Budget Recap: Singapore prepares for its ageing population

Plans cover new healthcare models, smart homes and safer public commutes.

By 2030, Singapore predicts that one in four of its citizens will be 65 years and older, doubling the number that it currently has. The country has since crafted action plans for its ageing population, setting aside S$3 billion in its 2016 Budget to formulate schemes to engage the elderly, caring for every aspect of their lives. The plan spans 70 initiatives in areas such as health; lifelong learning; employment; housing; transport; public facilities; social inclusion; old-age benefits; and research and development. The government will raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67 by 2017, allowing employees to extend their employment duration. It will also match half of a S$40m target fund by a non-profit to hire an additional 50,000 senior volunteers. The government plans to “complement family support with community support”, it wrote in a report, forecasting that “the number of seniors living alone is likely to increase from 35,000 in 2012 to 83,000 in 2030”. For instance, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will work with grassroot organisations to roll out home visitation programmes to at least 50 neighbourhoods, so volunteers can befriend seniors living alone and provide them with social support. By 2020, MOH intends to set up 40 day centres for seniors, called “Active Ageing Hubs”, that will include day care, rehabilitation schemes and services such as housekeeping and grocery-shopping for frailer citizens. The Housing & Development Board is also building smart homes for its elderly, partnering with industry to install alert systems that monitor their safety. To ensure safer public commutes, the Land Transport Authority will install sensors on all public buses to track driving patterns, and make all public buses wheelchair-accesible by 2020. The National Research Foundation - part of the Prime Minister’s Office - has set aside S$200 million in ageing-related research, hoping to promote longevity among the elderly. The action plan was a joint collaboration between government agencies, non-profit organisations, businesses, academia, community and union leaders. It underwent a year-long public consultation with over 4,000 Singaporeans, including students. academics, seniors, grassroot leaders and human resource professionals. The country is looking into the future - taking care of its citizens even before they grow old. The Singapore Government is gathering feedback from its citizens for its 2017 Budget, from 5 December till 13 January next year. Visit the website to submit your feedback.