S'pore, Denmark can learn from each other on eldercare: Danish envoy

She highlights importance of tech, but says greater emphasis must also be placed on community-driven care

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

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 yesterday.

Although Denmark currently has a higher average age, Singapore is likely to surpass it by 2030, when it is projected that one in four Singaporeans will be over the age of 65. Denmark's average age last year was 41.5, while Singapore's was 40.8 as of the end of June last year.

Speaking at the Lifelong Living Conference, held at the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel, ambassador Dorte Bech Vizard said technological innovations will be needed to make up for the manpower shortage 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, who was 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 the 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 join activities at the Active Ageing Hub in Kampung Admiralty when they were launched.

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

Ms Barbara Lisemose, director of 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 Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline S'pore, Denmark can learn from each other on eldercare: Danish envoy. Subscribe