Senior-proofing homes for peace of mind

The HDB Ease programme helps make your home ready for you to grow old in

HDB Housing Enhancement for Active Seniors Singapore
Mdm Lee Ah Khim (left) and Mr Tan Ho Ping (second from right) bond with their son and granddaughter in their four-room HDB flat in Ubi. PHOTO: HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD

Can your home meet your needs in your retirement years?

Mr Tan Ho Ping, 71, and Mdm Lee Ah Khim, 70, have lived in their four-room Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat in Ubi for close to 40 years. Now that their three children are married and have moved into their own homes, the couple live alone but continue to cook dinner for the family five times a week. They also care for an 18-month-old grandchild during the day.

The Tans lead an active lifestyle. However, they opted to install elder-friendly safety features in their home last year under HDB's Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme. They were offered the option when their housing block underwent the Home Improvement Programme (HIP).

Moving with Ease

Through Ease, seniors can have works done to make their homes more elder-friendly at a subsidised cost. These improvements include the application of a slip-resistant treatment to existing floor tiles in up to two toilets or bathrooms, grab bars for the first and second toilet, and portable and customised ramps for wheelchair-bound seniors to navigate level differences within the flat and at main entrances.

The improvements are offered to flats as part of HIP. Eligible residents can also apply for Ease directly through a digital service or at HDB Branches, without having to wait for HIP.

For Mr Tan, the grab bars and slip-resistant tiles in the bathrooms have given him and his wife peace of mind - improving their mobility and reducing their worry of falling.

He says: "Right now, we have no problems with mobility. But we're getting on in years. Having grab bars in the home, especially in the toilets, will help us to move about more safely and prevent falls.

HDB Ease programme Home Improvement Programme
The installation of grab bars in Mr Tan's toilets has helped him and his wife to move about with more ease. PHOTO: HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD

"HDB helped us to install these safety features together with the HIP works, with little disruption to our daily activities. We only had to pay about 10 per cent of the total cost. I'd recommend other seniors to apply for Ease to help with their daily lives."

The total cost of installing all three improvement features in a flat - slip-resistant treatment, grab bars and one customised ramp - is about $3,840. However, with Government subsidies, flat owners pay as little as $147 for a three-room flat, or $220.50 and $294 for a four-room and five-room flat respectively.

To date, the scheme has subsidised about 200,000 households that have fitted their flats with elder-friendly features.

Home Improvement Programme

HIP focuses on common maintenance enhancements to ageing flats. These include repairs to spalling concrete, replacement of waste pipes and refuse chutes, and the upgrading of toilets or bathrooms.

Since the programme was introduced in 2007, more than half of 320,000 eligible flats built before 1987 have been upgraded. HIP was expanded in 2018 to include flats built between 1987 and 1997.

Mr Choo Chin Hua, HDB's director of upgrading programmes, says: "With the extension of HIP to include flats built up to 1997, a total of 230,000 more flats will be eligible for HIP. For a start, we have identified about 55 projects, or around 55,000 flats which were built in the late 1980s, as the first batch to undergo the extended HIP in 2020."

Under HIP, HDB does three kinds of home improvement works: Essential, Optional and Ease.

Vertical kampungs for the elderly

Besides enhancing homes with improvement works, HDB also builds homes with the elderly in mind.

In 2017, it launched Kampung Admiralty, a project integrating housing for seniors with a wide range of social, healthcare, communal, commercial and retail facilities. Dubbed Singapore's first "vertical kampung", the 11-storey project aims to promote active living and encourage social interaction within the community.

HDB Kampung Admiralty Housing in Singapore
Welcome to Singapore's first "vertical kampung", an 11-storey project that promotes active living and social interaction among seniors. PHOTO: HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD

All 104 two-room flexi flats are designed with the safety and comfort of seniors in mind. They come with elder-friendly features such as non-slip flooring, retractable clothes-drying racks and induction hobs that do not use open flames.

In times of need, residents can activate one of several alarms in their homes to notify their neighbours. Their unit number will also flash on an alarm panel located at the lift lobbies.

Unsurprisingly, all units have been taken up since they were first offered in the July 2014 Built-To-Order (BTO) exercise. Almost half of them were purchased under priority schemes such as the Senior Priority Scheme, which gives priority to elderly residents who wish to age in place or live within 4km of their married children.

Community Garden HDB Kampung Admiralty Housing in Singapore
The 11-storey Kampung Admiralty complex has a community garden, where residents are welcome to grow their own plants. PHOTO: HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD, NTUC ENTERPRISE

Kampung Admiralty is also home to other amenities, such as an active ageing hub, a medical centre and a community farm. The complex is the first BTO project with childcare and elder-care centres housed in the same area, facilitating interaction and bonding among the young and old.

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