Singapore and Denmark can learn from their approaches to eldercare, says Danish ambassador

Denmark's ambassador to Singapore Dorte Bech Vizard speaking at the Lifelong Living Conference on May 30, 2019. PHOTO: ROYAL DANISH EMBASSY

SINGAPORE - Denmark and Singapore can draw lessons from each other's approaches to eldercare as both countries face similar challenges associated with ageing populations, Denmark's ambassador to Singapore said on Thursday (May 30).

Although Denmark currently has a higher average age, Singapore is likely to surpass Denmark by 2030, when it is projected that one in four Singaporeans will be over the age of 65.

Speaking at the Lifelong Living Conference, held at the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel, Ms Dorte Bech Vizard said technological innovations will be needed to make up for the shortage of manpower in the healthcare sectors of both countries, but there will also be a need to put greater emphasis on community-driven care.

Citing Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, the guest of honour at the event organised by the Royal Danish Embassy, Ms Vizard said Singapore's Silver Generation Office (SGO) was inspired by a Danish social service programme under which government nurses visit people over 65 at their homes to offer free preventive care.

In Singapore, SGO volunteers go out to meet seniors in the Merdeka and Pioneer generations and inform them about healthcare benefits that they qualify for.

This is one area where Denmark could, in turn, learn from Singapore and expand its own community care, Ms Vizard said.

Dr Khor said many of the SGO volunteers are themselves seniors who play crucial roles at home, at work and in the community.

"We must champion active contribution, harness their social and economic potential, and celebrate their contributions to society," she added.

The importance of a sense of agency and ownership for seniors was a key theme at the conference.

Ms Chan Su Yee, chief executive of NTUC Health and one of the speakers, said it was challenging to get seniors to go to activities at the Active Ageing Hub in Kampung Admiralty when they were launched.

But participation quickly grew to hundreds of seniors after more efforts were made to consult seniors on their preferences and encourage them to develop their own events and activities.

Ms Barbara Lisemose, director of the Langgadehus Care Home in Copenhagen, said every decision made at the home is evaluated on whether it aligns with the residents' needs.

"The elderly need to feel that they have a purpose in life and that their lives still matter," she said. "This is what I think about every day when I go to work."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.