We thank Mr Sum Kam Weng for his suggestion in "NTUC could build, operate large-scale retirement homes" (Jan 12).
Over the years, NTUC Enterprise and NTUC Health have studied the possibility of building and operating retirement homes. However, we have not found a financially viable case for this, given the high land cost in Singapore.
Also, we have found that the relative attractiveness of a retirement home is not as significant in Singapore because most people already live in compact urban housing where facilities and amenities are conveniently located close by.
In other countries where land cost is lower, and where services and activities are not as accessible, retirement homes may be viable.
Where such homes are viable, residents are typically supported by a comprehensive funding system for intermediate and long-term care and/or have adequate financial resources accumulated over a lifetime.
Even so, retirement homes tend to cater to the upper middle-income and cover a small proportion of the aged population.
In Singapore, most of us live in proximity with one another, with the potential to build informal networks of care and support.
In many respects, Singapore neighbourhoods are natural retirement communities.
In recent years, the Government has also introduced neighbourhoods with HDB apartments and amenities for seniors such as Kampung Admiralty, where NTUC Health operates active ageing and rehabilitation services, and a day care centre for seniors.
Many people prefer to age where they live - where they have friends and everything is familiar.
Moving to a retirement home, no matter how well developed, is still a major disruption and can be traumatic for some.
Therefore, NTUC Health's approach is to provide services that let people age well in their communities.
Where necessary, we can also offer personal care, nursing and rehabilitation services in the senior's own home.
For those for whom living in the community is no longer possible, we operate nursing homes where we do try to rehabilitate as many seniors as possible, so that they regain sufficient independence to return home.
NTUC will continue to consider introducing new and financially sustainable services, including retirement homes, as Singapore evolves to meet the needs of an ageing population.
Chan Su Yee
Chief Executive Officer
NTUC Health Co-operative