Singapore's approach to healthy ageing is to see it as a positive force

About 14 per cent of the population in Singapore are aged 65 and above.
About 14 per cent of the population in Singapore are aged 65 and above.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Ageing should not be seen as something to be feared; rather, it can be redefined and harnessed as a positive force. That is Singapore's strategy in dealing with the challenges of a quickly ageing population.

Ms Charlene Chang, the Ministry of Health's group director of the Ageing Planning Office that oversees development and implementation of the national ageing agenda, spoke on the country's approach towards healthy ageing at a webinar on Tuesday (March 23).

The webinar was organised by the United Kingdom's Department for International Trade and focused on the shared challenges and initiatives in the UK and Singapore to enable active and independent lives for older people.

Speakers from the UK included Dr Adrian Hayter, the National Health Service (NHS) England's national clinical director for older people and integrated person-centred care; and Professor Nic Palmarini, director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing.

They spoke on topics such as the UK's efforts to harness strengths across academia, NHS and the industry to develop innovative solutions for healthy ageing.

Ms Chang noted that in Singapore, ageing is a key demographic challenge.

About 14 per cent of the population here are aged 65 and above. By 2030, it will increase to 25 per cent.

"But the good news is that... we are not only living longer, but we are also staying healthier for longer," she said.

She cited how life expectancy has gone up from 82.8 years to 84.9 years from 2010 to 2019. Health-adjusted life expectancy has also gone up from 72.8 years to 74.5 years in the same period.

"We want to do more to further increase these healthy life years... We want to not just add years to our life, but we also want to add life to our years," she said.

The Action Plan for Successful Ageing, which was launched in 2015 as a national blueprint for ageing, is one way in which Singapore is trying to achieve this.

It encompasses a system of proactive outreach, preventive health and active ageing programmes for seniors in every neighbourhood.

For example, volunteers do home visits to engage seniors, and identify health and social needs, while preventive health services such as health screening and coaching are also offered.

There are also schemes to give seniors a sense of purpose and to support their aspirations to continue learning, Ms Chang added.

For example, there are over 1,000 courses offered by the National Silver Academy for seniors in a range of areas including art, wellness and life skills.

Another speaker from Singapore at the webinar was Mr Andy Seet, director of the sector and partnerships division at the Agency for Integrated Care.

He noted that over the years, more support has been provided for Singapore's ageing population, including in the areas of community, mental health and social support.

Different agencies and partners will have to work together to provide such support, Mr Seet said. "Together, we can build a vibrant care community that helps our seniors age well and age gracefully."