation hopes to extend the reach of therapists by putting them on "therapy" buses which will make stops at eldercare facilities. The buses will also have gym equipment that are specialised for the elderly.

"A mobile system makes sense as some senior care centres may not have the space for a gym or enough skilled manpower for therapy services," said chief executive of Lien Foundation Lee Poh Wah.

The Lien Foundation is a Singapore philanthropic house that does capacity-building and advocacy work in eldercare, early childhood education and water and sanitation.Apart from therapy buses, the Lien Foundation is thinking about bringing in Finnish expertise to boost the training of the next generation of therapists.

In 15 years, Singapore will have the same demographic profile as Finland in which one in five people are 65 years old and above.

In Singapore, only Nanyang Polytechnic offers a diploma in physiotherapy. Nanyang Polytechnic graduates who wish to convert it to a degree can do so at Singapore Institute of Technology or head to overseas universities.

"My intention is to explore with tertiary institutions if we can incorporate the expertise that Finland has with regards to strength training and active ageing," said Mr Lee.

"You can have all your fanciful equipment but if you don't have the skills and right mindset and habits, you won't achieve success."

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Therapy on wheels for senior citizens'. Print Edition | Subscribe