SINGAPORE - Senior citizens in Taman Jurong will get a dedicated space where they can be connected with the services that they need, as social enterprise NTUC Health officially opened its Cluster Support office there on Monday.
The office marks NTUC Health's third year under the Government-initiated programme, which streamlines the process of getting help to elderly residents living alone with little or no family support.
Cluster Support staff known as Care Managers make house visits to assess these residents' needs, then help to coordinate the various services that they need. These could include liaising with social service offices (SSOs), hospitals, and grassroots organisations.
This spares the seniors from having to navigate these different services on their own, as the care manager provides a single point of contact.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the opening of the Taman Jurong office that the scheme provides seniors with a more personalised service.
Noting the single point of contact, he added: "This means a seamless process and less anxiety to the seniors."
Mr Tharman, who is advisor to Jurong Grassroots Organisations, said that there are a growing number of seniors living alone, whether out of circumstances or by choice.
"The number of people aged 65 and above who live by themselves has nearly tripled over the last 15 years to more than 42,000 last year, up from 14,500 in 2000. By 2030, there are likely to be more than 80,000 elderly people living alone," he said.
"We need to do what we can in terms of infrastructure and resources to ensure they are not neglected and are able to live the remaining part of their lives meaningfully, at home and in the community."
NTUC Health, which is the appointed cluster operator for Jurong West and Bukit Merah, supports almost 700 seniors in these two zones. More than 270 of these are in Jurong West.
The services they help bring in for elderly clients could range from referring them to counselling centres for food rations, getting them an escort to take them to medical appointments, and even getting them household appliances to make their lives easier.
NTUC Health head of clinical services and wellness Mr Leon Luai said that having a dedicated office space for the Cluster Support programme will provide an independent space for residents to meet their care managers outside of their homes, which could make a psychological difference to how they view their problems.
The 88 sq m office, located at the foot of Blk 361 Yung An Road, has been in operation since April this year. NTUC Health's other Cluster Support office in Bukit Merah started operations in September and will be opened officially next year.
Mr Luai said that they hope to expand the programme to a wider circle of seniors, for instance by using home monitoring devices to upload seniors' health information such as blood pressure into an online system which doctors can monitor remotely. This, he said, would allow them to watch over more seniors with the same manpower.
One couple who has benefited so far from Cluster Support is Ho Ching Road resident Lau Kang Ngoh, 69, and her 89-year-old husband Ching Chen Chooi.
Madam Lau was introduced to Cluster Support about a year ago when she was asking about food rations at the senior activity centre. Her care manager later discovered during a visit that the couple's flat was infested with bedbugs and arranged for multiple fumigations. Cluster Support is now in the process of getting them new furniture.
Madam Lau said in Mandarin: "I didn't really know who to talk to about the bedbugs. In fact I didn't even know it was a problem until the social worker pointed it out.
"This has been very good for us. Old folks like us don't know where to look for help. But now there are just one or two people I need to call up and they will help me work it out."