SINGAPORE - The germ of an idea came from President Halimah Yacob several years ago when she was a Minister of State.
On Thursday (Sept 21), she visited a charity that brought it to fruition, by opening up some of its eldercare centres to adults with disabilities after mealtimes, when the crowds of seniors have dwindled.
These centres also let the disabled take part in social and recreational programmes in the community, instead of being cooped up at home.
At the same time, their caregivers get a respite.
The facilities are offered for free, for a few hours a day, up to three days a week.
This drop-in disability programme for people aged 16 and older is offered at four of the 15 seniors activity centres run by Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Moral Charities.
It started in 2013, shortly after Madam Halimah suggested it, when she was Minister of State for Social and Family Development.
Said THK Moral Charities chairman Lee Kim Siang: "She realised that children above the age of 18 had nowhere to go after they graduate from special education schools. They are at home every day and their family members could find it hard to cope."
Mr Lee was speaking during a visit by Madam Halimah to THK Indus Moral Care seniors activity centre in Tiong Bahru, which has yet to offer the disability programme.
Said Madam Halimah on Thursday: "There are certain peak and lull periods in the seniors activity centres, and the lull periods are when something more could be done." It was why she had discussed with Mr Lee if people with disabilities who are not at school or work could use the centres during the lull.
She commended THK Moral Charities for its work and said it was a "major player in the social service sector". It runs more than 60 programmes, welfare homes and centres for the disadvantaged.
"THK Indus Moral Care has been around for 17 years... I see the senior citizens here with happy faces, which means they find the activities you provide meaningful," she said. "We want our senior citizens to be independent and supported by their families, but also to have community support which is accessible to them."
The centre serves 380 senior citizens living in Block 79, Indus Road - where it is sited - as well as nearby blocks.
Mr Leong Tuck Soon, 93, who goes regularly to the centre, said he enjoyed speaking to Madam Halimah. "We spoke in Malay. She's someone who's understanding and concerned about people's welfare."
Since she was sworn in as head of state last Thursday, Madam Halimah has visited a centre run by the Association for Persons with Special Needs that prepares people with disabilities for employment, and the National University Hospital to see how its healthcare workers are coping with the growing demands of Singapore's aging population.