6 principles on impactful ageing & community development

It is all about knowing the community and empowering them.

Associate Prof Albert Teo, director of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Chua Thian Poh Leadership Programme, spoke at the recent Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Diploma in Gerontological Management Studies (GEM) (the only diploma in Singapore specialising in the business of ageing) forum about impactful community development with seniors and six guiding principles he has learnt from doing this work:

1) Before doing interventions, you need to talk to the community to find out the challenges.

2) Find out the dreams and aspirations of the community – “We cannot impose our own aspirations onto a community as it doesn’t work. We always think we know what is best but that is the wrong approach,” said A/Prof Teo.

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Solutions for the current CPF model

There are many areas of merit as well as many sources of angst with regard to our current CPF model (in Singapore). Both perspectives have been articulated vividly and passionately recently (including at the Institute of Policy Studies’ forum on CPF and retirement adequacy), with many suggestions being put forward for consideration. As a stakeholder myself, I thought I should contribute to this process by proffering some ideas as well.

To me, the main gripe over our CPF regime revolves centrally around the general lack of autonomy over our own CPF monies due to the imposition of arbitrary limits or barriers. Currently, we possess most control only at the age of 55 (when we can withdraw the bulk of our CPF, less the Minimum Sum of S$155,000 as of today) and at 65 (where we can begin to draw down the Minimum Sum).

With our increased life expectancy and cost of retirement, cold math suggests there will be perennial pressure to revise these milestone figures upward. As many have rightfully asked, “but to what end?” Will we one day only be able to withdraw our CPF monies and Minimum Sum at the ages of 70 and 80 respectively? Will the Minimum Sum be S$300,000 then? Will I actually be able to get anything?

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What’s with the name-calling?

I read “Today” newspaper recently and saw a reader comment about using the term “mature citizens” instead of the more common “elderly”. He shared, “… we should change our perceptions to elevate their position. They should not be viewed as weak, in constant need of assistance and handouts, and treated with pity.”

I couldn’t agree more that we need to change our perceptions but I wonder does using a term really matter that much in doing so. There is also the term “senior citizens” and “older persons”. Sometime back, someone shared with me yet another term “good lifers”, where yes, it sounds positive but you can’t quite distinguish between whether you are referring to seniors (sorry) or to those below 50. Is that what we want? Or, maybe we shouldn’t use a term at all.

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Technologies to help seniors & caregivers

With the global ageing population, new technologies are being developed to make the lives of seniors and their caregivers easier. At Cadi Scientific in Singapore, it develops wireless sensing and tracking devices for various healthcare applications. These aim to keep seniors safe and provide caregivers and family members a peace of mind on their health and whereabouts.

Here are some Cadi Scientific technologies that help seniors:

 

1) Wireless continuous temperature monitoring at home

The immune system in seniors typically declines, making early detection of infections important. Cadi.Sense is a wireless temperature monitoring system for home use that measures and transmits the patient’s temperature every 30 seconds. This data is consolidated into a chart, which can be viewed real-time by family members, caregivers and healthcare professionals. A coin-sized device is pasted on the senior’s abdomen and this sends data wirelessly. Alerts are provided via SMS or e-mails should the patient’s fever hits a specified temperature. This is useful in situations such as at night when everyone is sleeping, or while family members are at work. In addition, since temperature taking is no longer done manually, the senior’s normal activities, for example resting, are undisturbed.

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Ill-health dominates fears of growing older

Health issues, a failing mind and the loss of independence are among the biggest fears about getting old, a new UK study has revealed. Loneliness, being a burden to others, having little money to fund their social care or being forced out of their home also feature among the top 10.

 

Worrying about ageing

It also emerged that the age we start to worry is getting lower, with almost seven in 10 of those in their early 50s admitting their fears started sometime in their 40s, compared to just 14 percent of those who are already pensioners.

But 70 percent admit they have no plans in place to deal with growing old, despite more than half admitting it would actually give them peace of mind.

Researchers also found eight in 10 over 50s worry about ageing with some even admitting they are ‘kept awake’ by their fears.

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