'Prevention is better than cure': PM Lee on importance of active ageing in S'pore

He and Ho Ching have signed up for "Healthier SG", which aims to help people take more responsibility for their health.

Julia Yee | August 20, 2023, 08:24 PM



“Health is precious, and prevention is key to ensuring our families do not have to worry," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. 

He was addressing the topic of active ageing at the 2023 National Day Rally on Aug. 20, as part of the government's broader strategy to better accommodate an ageing society.

In his English and Chinese speeches, PM Lee stressed the importance of adopting preventive measures with regards to health among seniors, stating that poor health in one's later years could be a burden to one's family, who would have to look after them and support them financially.

"All of us will face health issues as we get older, especially if we did not take care of ourselves when we were younger," he said.

PM Lee highlighted two major aspects of one's health that needed to be cultivated — physical and mental wellbeing.

Physical wellbeing

PM Lee took the opportunity to introduce the Ministry of Health (MOH)'s "Healthier SG" campaign, which shifts the healthcare system's focus to disease prevention.

"Healthier SG aims to get each of us to take more responsibility for our own health, supported by family doctors and community partners," he said, encouraging people to maintain a relationship with a regular family doctor.

Upon enrolment, patients get a personalised health plan, including when to go for screenings and vaccinations.

Physicians will also offer social prescriptions, such as how to lead a more active lifestyle, maintain a healthier diet, or quit smoking.

"I understand many are reluctant to visit the doctor regularly. Some, though feeling unwell, dare not visit the doctor for fear of hearing bad news. I hope you can change your mind," PM Lee said.

He added that both he and his wife Ho Ching had signed up for "Healthier SG", urging Singaporeans to do so when they are invited by MOH.

Mental wellbeing

Beyond physical wellbeing, PM Lee also spoke about the importance of keeping the elderly socially active so as to stave off loneliness.

He noted that the government had set up Active Ageing Centres (AACs) across the island, which host regular activities for seniors such as art jamming, karaoke, and dance classes.

Health services are also available on site, including having one's vital signs checked and teleconsultations with doctors.

"I was happy to see relatives, or neighbours, making the effort to bring the seniors down to the AAC, to socialise and to cheer up their lives," PM Lee said of his recent visit to the Bedok Radiance AAC.

He was heartened to observe that the seniors there were not just participating, but organising some of the events themselves.

He shared that some female volunteers would prepare and deliver food to frail seniors living in rental flats, as well as cook communal meals that their peers could bond over.

PM Lee noted that more male seniors are also starting to join the AACs, with the centres introducing more "activities that interest men" such as jamming and a cafe corner "where the uncles can catch up over a coffee".

"There will be something for everybody at the AACs," he said.

Senior-friendly homes and neighbourhoods

PM Lee also mentioned that the government is looking to better the living spaces of seniors.

“Many seniors have told us that they want to live out their golden years in their own homes and neighbourhoods. It is a familiar environment, a cosy sanctuary, and they have established deep roots and meaningful friendships,” stated PM Lee.

As such, the government will be taking measures to help seniors age in place as well as they can.

For instance, the Enhancement for Active Seniors programme (EASE) lets seniors customise their homes, such as installing bars and foldable shower seats in their toilets.

These measures will extend beyond the individual’s home to their neighbourhood.

They include building more shelters and rest points along linkway frequented by seniors, making roads senior-friendly with longer green man signals, as well as installing larger, more colourful block signs with familiar symbols to help seniors remember their block.

The government is also rolling out more assisted living facilities like the Integrated Dementia Assisted Living project (IDeAL).

Located at Block 115 in Kebun Baru, IDeAL helps seniors with mild dementia enjoy the warmth of friends and community.

“The void deck has become their community living room, where seniors have fun and games, exercise, get their haircuts, and eat together,” shared PM Lee.

PM Lee added that such initiatives will first be implemented in towns with more seniors such as Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah, before being introduced across the country.

Top image via Ministry of Health and Mothership