Making Singapore A City For All Ages

We take a closer look at the initiative. 

Making Singapore A City For All Ages

In 2011, 2,600 residents in Marine Parade aged 60 and above were polled on what they needed in their homes and neighbourhoods to make life easier and safer for them. Among the findings: 15%, or 400, of the respondents had suffered falls in the past year. As a result, plans were made to retrofit more than 500 flats in the town to make them more elderly-friendly.

The Marine Parade pilot led to the birth of “City for All Ages”, an initiative to make different communities in Singapore, elderly-friendly. Today, the CFAA initiative has been implemented in four towns: Marine Parade, Whampoa, Bedok and Taman Jurong. In July this year, it was extended to Choa Chu Kang, while six other constituencies – Bukit Panjang, Hong Kah North, Queenstown, Siglap, Tampines Central and Tanglin-Cairnhill – are set to start their CFAA projects soon.

So how does the programme work? Specific precincts are first identified as “living laboratories” to assess the needs of seniors and test out new ideas that help them age gracefully, says Ms Teoh Zsin Woon, Deputy Secretary (Development) at the Ministry of Health. Grassroots leaders and residents conduct social surveys, health screenings and hardware audits of flats and the town environment to identify areas of possible improvement. They then work with government agencies on new programmes or improvements to infrastructure in the community.

It is a ground-up, people-centric approach that has worked. Ms Teoh explains: “First, we do not start with any programmes or policies in mind. We start with the individual seniors on the ground and their needs, and work the programme around meeting those needs.

“Second… to create and implement innovative solutions that address the needs of seniors, [it] means working across government and community settings, across public and people sectors, and across agency lines of responsibility.”

A closer look at Marine Parade

Besides retrofitting seniors’ homes with elderly-friendly fixtures and fittings such as grab bars and slip-resistant tiles in the bathrooms and toilets, and wheelchair ramps, other initiatives were also implemented under the Marine Parade pilot project.

Town audits for the 2011 surveys involved volunteers of various ages walking different routes in the neighbourhood, zeroing in on potential hazards for the elderly. As a result, the Marine Parade Town Council and Land Transport Authority made improvements, including more elderly-friendly fitness corners, larger block numbering, levelled void decks, and longer “green man time” for traffic light crossings.

The surveys also identified seniors living alone, who have a higher risk of depression. GoodLife!, a senior activity centre run by the Marine Parade Family Service Centre, was brought in to help, and now has a Befriending Network of 40 volunteers called Angel Ambassadors. These Angel Ambassadors are mostly elderly themselves – the youngest being 53 years old and the oldest is 84 years old. Together with the Agency for Integrated Care, a support team was also started to help seniors with dementia and depression.

Says Ms Teoh: “In the aged care context, a key challenge is how we can think, create and work across the healthcare and social service sectors to be able to create new services that support the needs of an ageing population more seamlessly and holistically.

"This requires us to tap the expertise and thinking of professionals in both sectors."

    Jan 7, 2013
    Denyse Yeo
    Ng Shi Wei
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