Singapore launches its first community-based lab to boost assistive tech adoption among seniors

By Si Ying Thian

The Singapore University of Social Sciences and social enterprise SG Assist are partnering on Singapore’s first community-based ‘gerontechnology’ lab to boost adoption and collaboration around innovative solutions for the ageing population.

Singapore's first gerontechnology lab seeks to be an experiential and community space to boost community-based adoption of assistive tech, and collaboration around innovative solutions for the evolving needs of the ageing population. Image: SUSS.

Hoping that it would make life easier for his elderly mother, a caregiver bought her a Google Home Mini, a smart home device, to handle household tasks remotely with voice commands. 


However, due to her poor command of standard English, she could not get through to Google Home Mini – giving up after attempting multiple “Hey Google” instructions. After two months of using it, she ended up scolding the Google Home Mini and gave up on using it.  


The experience was shared by Adrian Tan, Co-Founder of social enterprise SG Assist, while he led a media tour at the launch of the Age+ Living Lab on 15 March. 


“How can we [as caregivers] make better decisions to work with our loved ones to decide what’s best for them?” he added. 

Opening ceremony at the launch event of the Age+ Living Lab. Image: SUSS.

This is why SG Assist and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) launched the country’s first gerontechnology lab, which spotlights assistive tech that supports seniors and their caregivers.


The lab aims to facilitate that co-creation between caregivers and seniors, as well as collaborations around innovative solutions that enable seniors to “age in place.” 


GovInsider spoke to representatives from SUSS and SG Assist to understand the current gaps that the lab is looking to bridge, and how cross-agency collaborations can move assistive tech adoption from research to policy. 

The lab as an experiential and community space 


Designed to simulate a typical and authentic home environment, the lab allows seniors and caregivers to experience using different assistive products and better understand how they will fit into their lives. 


These products range from as simple as a stabilising spoon that enables someone with Parkinson’s to independently feed oneself, to advanced technologies like a touchless fall detection system that monitors a fall-prone senior in a room using wall-mounted devices. They can cost as little as S$0.80 to more than S$300 (US$0.60 to more than US$224). 


However, the lab does not sell any of the products it displays, said Tan from SG Assist, and instead directs interested buyers to where they can buy them online.  


There is a perception of Singapore being too small of a market for assistive tech, Associate Professor Carol Ma, who is the Head of Gerontology Programmes at SUSS, told GovInsider. She said she hopes that the lab could spur adoption and build economies of scale for Singapore to become a gerontechnology hub in Asia-Pacific. 


As a platform that is refreshed regularly, the lab will also serve as community space to bring together solution providers and other partners to share knowledge and develop innovative solutions for the evolving needs of the ageing population.  


SUSS, one of the key partners, is lending the lab research expertise from its Master of Gerontology programme.  


Beyond introducing assistive products, the team aims to understand how receptive seniors are to using technology before and after training, said Prof Ma. 


The lab is thus primarily an educational platform offering experiential learning activities and tours. Staff at SG Assist and SUSS-trained GeronTech Senior Ambassadors help caregivers and loved ones decide on products by referencing a “six A” framework developed with SUSS.  


These six principles are appropriateness, affordability, availability, adaptability, accessibility and acceptability. 

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Gerontech will be key in enabling ‘ageing in place’ 


Situated in Singapore’s first dementia-friendly estate in Yishun, the lab wants to target gerontechnology adoption at both individual housing and community levels. 


Investing in “ageing in place” initiatives can help alleviate the strain on healthcare systems, said Robbie Goh, Provost of SUSS at the opening ceremony of the launch.  

Minister Desmond Lee experimenting with the stabilising spoon at the launch event. Image: SUSS.

“Age in place” refers to the ability of seniors to live in their own homes and community safely, independently, and comfortably. 


Such initiatives tie in with Age Well SG, a S$3.5 billion (US$2.6 billion) national programme led by the Ministries of Health, National Development and Transport, to support seniors to age well in their homes and communities. 


At the event, Singapore’s Minister for National Development and Minister-In-Charge of Social Services Integration, Desmond Lee, also pointed to the increasing demand for assistive products among housing residents.  


From 1 April, the Housing Development Board (HDB) will work with commercial vendors to offer a comprehensive fall detection package to households that volunteer to try them out. They will monitor the take-up rate and residents’ receptiveness to the technology before assessing whether the offerings should be scaled up. 


HDB will also provide a wider range of fittings under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) 2.0 programme, which offers subsidised enhancements to provide a safer and more conducive environment for seniors. 

One-stop shop for gerontech


The lab is keeping communications close with government agencies in eldercare (Agency for Integrated Care), housing (HDB), social and financial assistance (Ministry of Social and Family Development) and healthcare (Ministry of Health) to multiply the impact of these programmes, said Tan from SG Assist. 


Tan saw the lab’s potential to be a community touchpoint where caregivers do not have to talk to multiple agencies to apply assistance schemes to take care of their loved ones.  

SUSS-trained Senior Gerontech Ambassador demonstrating to a senior how a bed caddie works. Image: SUSS.

“One application to us can go to different government agencies that provide support to a family. This would help lessen caregiver stress.  


“For now, we may be able to influence gerontech adoption in smaller communities. How do we then bring this to the other communities in Singapore?” 


Prof Ma from SUSS underlined the potential collaboration between the lab and SG Enable, the focal agency for disability in Singapore. SG Enable currently has an assistive technology centre that promotes the adoption of assistive tech among persons with disabilities. 


“I agree with the integrated social service approach. The problems faced by persons with disabilities may also apply for elderly, and there is potential for us to work together to create a better impact,” she added.


By 2026, the lab aims to reach out to 800 to 1,000 seniors through one-hour long guided, experiential learning tours led by the Senior Ambassadors, as well as through workshops and roadshows. If you are interested in booking an experiential learning tour, you can do so here