SINGAPORE- Senior citizens will have more opportunities to keep their minds active, with more than 900 courses and 21,000 learning places available this year at the National Silver Academy (NSA).
This is an increase from the 500 courses and 10,000 places offered in 2016, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor at a celebration to mark the International Day of Older Persons on Sunday (Oct 1).
The NSA allows seniors to pursue learning in diverse areas, with courses ranging from information technology to art, and helps them stay active.
Sunday's celebration saw an attendance of more than 200 senior citizens from various senior activity centres as well as senior volunteers, and was organised by RSVP Singapore, an organisation that promotes volunteerism among seniors.
The event rallied thosethere to pen notes of appreciation for family or friends who have been there for them, as part of the "Seniors Give Thanks!" campaign.
In addition, more than 25,000 thank-you cards were distributed to 68 agencies for seniors under their care to give to their loved ones.
During the opening address, RSVP president Koh Juay Meng said: "We have heard of so many senior-related initiatives where we give thanks to our seniors - they have always been the receivers."
He added: "But perhaps now is the time for seniors to give thanks to those who have been there for them."
Mr Philip Oh, 65, a wheelchair bound senior, was one of those who presented a thank-you card to his friend Patrick Loh, 64. The pair met five years ago when Mr Loh, a volunteer with Willing Hearts, delivered food to Mr Oh, who lived alone, and they became good friends.
Mr Loh, who runs his own business, visits Mr Oh at least once or twice a month, often driving him around to run errands or to polyclinic appointments.
Mr Oh, who was an operations manager before a stroke 10 years ago left him wheelchair-bound, said of Mr Loh: "He's an angel... He is a very good man."
Addressing the crowd at the event, Dr Khor said that Singapore's ageing population brings challenges as well as many opportunities.
"We believe that seniors have much experience and wisdom to share and can serve as a positive force in our society. Therefore, the Government launched a $3 billion Action Plan for Successful Ageing in 2015, covering over 70 initiatives in 12 areas."
The action plan also focuses on building a cohesive and caring community where seniors are supported, and an age-friendly city for them to live actively and age confidently.
A $40million fund to promote senior volunteerism was also launched in 2015, and to date has funded 15 volunteer programmes and created more than 6,500 opportunities for seniors to volunteer under the National Silver Volunteerism Movement.
Said Dr Khor: "The action plan is a living plan, so we will continue to see how to improve. As we roll out the initiatives, there may be gaps, so we will then look at other programmes we can implement or refine and enhance the (existing) programmes."
She added: "At the ground level, there is a lot more awareness about seniors and about ageing. (Many are now more aware) that as you age, there are a lot of opportunities to participate in and contribute actively back to society."