The high-level official delegation from Singapore’s Ministry of Health, Agency for Integrated Care, Home Nursing Foundation, Woodlands Health Campus and social enterprise  NTUC Health Co-operative visited TAS in Wellington, Bupa House, Auckland, and Access Home Health, Petone in visits arranged by interRAI Services.

Director of Aged Care Services at Singapore’s Ministry of Health Mr Titus Lee talks to interRAI in New Zealand Governance Board Chair Cathy Cooney.

They came to find out how interRAI operates here and learn about the challenges New Zealand faced when introducing the interRAI international assessment system four years ago. While here they explained how their country cares for its seniors. 

Director of Aged Care Services at Singapore’s Ministry of Health Mr Titus Lee said Singapore people were leading longer and healthier lives, and it was timely to reframe the ageing narrative from “Silver Tsunami” to celebrate “Productive Longevity”.

“By 2030 there will be over 900,000 Singaporean seniors,” Mr Lee said. “We will have fewer people of working age to support our seniors. But we are also leading longer and healthier lives.”

Compared to New Zealand, Singapore’s population is ageing more rapidly and declining in number.

In Singapore the number of people aged 65 years and older is predicted to more than double from 430,000 today, to more than 900,000 in 2030. The total population is predicted to decrease from 3.5 million in 2015 to 2.5 million by 2060. In New Zealand in 2018 we had 746,900 people 65 or over, and our population could grow to 5 million in 2020.

Mr Lee said Singapore had a whole-of-government, ministerial and stakeholder approach to ageing, anticipating shifts and coordinating a national response. This encouraged “active ageing in every neighbourhood, a befriender for every senior living alone and accessible care for every senior”.

A national seniors’ health programme promoted support for seniors through community networks, healthy lifestyle campaigns, preventive health messages, health-promoting behaviours, carer support and varied aged care options catered for seniors with different care needs.

“We are building up a nation-wide community support system, wrapped around our seniors.

TAS chief executive Graham Smith (right) talks to Dr Chew Aik Phon, Consultant, Geriatric Medicine, Woodlands Health Campus, Singapore.

Dementia-friendly communities (DFCs) have been built in various towns and precincts with safe environments for people with dementia. People in the community know about dementia and how to respond to them and support their caregivers.”

A community befriending programme provided psycho-social support to seniors and caregivers through community volunteer befrienders.

An action plan for successful ageing included, “Kampong for All Ages”, and inter-generational care facilities in Singapore’s heartland high-rises allowing young and old to interact. 

Kampong for all Ages aimed to build a caring society, foster inclusion and pre-empt loneliness and social isolation among older people. The idea was to re-kindle a sense of community akin to the traditional village “kampong spirit” of former times.

In New Zealand “kampong spirit” was alive as whanaungatanga and manaakitanga – concepts engendering feelings of belonging and inclusion through family and friend relationships, respect, generosity and care for others, interRAI New Zealand Governance Board Chair Cathy Cooney said.

The Singapore delegation met Cathy Cooney, interRAI Services staff and NZ Ministry of Health officials. They visited aged residential care facilities – two Bupa care homes in Auckland and Access Home Health in Petone. 

They also heard from Richard Hamblin of the New Zealand Health and Quality Safety Commission, Max Robins from the New Zealand Aged Care Association and CHT Charitable Trust, Susan Bowden from the Capital and Coast DHB Needs Assessment Service and TAS Chief Executive Graham Smith.

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