Volunteers who visit seniors at home to tell them about the Pioneer Generation Package will soon do more to help Singapore's elders age well in their own homes.
From next year, more of these 3,000 Pioneer Generation Ambassadors will encourage seniors to exercise and befriend others in their neighbourhood, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
The volunteers will be trained to spot elders who are lonely, and let them know about active ageing programmes they can join.
They can also refer needy seniors to professionals to deliver their meals, support their caregivers, as well as provide transport and accompany them to medical appointments.
These new duties are an extension of the Community Network for Seniors pilot scheme, which coordinates support services for elders.
The pilot by the Health Ministry and Pioneer Generation Office began last year, and involved over 300 Pioneer Generation Ambassadors in Tampines, Marine Parade and Chua Chu Kang GRCs, who helped 800 seniors in these three constituencies. In Tampines alone, volunteers took 200 seniors for the first health screening of their lives.
PM Lee announced the extension at a lunch to thank about 100 volunteers from Ang Mo Kio GRC, where he is an MP, and Sengkang West.
"You not only closed the last mile, but continued to go the extra mile for the old people because you cared for them," he said.
"The PG ambassadors will have a new mission: to deliver care and concern to the doorsteps of all our seniors, and to help our seniors grow old gracefully in communities of care all across Singapore," he added.
The Pioneer Generation Ambassador programme has expanded steadily since it started in 2014.
It began as a way to explain the benefits of the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP), which subsidises the healthcare bills of pioneers, defined as those aged 68 or above this year and who became citizens before or in 1986.
Last year, volunteers started reaching out to an additional group: some 90,000 senior citizens, aged 65 and above, who are not pioneers.
Volunteers have reached just under half of them so far, said the Pioneer Generation Office.
Volunteers also explain senior support schemes other than the PGP, such as MediShield Life and Enhancement for Active Seniors, which subsidises the retrofitting of elderly-friendly facilities in homes.
PM Lee praised the volunteers for their patience, commitment and passion, noting that they had to master the details of many schemes.
"Sometimes, you have to deal with seniors who are not so happy because they may have missed out on the PGP. You have to reassure and encourage them, and try to build rapport with them," he said.
Retired civil servant and volunteer Unnikrishnan PVK Nambiar, 67, said he can empathise with such seniors as he was three months too young to qualify.
"I let them know about other schemes they may be eligible for," he said, adding: "It's easier for them to open up to me."
Republic Polytechnic student Chong Jian Qiang, 20, said seniors who live alone tend to tell him that they have a lot on their minds.
He recommends that they attend activities such as art classes at their nearby community centre or mass exercise groups near their homes.
"Not all of them have children, and we can do our part to help them," said Mr Chong.