MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Health Excerpts from PM Lee National Day Speech 2023

Lee Hsien Loong National Day Rlaly

In Singapore Prime Minister’s Lee Hsien Loong National Day rally speech last evening, he mentioned key initiatives for health and medical care in Singapore.

We share the excerpts from the national day rally related to health here.

Medisave Top-Up As Part Of Majulah Package

“AMediSave Bonus. Most Young Seniors have enough MediSave balances. Nevertheless, many still worry about healthcare costs, because you will soon be Not-So-Young Seniors. So the Majulah Package will include a modest one-time MediSave Bonus of up to $1,000. It will give you some extra buffer, to help pay your medical expenses and insurance premiums.”

Active Ageing

“First, on active ageing.

We have invested significantly in healthcare for seniors.

The Government plays a big role in providing care, but seniors must also play our part to look after ourselves. MOH launched Healthier SG last month. Healthier SG aims to get each of us to take more responsibility for our own health, supported by family doctors and community partners. When you enrol, you will get a personalised health plan, including when to go for screenings and vaccinations. Besides medical prescriptions, your doctor will also give you what we call social prescriptions, like advising you to lead a more active lifestyle, to maintain a healthier diet, to lose a little bit of weight, or to quit smoking. But while your GP can suggest or even arrange these for you, only you can decide to follow through and do them. But please do so. Prevention is always better than cure. My wife and I have signed up. I encourage all seniors to sign up for Healthier SG when you get the invitation from MOH.

Beyond Healthier SG, how else can we help Singaporeans to age well? It is not just about fending off sickness – it is also about staying well, staying well both physically and mentally. Because mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness. One of the biggest threats to the well-being of seniors is loneliness. Today, many seniors are living alone. They risk becoming socially isolated. Their spouses may have passed on; their children are probably living elsewhere with their own families. So it is important that someone keeps regularly in touch with them. It is also important that they keep active and have a social network for mutual support. During COVID, many old folks were stuck at home, unable to go out for their usual activities. We were very worried that isolated and inactive, they would deteriorate quickly. So we restarted community activities for seniors as soon as we could do so safely – stand further apart, do it outdoors, but gather and do it, and keep that human contact, and that activity.

We will do more to help seniors stay engaged and socially active. That is why we have set up Active Ageing Centres (AACs) all over Singapore. I recently visited this Active Ageing Centre, the Bedok Radiance AAC. It is run by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities. I was very happy to see a vibrant community of seniors joining the activities and using the services there. Many of them told me that they were living alone, and always looked forward to coming down to the activities. It gave them something to do with their friends, something to look forward to, a sense of purpose.

The AAC ran a varied weekly programme: art jamming, karaoke and dance classes. When I was there, a HAPPY exercise class was in full swing – HAPPY means Healthy Ageing Promotion Programmes for You, H-A-P-P-Y.

The seniors looked happy, but some of them were not so well. A few were wheelchair-bound, but they still joined in the activities. This cheerful lady told me she hoped to joget again! Why not, even in a wheelchair? Other seniors were using the health services at the AAC. Some were getting their vital signs checked so that doctors could follow up if something was amiss. One was having a teleconsultation – with nurses physically there to help him, and a doctor calling in on Zoom from the polyclinic. It was good that relatives, or neighbours, were making the effort to bring the seniors down to the AAC, for them to socialise and cheer up their lives.

What I found most encouraging was that many seniors were not just taking part in activities, but also helping to organise and run them – seniors for seniors. I met Mdm Goh, the one in the pink blouse, Mdm Karen, and Mdm Farida. They were preparing to deliver hot meals to frail seniors living in upstairs in the rental flats who could not come down to the AAC. They do this every day. It is a great way to build neighbourly bonds while staying active. Actually, besides meal deliveries, there are also communal meals downstairs at the AAC. The staff told me that these meals were a big draw and an important activity because they encourage the old folks to come down. When they gathered at the AACs for meals, they would socialise and make friends, and the staff could keep an eye on them, made sure they were alright. I also discovered that these meals are actually cooked by the seniors themselves, at least some of the seniors themselves! These three makciks – Mdm Aminah on the left, Mdm Rosnah, and Mdm Fatimah – they used their SkillsFuture credits to attend a food hygiene and preparation course so that they could cook meals for their fellow seniors. Mdm Fatimah told me they use less salt and sugar in their cooking to make it a Healthier Choice. Then I tasted her chicken curry, and I said, “You must have used santan – coconut milk.” She said no – she uses normal milk. But it tasted just as good – sedap sekali! I had a second helping.

