Room for community to boost mutual assistance through co-ops

While alternative options and policies will help mitigate some of the effects of the rapid social trend that Singapore is facing, as Professor Kalyani K. Mehta pointed out (Families under pressure in ageing society; Dec 9), there is a need to look to the community and harness existing networks to build a multi-pillared approach to support our ageing population.

As Singapore's greying demographic exacts its toll on government spending, there is possible room for the community to do more than rely on the Government for aid and support. The community could band together to help themselves.

This is even more important following a recent UOB research report which revealed that the number of people aged 65 and above will equal those under 15 for the first time next year.

As the apex body of Singapore's 92-year-old cooperative (co-op) movement, we have seen like-minded members of the public come together to set up and/or operate as cooperatives to address societal challenges.

Co-ops are regulated social enterprises formed by members for members and anchored in their mission to do well and do good. They remain relevant today, promoting self-help and mutual assistance to enrich the lives of their members.

For example, Silver Caregivers Cooperative was formed by a group of caregivers to provide services to help better the quality of life of caregivers for the elderly, while NTUC Health Cooperative provides an integrated suite of services and facilities to meet growing healthcare and eldercare needs.

Silver Horizon Travel Cooperative, a social enterprise run by seniors for seniors, focuses on promoting active living and learning among seniors. Silver Horizon Travel customises travel itineraries that specifically cater to the needs of older travellers and uses travel as a platform to cultivate friendship and companionship.

Other co-ops such as Premier Security Cooperative and Cooperative of Singapore Civil Defence Force Employees leverage the experience of retired uniformed officers by employing them to offer value-added security and fire-fighting related services respectively.

As Singapore undergoes rapid changes in demographics, there is plenty of room for Singaporeans to come together to form and/or join cooperatives as members to empower themselves to help one another, creating a sustainable ecosystem for the future.

Dolly Goh (Ms)

Chief Executive Officer

Singapore National Cooperative Federation

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2017, with the headline 'Room for community to boost mutual assistance through co-ops'. Print Edition | Subscribe