Japan watchers often cite the fact that supermarkets in the Land of the Rising Sun stock more adult diapers than baby diapers - to illustrate the seriousness of the ageing population issue there. A similar kind of milestone was crossed for Singapore when an MP suggested turning disused schools into retirement villages, and the Government then confirmed that it was studying the idea in earnest. That was what happened last week in Parliament, when Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai noted that transforming vacated school compounds would reduce the capital cost of developing assisted living facilities for the elderly.
In a written response, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said school sites may indeed be suitable candidates for conversion, given their location in housing estates - which would allow the elderly to age within a community - as well as their large site areas, which would mean ample common spaces and a capacity to house more seniors. Mr Wong noted that there were costs involved - that of rejuvenating the properties and reconfiguring them for the new purpose. Whether the idea would ultimately make financial sense depends on whether the costs Mr Wong refers to are significantly lower than the cost of building a new facility from scratch.