Singapore's third assisted-living facility for seniors opened yesterday, allowing residents more independence in their daily lives while still being under the watchful eyes of trained caregivers.
The facility, a renovated house behind Sembawang Shopping Centre, is the most modern in the St Bernadette Lifestyle Village group, which has two other similar amenities in Adam Road and Bukit Timah.
Its metal-and-glass construction makes the four-storey, 5,000 sq ft building stand out from the other houses in Jalan Serengam, off Sembawang Road.
The St Bernadette centres are all run by Dr Belinda Wee, who is also the co-founder of the Good Shepherd Loft nursing home in Bukit Timah.
The minimum tenure is six months. Residents pay $4,000 to $5,000 a month for services that include laundry, utilities and one trained staff member to every eight seniors. There are no subsidies for those who stay in such facilities.
The Sembawang facility can accommodate up to 10 residents in a mix of double and single rooms, all with bathrooms attached.
The idea of having such centres is to encourage seniors to live more active and interactive lives, Dr Wee said. Families want to know that a senior, though living alone, is "still cared for", she added.
The Sembawang facility boasts modern touches like motion sensors and the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, both linked to a laptop.
The sensors can build a picture of an occupant's activities, and appropriate care can be brought in when needed. The Amazon Alexa voice assistant allows two-way communication, so a caregiver can speak directly with an occupant over the phone.
There is also a lift and a 10m by 4m swimming pool.
Dr Wee said the selection of seniors for the centres is important because a balance needs to be struck between their physical abilities and the level of care given.
Out of six activities of daily living, residents should be able to perform four - eating, bathing, grooming and walking.
"Subsidies aside, we hope that the Ministry of Health and the Agency for Integrated Care will grant a foreign staff quota for operators to run assisted-living facilities," Dr Wee said.
The opening of St Bernadette's Sembawang facility comes on the heels of the Government announcing a similar scheme that will see Singapore's first Housing Board assisted-living flats being rolled out in Bukit Batok in May.
The new flats aim to provide people aged 65 and above with a housing option for independent living, with care available if needed.
Ms Alice Soh, 84, has been living in the St Bernadette Adam Road facility for about a year, ever since she experienced an intense pain in her head while having dinner one night.
"It was so painful that I couldn't speak or chew. I cried," she recalled.
She was in hospital when her brother registered her for the Adam Road centre.
Moving in was not a big change as she was already living alone in a small flat in Toh Tuck Road, but having 24/7 help with her living needs was a great benefit, said Ms Soh, a former deputy director with the Regional Language Centre.
She joked that with the Sembawang mall next door, it "would be nice" if she could move into the new Sembawang facility.