Why It Matters

Reason for the elderly to cheer

Children and spouses caring for their elderly parents and partners respectively now have one more alternative to turn to when it comes to caregiving options.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has entered the nursing-home segment. NTUC Health launched its first nursing home - a nine-storey, 288-bed facility - in Jurong West three days ago.

It plans to invest in another five such homes in the next three to five years.

Explaining why the NTUC is going into the eldercare business, its secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said: "We are not preparing just for yesterday or today, but preparing our services for tomorrow."

Indeed, there will be a great need for eldercare services in future. Nearly one million people in Singapore will be above 60 in 2030. Close to one in every three persons in the population will need some form of eldercare service by then.

But there are only about 12,000 nursing-home beds, 6,900 home-care places and 3,500 daycare places now.

NTUC Health's latest move is long overdue, given that it went into eldercare services as early as 1997. In 2005, then labour chief Lim Boon Heng said the NTUC was planning to offer nursing-home services.

In the meantime, cost pressures have prompted some families to send their elderly loved ones to cheaper nursing homes in Johor, Malaysia.

Sceptics may say that NTUC is making a bigger push now only because there is more money to be made. The silver market is estimated to grow from $9 billion in 2014 to $16 billion by 2030.

Whatever the reasons, it is better late than never. The NTUC's nursing homes are likely to succeed, given its track record and depth of resources.

Its nursing home, for instance, is supported by expertise from its own network of pharmacies, and dental and medical chains.

If the labour movement continues to set standards and keep costs affordable, as it has done in its childcare centres and supermarkets, the elderly have reason to cheer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Reason for the elderly to cheer'. Print Edition | Subscribe