Paya Lebar grassroots programme expands from addressing legal concerns to health needs

Grassroots adviser Alex Yeo at the launch of a new health and wellness programme on Dec 29, 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - A grassroots programme that began by addressing the legal concerns of elderly residents living in Paya Lebar is expanding to focus on their health needs by providing medical screenings and health talks.

The move is based on feedback gathered among residents and understanding their needs and concerns, which Mr Alex Yeo said is a key part of his outreach strategy as grassroots adviser in the opposition-held Aljunied GRC.

"So if we find out that health is a top priority for them, then we will have initiatives like the health and wellness programmes that address this," he told The Straits Times at the launch of the new programme on Sunday (Dec 29).

The first phase of the programme - explaining and drafting the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and wills - began in March 2017.

LPA is a legal document that lets applicants voluntarily appoint a trusted individual to make key decisions on their behalf if they become mentally incapacitated.

The pro bono initiative by Mr Yeo, 40, who is a lawyer, has benefited 510 residents and their families.

Phases two and three will comprise medical screenings, promoting awareness through educational talks, and monitoring health in collaboration with partners such as The Good Life Medical Center. The initial focus is on brain and bone health.

The idea of a holistic programme addressing both the legal and healthcare needs of the elderly was mooted in consultation with residents, said Mr Yeo, pointing out that 26 per cent of those living in Paya Lebar are aged 60 years and above.

They face health issues such as dementia and osteoporosis.

He said: "We want the residents to not just live a good life now, but also to be able to lead healthier lives in their silver years and prevent or delay the onset of illnesses that come with the ageing process.

"The key objective is to improve the quality of our lives as we age so that all of us can enjoy our silver years with family and friends."

The launch was attended by former cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng, special adviser to the chairman of People's Association board of management.

The former labour chief retired in 2011 after 31 years in politics, and advised the PAP team at the 2015 polls.

The PAP team, which comprised veteran MP Yeo Guat Kwang, Mr Victor Lye, Mr Chua Eng Leong, Mr Shamsul Kamar and Mr Murali Pillai, lost to the Workers' Party (WP) although it managed to narrow the margin with 49.05 per cent of the vote share in 2015, which is higher compared to 45.28 per cent in 2011.

The WP had wrested Aljunied GRC from the PAP during the 2011 General Election, when it won 54.72 per cent of the vote.

Mr Yeo was appointed branch chairman in April 2017, filling the vacancy left by Mr Murali, who was elected MP for Bukit Batok in a by-election in 2016.

Asked whether he will run in the next general election, Mr Yeo said it is something for the party leadership to decide, adding that the team would be announced at the appropriate time.

He declined to comment when asked which former minister might be tasked to lend support to the contest for Aljunied, like Mr Lim did in 2015.

Reiterating a point he made during the party convention last month, he said: "Our focus is always on what we do throughout the entire five-year period (between elections).

Other than the health and wellness programme, Mr Yeo said his team has been distributing groceries, education subsidies and meal vouchers, and working with government agencies to construct sheltered linkways to improve accessibility for senior and less mobile residents.

Paya Lebar resident Oh Yuhua, 71, told The Straits Times on Sunday that she drafted her LPA following a briefing session that she and her family attended last month.

She has been attending weekly group exercises at Kovan Hub for the past 10 years, and looks forward to more health and wellness initiatives.

"It is a chance for me to chat and meet up with friends, and to stay happy and healthy," she said.

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