Suggestions from MPs to help seniors, caregivers

Mr Henry Kwek (left) called for more work opportunities for seniors, while Dr Chia Shi-Lu (right) spoke of the vital role caregivers play.
Mr Henry Kwek (left) called for more work opportunities for seniors, while Dr Chia Shi-Lu (right) spoke of the vital role caregivers play.
Mr Chen Show Mao sought more financial aid for caregivers, especially those who give up jobs to care for their family members. Mr Henry Kwek (top) called for more work opportunities for seniors, while Dr Chia Shi-Lu (above) spoke of the vital role ca
Mr Chen Show Mao sought more financial aid for caregivers, especially those who give up jobs to care for their family members.

Twenty-five MPs yesterday gave suggestions and urged the Government to do more for seniors and caregivers, as the House debated two motions on helping Singaporeans age with purpose and expanding support for caregivers.

One group, led by Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC), advocated a "whole of Singapore effort" to ensure that Singaporeans age with purpose, in good health and with financial stability.

The other group, led by Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), underscored the important role that caregivers play in helping seniors age well and called for more support for this group of people.

Mr Kwek is the vice-chairman of the People's Action Party's Seniors Group, while Dr Chia chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health.

Here are some suggestions made by the MPs.

For seniors

MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK AND VOLUNTEER

Opening the debate on ageing well, Mr Kwek said that many seniors find purpose in work and more opportunities must be created for them to work for as long as they want or are able to.

EXPLORE GROUP HOME IDEA

We can either utilise available void-deck space or transform several combined HDB flats into a senior group home with assisted living facilities.

MS JOAN PEREIRA, calling for more assisted living options for seniors.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) similarly said many elderly people "want to feel useful to society, in a way that is manageable for them".

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) called for ageism to be stamped out. The Government can take the lead in testing how the work environment, workflows, job role designs and even compensation and health benefits can be optimised for senior workers, she said.

MORE HOUSING OPTIONS

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) suggested providing more assisted living options in both Housing Board and private housing developments. "We can either utilise available void-deck space or transform several combined HDB flats into a senior group home with assisted living facilities," she said.

Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) urged the National Development and Health ministries to look into revising guidelines to enable and promote the setting up of group homes or retirement homes with assisted living facilities in the private sector.

"This could mean creating a new strata title category and legislation that could ring-fence non-seniors from purchasing such properties and deal with the conversion or transfer of ownership upon demise of the owners," she said.

MAKE WORKPLACES AGE-FRIENDLY

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) called for building owners to set aside rest spaces for elderly workers, especially for outsourced cleaners, security officers and landscape workers.

This gives them a greater sense of dignity and self-worth "knowing that their basic needs are provided for at their work sites", added the assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.

BOOST ACCESS TO THE ARTS

Citing studies that show that attending or taking part in arts-related events benefits the mental and physical health of the elderly, Nominated MP Terence Ho called for more support and resources from the Government, companies, enterprises and the public to make the arts more accessible for senior citizens.

ROLL OUT TECH HELP

Home-grown technology companies could work with the Government to produce basic smartphones or similar devices with functional features such as electronic payment, said Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

These could be made available at a nominal rate for senior citizens and help them stay connected even if they cannot afford a smart device.

For caregivers

 
 
 
 

PROVIDE MORE FINANCIAL AID

Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) wants more financial assistance to be given to caregivers, especially those who give up their jobs to take care of their family members. This could include Central Provident Fund top-ups for those in low-income households, he said.

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) also suggested that the Government consider a caregiver allowance, particularly for full-time caregivers taking care of an elderly person with disabilities or mental health problems.

OFFER CAREGIVER LEAVE, FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS

Having caregiver leave and flexible work arrangements can help caregivers better deal with situations when an elderly parent falls ill suddenly, said Dr Chia.

He also called on the Manpower Ministry to examine potential roadblocks to companies implementing flexible work arrangements and work with them to overcome the obstacles.

BEEF UP RESPITE CARE SERVICES

Recounting the experience of a burnt-out caregiver whose father was often active at night because of dementia, Ms Tin called for the provision of respite care beyond the conventional working hours.

ENCOURAGE MORE TO TAKE UP SENIOR-RELATED CAREERS

Take a look at how younger Singaporeans can be encouraged to pursue careers in fields such as gerontology and geriatrics, said Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

These could include putting in place professional conversion programmes for people who want to make a mid-career switch.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Suggestions from MPs to help seniors, caregivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe