Merdeka Generation Package helps with healthcare costs, but also encourages seniors to stay active: Indranee

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah at the opening of Montfort Care's senior-friendly gym at its elders' activity centre in Marine Parade on Feb 22, 2019. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - While the Government will continue to help defray healthcare costs for the elderly, the Budget is also focused on helping seniors stay active, said Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah.

And senior activity centres and the Community Networks for Seniors are part of ongoing efforts to help older folk lead healthy lifestyles.

She said: "When we talk about ageing and support for ageing, there are different parts. One part is the healthcare costs, and this year's Budget has quite a bit on that."

Ms Indranee was speaking on Friday (Feb 22) at the opening of voluntary welfare organisation Montfort Care's elderly-friendly gym at its senior activity centre in Marine Parade. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is an MP for Marine Parade GRC, also attended the opening.

Said Ms Indranee: "We've got the Merdeka Generation Package, Chas and a few other things. The corollary to that is that in addition you must make sure people stay healthy."

Chas refers to the Community Health Assist Scheme, which enables lower and middle- income Singaporeans to access primary medical and dental care at clinics near their homes; and more financial support for long-term care.

Getting seniors to lead more active lifestyles is one of the five key planks of the $6.1 billion Merdeka Generation Package.

The package, for those born between Jan 1, 1950, and Dec 31, 1959, will give eligible seniors a one-time $100 top-up for their PAssion Silver Card.

They can use this to pay for activities and facilities at community clubs, entry to public swimming pools and public transport, among others. More opportunities for seniors to take part in active ageing activities will also be introduced.

Other benefits of the package include a MediSave top-up of $200 a year for five years and additional subsidies for outpatient care for the rest of their lives.

Ms Indranee cited Montfort Care's senior activity centre as an example of how older people can stay active. She added that the facility is a "community network which allows seniors to live in their area to drop in, participate in the activities".

She said: "The key thing behind that is, firstly, have facilities for seniors to come to. Two, activities for them. And three, to be able to enable them to lead healthy lifestyles. This is really for the group that is retired, not working. Many of them would be seniors who live alone."

She added that volunteerism is another way to stay active and government agencies can play a helping hand to get seniors involved.

The Community Network for Seniors is a programme that involves government bodies, voluntary welfare organisations and volunteers teaming up to coordinate support services and activities for the elderly.

Ms Indranee said while the Budget has "a monetary component designed to encourage the Merdeka Generation to go out and be active, when it comes to volunteerism, it should be something that comes from the heart".

Former art teacher Helen Ong, a 69-year-old volunteer at GoodLife! Senior Activity Centre, said volunteering gives her a sense of purpose. She said: "I use my skills to teach arts and crafts to the seniors here. It helps keep me occupied and gives them something to do."

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