A new nursing home was unveiled yesterday in Bukit Gombak, likely the first in Singapore to share its facilities with residents in neighbouring estates.
Charity organisation Ren Ci's latest outfit, a 257-bedder, will allow the public to use its multi- purpose hall and gymnasium after working hours.
The aim is to soothe an angsty neighbourhood, which had complained three years ago when plans for the home were first announced. Residents were also upset that a fitness corner had to make way for the home.
"People were not keen on a nursing home in their neighbourhood, but the announcement gave everyone an avenue to voice their concerns," said Ren Ci's chief executive Loh Shu Ching.
"We have sufficient parking spaces so we won't encroach on the residents', and they can come here to use the gym and do taiji."
The public outcry "marked a turning point for a change in mindset", she stressed, leading to the move to better integrate the home with the community. The building is, for instance, fenceless.
Housewife Cheong Gek Ling, 56, who lives in an HDB flat near the home, is a convert. She was initially opposed to the home as she feared its presence would affect the value of her flat.
"Nursing homes strike me as very gloomy, but if they are putting things you can find in a community centre and opening it to the public, maybe it won't be so depressing," she said.
The home will start operations next January. It is part of the Health Ministry's plan to build 10 new nursing homes and add 3,000 beds by 2016. There are about 60 homes and 9,300 beds now.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, the guest of honour at the ceremony, said nursing homes in residential communities encourage families to pay frequent visits to their elderly relatives. "The love and support of the community will make a substantive difference to seniors recuperating in a home."
It is hoped that the presence of residents will help patients feel more at home.
Ren Ci has three other nursing homes and day- care centres. "In our previous buildings, things were very institutionalised, with a lot of rules," said Ms Loh. "But with the new home, we want to empower patients to have their own routine, and mix with residents to build a sense of community."
The seven-storey building mimics a familiar Housing Board flat setting, with communal spaces for patients to interact in. Patients will be encouraged to cook and launder if these are activities they are accustomed to doing at home.
The home also has a ward for dementia patients, with an outdoor garden where they can roam in safety.
"We want them to feel in control, which helps the recovery process," said Ms Loh, adding that the current rate of two to three patients who are discharged yearly is "poor, and something Ren Ci is working on".