We refer to the Lianhe Zaobao report, “Academics: Needs of the elderly living alone neglected during circuit breaker” (26 May 2020).
Seniors are more vulnerable as they are at higher risk of developing serious health complications if infected with COVID-19. The government has therefore taken a more cautious approach for seniors, and seniors are advised to stay at home as far as possible. To complement the heightened safety measures for seniors, the various government agencies have been working closely with our community care partners to ensure that seniors, especially those who are frail and living alone, continue to be supported during this period.
To minimise seniors’ risk of infection, we have suspended face-to-face senior-centric activities since March 2020. Staff from Senior Activity Centres and case management services continued to check on seniors via phone, and they have also resumed home visits to more vulnerable seniors since end April 2020. Alert alarm systems at studio apartments and rental blocks also continue to be monitored. We have reached out to seniors via various platforms, including free-to-air television, radio and print platforms, in all four official languages, to advise them on what to do during this period, and where to seek help should they require it. To allow more seniors to take advantage of online activities, the Infocomm Media Development Authority has also launched Digital Pod classes to allow seniors to upskill themselves from home such as picking up tips on making video calls and cashless payments.
The Silver Generation Office (SGO) has continued to reach out to seniors proactively. In particular, to better support those with weak family support to cope with the circuit breaker, SGO has been conducting regular phone check-ins for around 20,000 seniors to refer them to assistance as needed. This includes referring them to free meals support and essential care services, accompanying them to urgent medical appointments, helping them with mask collection, and making arrangements to run simple errands for them.
Essential services, including residential care and home care services, have continued operations throughout the circuit breaker period to cater to the needs of frail seniors. To support seniors who require financial assistance during this period, the Ministry of Social and Family Development facilitated applications for ComCare assistance via phone interviews so that they can continue to access support services without having to physically visit our Social Service Offices. Existing ComCare clients, whose assistance expires before July 2020, have had their ComCare extended automatically for six months without the need for review. New ComCare applicants are also given assistance for a period of six months upfront. This provides greater peace of mind to those whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19.
Even with the above, we know that many seniors still miss physically meeting up with their family and friends. Come 2 June 2020, we will gradually resume activities that can be done individually by Senior Activity Centres and befrienders. As we safely exit the circuit breaker in phases, families may also visit their parents or grandparents, capped at two persons per household per day.
We urge members of the public who know of seniors who require assistance to call the Agency for Integrated Care at 1800-650-6060. Together, we can help our seniors stay safe and support them through these difficult times.
Ms Charlene Chang
Group Director, Ageing Planning Office
Ministry of Health
Mr Lim Teck Kiat
Senior Director, Social Policy and Services Group
Ministry of Social and Family Development