Philanthropists to set up facility for assisted living

Facility to be completed by 2021 will be located in north-eastern Singapore and have 50 rooms

A group of five philanthropists from Singapore have come together to develop the first purpose-built assisted living facility here that will allow seniors with mobility issues to live independently, instead of in an institutionalised setting, such as a nursing home.

One of the five, Mr Laurence Lien, chairman of the Lien Foundation, spoke of plans for the facility during the inaugural Asean Philanthropy Dialogue yesterday.

The facility, which has 50 rooms, will be located in the north-eastern part of Singapore and is expected to be completed by 2021. Mr Lien did not name the other givers, except to say that they were all members of the privately founded Asia Philanthropy Circle. He also did not reveal how much they gave.

Mr Lien said there was a growing need for assisted living facilities in a rapidly ageing society where many seniors may not have children or do not live with them.

"Developers are not sure if assisted living facilities are commercially viable, and if they are not sure, they wouldn't go ahead," he said. "But we can take the risk and spur the industry."

In January, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said his ministry was studying models for assisted living. At these facilities, residents can live on their own but have access to nursing and personal care services, such as help with dressing or going to the toilet.

Assisted living differs from a nursing home in that residents have more autonomy, Mr Lien said. He said other details of the development, such as how much it will cost residents, are not available yet.

The Asia Philanthropy Circle was founded in 2015 by Mr Lien, Mr Stanley Tan and Ms Cherie Nursalim to bring together philanthropists to collaborate and address social problems. Mr Tan is the former chairman of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, while Ms Nursalim is the vice-chairman of the Giti Group, which has interests in manufacturing and property.

At yesterday's dialogue organised by the Circle, the issue of trust between governments in the Asean region and philanthropists was one of the topics discussed.

"We usually do our own thing and governments will do their own thing," said Mr Lien, the grandson of the late banker Lien Ying Chow. "Governments may not trust the motivations of philanthropists."

For example, governments may worry about foreign interference if a foreign philanthropist is involved, he said.

On this issue of trust, Mr Richard Tan, senior director of communications and international relations at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, said the divide may come about because governments see and do things differently from philanthropists. But more dialogue is critical to build more understanding and collaboration between the two parties.

Besides individuals involved in philanthropy, yesterday's dialogue was also attended by ministers and senior officials from Asean countries in charge of social welfare.

Mr Desmond Lee, the Minister for Social and Family Development, told the media afterwards: "We found it very valuable that the philanthropists want to work together with the Government to achieve a win-win outcome for the most vulnerable. The Government cannot do all the work alone."

The organisers also released a catalogue of 25 Asean philanthropists who are making a difference with their giving. They include Indonesian tycoon and founder of the Mayapada Group Dr Tahir, Singaporean fund manager Teng Ngiek Lian, and Malaysian Kathleen Chew, programme director of the YTL Foundation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Philanthropists to set up facility for assisted living'. Print Edition | Subscribe