Tsao Foundation in talks with MOH, HDB to launch retirement village

Singapore's first HDB retirement village is likely to be located in Whampoa.

Under this retirement village model, which is common in countries such as the United States and Britain, elderly persons live within an area that has a wide range of facilities and services catered to their needs.

Tsao Foundation is in discussions with the Health Ministry and the Housing Board to set up such a retirement village at a cluster of HDB blocks in Whampoa.

Some plans include having studio apartments with features that are more suited to the elderly who are mobile. Those who need help with basic tasks like bathing or eating will be housed in a 10-room ward or a nursing home. Medical staff will be on hand to tend to their needs.

There could also be a day-care centre or a leisure activities club.

The idea of having a retirement village here is not new. The Straits Times reported earlier this month that one such project - Singapore's first - will be built at Jalan Jurong Kechil and is expected to be completed by 2017. However, that is positioned as a "private retirement housing" project.

Tsao Foundation expects to get approval from the authorities for its retirement village in Whampoa next year.

In addition, the foundation is working on strengthening the delivery of social services in Whampoa.

Since the middle of this year, the foundation has piloted a programme that aims to avoid having any elderly fall through the cracks. This is expected to cost about $4 million.

This is how it works: First, grassroots leaders and volunteers from the community conduct surveys with the elderly to identify the services they need and whether they are getting them. These could range from activities to promote greater interaction among the elderly to nursing care.

The elderly will then be assigned care managers, who will monitor their progress over the years.

A team of medical staff will also work with these care managers to help those with complex medical issues. So far, the team has reached out to elderly residents in one precinct - Lorong Limau - and will cover other neighbourhoods in the next few years.

Whampoa was selected because of the large proportion of poor elderly persons living there. About one in five residents, or some 18,000, is above 60 years old and two-thirds of them live in three-room or smaller flats.

Dr Mary Ann Tsao, chairman of the foundation, said the programme will ensure that the elderly receive the help they need. "We need to connect the dots as services on the ground can be quite disorganised and stand-alone," she said.

The foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary with a gala dinner attended by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Pan Pacific Hotel yesterday.

Over the years, Tsao Foundation has been a champion of eldercare and ageing issues. It pioneered a home-care service for frail seniors in 1993 and has undertaken research and training initiatives to raise the standards of the eldercare sector.

jantai@sph.com.sg