Singapore Budget 2018: More needs to be done before 1 in 4 people becomes 65 or older in 2030

SINGAPORE - Moves to strengthen services for the elderly are very welcome and echo Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Chinese New Year pledge: "We are working to enable Singaporeans to lead active and meaningful lives in their silver years."

Integrating health and social support services for the elderly is obviously a good move, as many of the elderly who need help would need different kinds of assistance if they are to continue living in the community.

Singaporeans care, as evidenced by the growing number of volunteers and the increase in the charity money donated. But ensuring that financial and other help goes to those who need it most is not so easy.

Anecdotes abound of some elderly with three refrigerators given by three different organisations, while another gets no help at all. Having one agency with oversight of both the social and healthcare needs would hopefully see a better distribution of help.

Having the Silver Generation Office (SGO) meet up with everyone who turns 65 years should ensure no one who needs help is missed out.

And having the SGO as part of the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) means it will be easier to provide that help once it is identified.

The AIC's community network for seniors has proven to be a real game changer in linking up different stakeholders in Tampines, Marine Parade and Chua Chu Kang to provide the elderly with every opportunity for active ageing, and when they need it, health and social support. Extending it to the whole country is a much awaited move.

 
 

The Government has long been working on making life easier and more meaningful for the elderly.

Notable examples include providing a safer home environment with subsidised non-slip tiles and grab bars, public spaces that are more senior-friendly and extending the re-employment age so people can stay economically active for longer.

Much has been done. But is it enough? Welcome as it is, is the integration of social and health services sufficient?

It is certainly a step in the right direction. But the journey is not over and many more steps will need to be taken in the coming decade, at the end of which, one in four people here will be over 65.

Last month, Britain appointed a minister for loneliness. Should Singapore consider a Ministry for Ageing that will bring together not just social and health support, but everything else to do with keeping an ageing society vibrant?

It was heartening to hear the Prime Minister promise that the Government "will not stop thinking about what it needs to do".