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?