Elderly Townships: Enriching or Excluding?

Explore townships for the elderly

THE Government should consider planning and building small, special townships for the elderly. This is what I have in mind:

The township and its special apartments should be built in such a way that they facilitate the movement of the disabled and the slower pace of the elderly. The apartments should be sold to the elderly at specially discounted prices based on a 30-year lease, with a stipulation that they cannot be resold in the market.

The purchase of these units should be restricted to citizens aged 55 and above. It would be good if they have proper security such as fencing and alarm systems, with access to township restricted to registered residents.

The township should include its own health-care centres, medical clinics, pharmacy, library, training centres, and Internet and entertainment centres.

News and entertainment media sources should be provided free or at a subsidised rate to all the township’s housing units to keep the residents well-informed and entertained.

The township should elect its own town council and be run independently, with some help from the Housing Board.

It should have an elder-care system manned by employed nurses and volunteers. There can also be a small hospice nearby.

Such an initiative would capture a substantial number of the elderly who have reached the age where they need to live within their means and comfortably, without imposing on their children.

Chin Cheng Yeong

Good idea

‘Singaporeans should be given a chance to be responsible for their old age and not impose on their children or relatives.’

MR COLIN LOH: ‘I am a proponent of retirement villages as opposed to retirement homes (‘Explore townships for the elderly’; Thursday). In the United States and Australia, retirement villages not only cater to the residents’ health and security needs, but they also regularly organise simple events like ice-cream parties, movie nights, yoga classes, and visits to popular entertainment outlets. A retirement village is not a retirement home for one to await the final moment. For such retirement villages to be developed, the land lease should be 40-50 years and renewable. If a 30-year lease is offered, a 55-year-old resident will have to vacate the village in his 80s. My dream of a retirement village will not materialise until the Government is willing to accept the fact that Singaporeans should be given a chance to be responsible for their old age and not impose on their children or relatives.’

Isolating elderly not the solution

IT WOULD be an understatement to say I was horrified when I read Mr Chin Cheng Yeong’s letter (‘Explore townships for the elderly’; Thursday).

Growing old is not a disease – it is a natural phase of life. We all will be old one day. How is Mr Chin’s ‘elders’ township’ different from a leprosy colony?

My own research in Britain suggests that the best way to help our elderly is to keep them integrated in the community for as long as possible. House them in an area where the facilities they need – health-care centres, medical clinics, pharmacy, library, training centres, and Internet and entertainment centres, as noted by Mr Chin – are within easy access.

Put them up in sheltered housing, if necessary, with a warden to ensure their safety, and provide support for minor issues like changing light-bulbs and fixing leaky taps. Maybe provide help with ordering and delivering bulky groceries.

Design homes where there are emergency cords or other communication channels linked to 24-hour monitoring stations. Better still, design around a green space where they can tend a little garden, a communal space to watch TV, or even a laundry so they have an excuse to interact with other tenants.

But locate them where the action is.

One of the most successful sheltered homes for Chinese elders in a northern English city is built next to a very popular bar. The tenants there complain no end about the noise, but they would not move anywhere else. Because everything they need is within walking distance.

They could go ‘yumcha’ (‘drink tea’) in a nearby food joint or have a cheap soup and a roll in a department store cafe. It is also convenient for grandchildren, volunteers and mobile hairdressers to visit.

I have no doubt Mr Chin’s intention is good, and his foresight in contemplating an ‘elderly-friendly’ living environment is to be commended. However, isolating our elders is not the solution we need.

Dr Lee Siew Peng
Middlesex, Britain

Bad idea

 ‘Such places would be sitting targets for thieves and robbers as the elderly tend to be less vigilant and agile.’

MR KHOO LIH-HAN: ‘The townships envisaged for seniors by Mr Chin Cheng Yeong (‘Explore townships for the elderly’; Thursday) would lack inter-generational activities with the elderly remaining isolated. The seniors would wish to mingle not only among themselves but also among relatives and friends of other age groups. Moreover, such places would be sitting targets for thieves and robbers as the elderly tend to be less vigilant and agile. Moving to a new neighbourhood would also mean losing friends and familiarity with the surroundings, which are crucial to the elderly. Making their current neighbourhoods more elderly-friendly would be more beneficial to them.’

Questions

So what is your take on the proposed suggestion? Why? 

Should there townships for other groups in Singapore? Singles? Foreign workers etc.? 

Why is space and social integration such a pertinent issue in Singapore? 

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6 thoughts on “Elderly Townships: Enriching or Excluding?

