SINGAPORE: Given Singapore’s ageing population, there is only so much that schemes such as MediShield Life and ElderShield can do to help the elderly. Senior citizens also need to stay active to keep their health in check – and that is where senior activity centres play a crucial role.
Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung made this point during a visit to the Pacific Activity Centre (PAC) at Yishun Riverwalk on Sunday (Mar 4).
The centre held its Embracing Active Ageing event to showcase its range of activities that cater to elderly residents, such as watercolour painting and balloon sculpting, as well as music therapy.
Mr Ong, who is also Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC, said Singapore's ageing population requires the whole nation to make adjustments at every level.
“(Our) fiscal position has to be squared to sustain a much older population with higher healthcare needs," he said.
"We made adjustments to our insurance system, MediShield Life, ElderShield, and now also a major fiscal move in terms of raising GST in the next decade. All these steps are required to make sure that Singapore continues to sustain, even with an older population.
“But all this cannot work without the last mile (service) of engaging residents directly. And this is what all our volunteers, senior generation ambassadors and centres like PAC are doing," he added.
PAC has 10 other such centres in areas like Tampines, Woodlands and Tiong Bahru, with each centre seeing about 400 elderly visitors daily. Its volunteers specifically look out for seniors who are isolated or tend to keep to themselves, and encourage them to join its activities.
PAC's founder and director, Dr William Chong, said the centre works to keep seniors active both physically and mentally.
"We have early morning exercises because physical activity is very important to prevent dementia and depression, and we have programmes such as cooking. We also bring them out to tourist attractions in Singapore like Gardens by the Bay - that has helped the residents become more socially connected," said Dr Chong.
At the event, PAC signed a memorandum of understanding with Republic Polytechnic to conduct research to better understand the nutritional needs of the elderly. It will focus on how whey protein can help prevent muscle degeneration in seniors.