SINGAPORE - To help residents with dementia find their way around Toa Payoh East more easily, markers like blue sunflowers are being painted on the pillars of some Housing Board blocks.
Block numbers will also be displayed prominently on top of the markers, as part of a new initiative launched by the Toa Payoh East Citizen Consultative Committee on Saturday morning (Feb 12).
The grassroots organisation will also work with social service agencies, such as Care Corner and Agency for Integrated Care, to encourage seniors to go for free screenings to detect dementia early.
These screenings will be held once every two months.
Dementia is the progressive loss of cognitive functioning - thinking, remembering and reasoning - to an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life.
It has no known cure although its deterioration can be delayed with changes in lifestyle and nutrition.
Speaking at the launch of the new initiatives, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Saktiandi Supaat said these support structures are important as the number of people with dementia is set to rise.
A 2015 study by the Institute of Mental Health found that one in 10 Singaporeans aged 60 and above suffers from dementia - or about 82,000 people.
"It is projected that by 2030, the number is expected to soar to 152,000," said Mr Saktiandi.
"As our seniors are now further isolated due to Covid-19, it is important to raise public awareness on dementia and highlight the need for us to take good care of our mental health," he added.
Dr Chan Kin Ming, a geriatrician at Gleneagles Medical Centre who was consulted on the design of Toa Payoh East's block markers, said: "The purpose of this initiative is to help people with dementia be as independent as possible, so they can at least go to their favourite hawker stalls."
He noted that HDB flats look similar to one another and block numbers tend to be located high up the facade.
"People with dementia do better with colours and patterns, so they will be able to identify a red block with a palm tree, for instance.
"Primary colours like red and blue are used because they are vivid and contrasting," he said.
On Saturday, the Toa Payoh East grassroots organisation announced it was also extending Toa Payoh East's Mango programme - which helps low-income residents with their daily needs - to those with dementia.
Mango stands for Meals, Assistance, Needs, Groceries and Opportunities.
"On top of government subsidies, families with dementia patients can get help with things like diapers, financial assistance and wheelchairs," said Mr Saktiandi.
With the new initiatives, Toa Payoh East will be the 14th community in Singapore to adopt dementia-friendly infrastructure.
These communities, which include Yishun and Bedok, also feature "go-to points". Members of the public who find people with dementia wandering about can take them to these places.
Dementia-friendly communities also provide clearer signage with large texts, assistive grab bars on slopes and anti-slip tiles.
Said Mr Saktiandi: "We hope to build a community where people with dementia can feel respected, valued and continue to live well at home and in society."