Budget also aims to 'help seniors remain active'

Indranee points to Merdeka Generation Package which also encourages healthy lifestyles

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah at the opening of Montfort Care's senior-friendly gym at its elders' activity centre in Marine Parade on Feb 22, 2019. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

While the government will continue to help defray healthcare costs for the elderly, the Budget is also focused on helping seniors stay active, said Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah, pointing to activity centres and the Community Networks for Seniors as efforts to help older folk lead healthy lifestyles.

"When we talk about ageing and support for ageing, there are different parts. One part is the healthcare costs, and this year's Budget has quite a bit on that," she said at the opening of voluntary welfare organisation Montfort Care's elder-friendly gym at its senior activity centre in Marine Parade. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is MP for Marine Parade GRC, also attended the opening.

Ms Indranee said: "We've got the Merdeka Generation Package, Chas (Community Health Assist Scheme) and a few other things. The corollary to that is... you must make sure people stay healthy."

Getting seniors to lead more active lifestyles is one of the five pillars of the $6.1 billion Merdeka Generation Package, for those born between Jan 1, 1950, and Dec 31, 1959.

Those eligible will get a one-time $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver Card which can be used to pay for activities and facilities at community clubs and on public transport, among others. Other benefits include a Medisave top-up of $200 a year for five years and additional subsidies for outpatient care.

Ms Indranee cited Montfort Care's senior activity centre as a way for older people to stay active, noting that the facility is a "community network which allows seniors who live in their area to drop in, participate in the activities".

"The key thing behind that is, firstly, have facilities for seniors to come to. Two, activities for them. And three, to be able to enable them to lead healthy lifestyles. This is really for the group that is retired... Many of them would be seniors who live alone," she said, adding that volunteerism is another way to stay active, and government agencies can play a helping hand to get seniors involved.

Ms Indranee said that while the Budget has "a monetary component designed to encourage the Merdeka Generation to go out and be active, when it comes to volunteerism, it should be something that comes from the heart".

Former art teacher Helen Ong, a 69-year-old volunteer at GoodLife! Senior Activity Centre, said volunteering gives her a sense of purpose: "I use my skills to teach arts and crafts to the seniors here. It helps keep me occupied and gives them something to do."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2019, with the headline Budget also aims to 'help seniors remain active'. Subscribe