  1. I personally feel that such ideas will help to allow the elderly lead a better lifestyle given the fact that we are “catering” to their needs. However, in the process of this, we are excluding them from society. As a result of such an exclusion, we might create a divided society with different opinions and views. Is this what we want? I would propose that we have the units as mentioned for elderly mixed with units for the youth as well. In a bid to include everyone and create a strong society.

  2. Such an idea would most likely be appreciated by some but the bigger question is whether the elderly themselves would want to live in such an environment.

    No doubt would such an idea be good to keep track of census data, allow the elderly to have direct access to a hospital catered specially for them, et cetera but that would mean excluding them from society. Furthermore, it would take tremendous effort to create a separate town for them. Instead, such resources would be better used to integrate the elderly into our society by meeting the demands of our ageing population in Singapore.

  3. I believe the idea of elderly townships is a good one. The elderly needs security, easy accessibility, comfort and facilities that cater to this age group.

    Singapore has to prepare for an ageing population. Many elderly people would not have children to look after them; some are even alone. A town built specially for them would be of high importance because of the difficulty of accommodating elderly people spread around the island. Wouldn’t it be easier when the elderly are located in a single area? Facilities, care and security is now centralised and the ease of locating them is easier for families.

    Some might say that this would require much resources in order to successfully build a elderly town. However, the long term benefits outweighs the costs. The benefit of the elderly now being well taken care of shines above the tax revenue required to do so. Besides, there would come a time when these taxpayers are part of the older generation needing the care in the future.

    Some might also say that this would disintegrate the elderly from society. However, the elderly have always been part of the society and the initiation of towns just for them does not render them out of the society. In fact, it would unify elderly people together much more as compared to them apart without the elderly towns. At present, there are fewer opportunities for the elderly people to mingle with others on the other side of the island, for example.

  4. I definitely do not agree with the first idea as I feel that confining the elderly to a certain area would not be a good idea, especially where the article mentions how one has to be a registered residents before they are able to enter the area. This meant that the families of these old folks would not be able to visit them even when they want to. Furthermore to create a new ‘town’ or ‘village’ within Singapore shows discrimination against the elderly and division among the people, for example even the town council has to be a newly elected one and are all run separately from the main government.

    No, I believe that townships for any category of people should not even be started up in Singapore as I feel that it is an outright form of discrimination and would make people feel that they are being marginalized in some way. While starting up such townships also means that it is now easier for such category of people to find people who are in the same situation, I personally feel that setting up a club would be a better and not dedicating an entire town to them. Not only would this be a waste of resources, an opportunity cost would be incurred as other residents who are not under the category would not be able to enjoy these facilities. Furthermore, Singapore is already being seen as a ‘little red dot’, any forms of division among the people would not be healthy for the country.

  5. I think that it actually depends on how people view it, and people’s response to it. Of course, the responses would not be uniform and might range from strong approval to protests, but I’m thinking that the decision should ultimately depend on whether it will truly benefit the elderly in all aspects, physically (accessibility, health, mobility etc.), emotionally, mentally and spiritually(?). It also depends on whether actions will be taken to ensure that such towns will be 100% safe because like the Mr Khoo says, it will definitely encourage crimes in that area.

    Personally, I feel that such towns will encourage the growing disparity between the elderly and the working population/youth. Even now, many married couples tend to “dump” their parents into old folks’ homes, claiming the best for both parties. This would only serve as an easier avenue for such actions. However, we must keep in consideration that not all hope is lost, and that there are families who truly care for the elderly and would make the effort to visit them often if this idea is really put into place.

    Ultimately, I think it is a bad idea because I feel that the main reason that leads to such a need is because of the growing neglect for our elderly population and that a better approach would be to tackle the main problem directly. Naturally, when people are cared for, more would be done for them, and there would not then be a need to create a special environment just to care for these people if they are already more-than sufficiently cared for.

  6. Building these towns meant exclusively for the elderly would undoubtedly alleviate Singapore’s problem (of an ageing-population) and what some may call, a burden, of caring for these people, especially so because of the much pressed workforce to be both productive and fillial simultaneously. This is a convenient solution for Singaporeans. However, this may be a form of discrimation and might worsen the plight of the elderly by condemning them to reside in a seemingly closed area with people equally physically and mentally incompetent, which is tantamount to making them live out their days in a hospice.

    Singapore is a small island with little land, making the urban jungle a safety hazard, inconducive for the elderly. Furthermore, Singaporeans have lifestyles that do not permit them time to take care of these elderly. Also, foreigners making up more than a third of the population. These factors combined would make the idea of elderly townships appealling, but we should not avoid these problems just by segregating this group of people (likewise with the foreign workers). This is a short term solution with possibly dire consequences on our social fabric and does not address the root of the problems, which is disharmony. Secondly, being an Asian society, we should embrace our value of fillial piety.

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