If you are observant, you would have noticed that the volunteers I have mentioned are all ladies. But we are starting to see more male seniors coming down to the AACs. The centres are introducing more activities that interest men, such as jamming. Or even something simple like a café corner, where the uncles can catch up over a coffee. There will be something for everybody at the AACs.

I was very heartened by my visit to Bedok Radiance AAC. I believe that the network of AACs across Singapore will be a valuable resource for seniors to stay active and healthy. We will invest to expand the network, and work with community partners to enhance the AACs’ services and reach.

If you have elderly family members, especially if they are living on their own, please bring them to join an AAC nearby. And if you are a senior yourself, I strongly encourage you to join a centre near you, because many seniors are having a good time there. Take the first step towards active ageing, so you can live well, and age well. Be like Mdm Wong here. This is Mdm Wong, she is 97 – still going strong, still playing Mahjong! Making HDB Homes and Precincts More Senior-Friendly.

Besides encouraging active ageing, we will also make our HDB homes and precincts more senior-friendly. Many seniors have told us that they want to live out their golden years in their own homes and neighbourhoods. It is a familiar environment, a cosy sanctuary, and they have established deep roots and meaningful friendships. This is a very good thing. We will help as many seniors to age in place as we can. We need to make a few moves to realise this.

First, we will make your homes more senior-friendly. Today, under the EASE programme (Enhancement for Active Seniors), you can install fittings like ramps to help you get in and out of your homes. In toilets, you can install grab bars and make the floors slip-resistant for safety. Soon, seniors can choose from an expanded suite of fittings under EASE 2.0. For example, you can have foldable shower seats, you can have your toilet entrances widened, so that if you or your spouse needs a wheelchair, your wheelchair can be brought into the toilet, and life can be safer and much more convenient.

Secondly, we will make it safer and more comfortable for seniors to move about their neighbourhoods. For example: we will revamp streets and linkways frequented by seniors; we will build more shelters and rest points; also more therapeutic gardens, fitness trails, and exercise machines, to encourage seniors to stay active. The roads will be made more pedestrian-friendly. For example, longer green man signals to give seniors more time to cross the road. You see down here, 36 seconds – the motorcycles and cars have to wait, does not matter, old folks’ safety is important. This is their home, their area, we put them first. Barrier-free ramps and raised zebra crossings so that wheelchair users can cross over without having a step to go down and a step to come back up again at the curb; 3D road markings and narrowed roads to slow the cars down. We will also install larger and more colourful block signs, with familiar symbols to help seniors remember their own block and find their way home. This is not where the satay stall is – it is the Satay Block, Block 113 in Kebun Bahru.

Third, for those who need a little more help, we will build more assisted living facilities. Take for example IDeAL – the Integrated Dementia Assisted Living project at Block 115. At the Kueh Lapis Block, Block 115 in Kebun Baru. I went to open it last year. It is a ground-up project by Dementia Singapore, with some Government support, to help seniors with mild dementia. Many of the seniors live in their own flats in this block. The void deck has become their community living room, where seniors have fun and games, exercise, get their haircuts, and eat together. Whenever a senior needs anything, he or she will go to the second floor. The residents affectionately call this “Ji Lao” – the Second Floor. There are shared facilities there like a community kitchen, where they cook and hang out, and a telehealth room, where staff can monitor their vital signs and arrange for telemedicine checkups. All at Ji Lao! At IDeAL, seniors with dementia can live happily on their own upstairs, and enjoy the warmth and care of friends and community downstairs. HDB is building similar assisted living projects called Community Care Apartments. They will serve not just seniors suffering from dementia, but also those who are well. We will need a whole range of these facilities – whether for assisted living, or the AACs – to serve old folks with different needs. Some of these already exist today. But we need to improve them, scale them up, and get ready for the large numbers down the road.

We will keep making Singapore a more friendly home for current and future seniors: investing resources to senior-proof your homes; making precincts safer and easier to navigate; and constructing more assisted living residences, with integrated accommodation, care, and community facilities. We will do this across Singapore, starting with the towns with the most seniors like Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah.

So we are taking major steps to prepare for a super-aged society. It is part of a new national programme called “Age Well SG”, which will complement Healthier SG in improving the health of our seniors. The Ministries will share more about this in the coming months.

Together, we will make Singapore an endearing home for all ages, where seniors can age with dignity and grace, connected with friends and family.”

Photo credit: Prime Minister Office Youtube Page

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