Volunteers to explain govt schemes to seniors aged 65 and up

Pioneer Generation Office staff performing a skit of a home visit at a dinner for volunteers in the Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang West areas.
Pioneer Generation Office staff performing a skit of a home visit at a dinner for volunteers in the Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang West areas.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

From next month, volunteers will fan out across Singapore to explain to senior citizens the various government schemes they can tap.

This comes as the Government moves to bring greater peace of mind to Singapore's seniors amid an ageing population.

Announcing this last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "We want to do it because we care for our seniors, Pioneers and non-Pioneers alike."

The initiative is an expansion of the Pioneer Generation Ambassador scheme, which started two years ago to reach out to Singapore's pioneers about the benefits they are entitled to under the Pioneer Generation Package.

With their expanded role, the Pioneer Generation Ambassadors will not just visit pioneers - who turn 67 and older this year - but will also reach out to 90,000 Singaporeans aged 65 and older.

During these visits, they will explain to the seniors how they can benefit from relevant government schemes including: MediShield Life universal health insurance; the Community Health Assist Scheme that provides medical subsidies; the GST voucher scheme that gives out special cash payments; and the Silver Support scheme for needy elderly.

Mr Lee said these schemes benefit more than just pioneers, and cover many other seniors as well.

He added that the volunteers can "take care of our seniors, whether pioneers or not, and keep in touch with them".

Speaking at a dinner at Anchorvale Community Club to thank 120 of these volunteers, he said he was glad that many had gone the extra mile. He pointed to how they had encouraged pioneers to participate in community activities and also linked those who needed help with government assistance.

For instance, they have helped over 2,000 pioneers apply for financial or social assistance, or mobility or home improvement aids.

There are currently more than 3,000 Pioneer Generation Ambassadors and they have visited about 300,000 of the 430,000 pioneers in their homes as of last month.

A third of these 300,000 pioneers were visited more than once.

Mr Lee quipped that it was not always easy to get pioneers to open their doors, as elderly folk may be cautious - as they ought to be - of encountering people "trying to diddle them (out) of their money or their house".

He thanked the volunteers for persevering. He also encouraged seniors to open their doors to the volunteers, but advised them to verify their identities by looking out for the official ambassador T-shirts and lanyards.

Volunteer and retired air force technician Yow Peng Cheong, 67, said he enjoyed his visits to pioneers twice a week because they let him help people and meet a range of Singaporeans.

He added that seniors who are not under the Pioneer Generation Package may feel aggrieved about having "missed out".

"How we handle this will be a challenge," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Volunteers to explain govt schemes to seniors aged 65 and up'. Print Edition | Subscribe