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Social Services and Plans to keep Seniors Meaningfully Engaged despite COVID-19 Restrictions


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin
MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC

Question No. 1930

To ask the Minister for Health given the precautions to protect seniors from COVID-19 and reduction in their activities (a) what are the plans to keep seniors meaningfully engaged; (b) how will social services agencies for seniors and their volunteers be supported to shift their engagement strategies to minimise service disruptions; and (c) what is the timeline for these plans.

Written Answer

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the community remains high, seniors are advised to stay home as much as possible, except for essential activities, during the stabilisation phase. This is to protect them from the virus. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health (MOH) recognises that reduced social interactions can negatively impact one’s socioemotional well-being, especially seniors living alone who may be at risk of social isolation. Hence, we will need to strike a balance in our approach. To this end, the MOH is working with our partners to ensure that our seniors remain meaningfully engaged during this challenging period in three ways.

First, we are pivoting our engagement strategy and supporting our partners to leverage virtual platforms to engage seniors, where it is practically feasible and meaningful to do so. For example, the Council for Third Age (C3A), Health Promotion Board (HPB), Sport Singapore (SportSG) and People’s Association (PA) have pivoted some of their activities and talks onto the various social media platforms so that they remain accessible, rather than being entirely held off. Several Eldercare Centres (ECs) have also converted their activities to online sessions, in order to reach more seniors. Nonetheless, we recognise that there may be hurdles preventing some seniors from accessing services online, especially if they are unfamiliar with the platform. Therefore, to complement this, the SG Digital Office under the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) actively trains seniors in basic digital skills so that they are able to use digital platforms and participate in these virtual activities, and use online communications to keep in touch with their family and friends. More than 100,000 seniors have been benefitted from this initiative to date.

Second, the Silver Generation Office has also introduced tele-engagements since April 2020 to ensure that vulnerable seniors requiring care and support can continue to receive assistance. Seniors experiencing loneliness or mental distress can reach out to The Seniors Helpline, which provides tele-befriending and tele-counselling services. Seniors and their caregivers can also call AIC’s hotline if they require more information on the various eldercare and caregiving support services.

Third, for seniors who require face-to-face interaction, MOH has put in place safe management and infection control measures so that partners may continue to provide essential services to keep them engaged. Such services include social, recreational and cognitive activities at the Senior Care Centres and Active Ageing Care Hubs located within the community. Befriending services are also available to provide vulnerable individuals, such as those with limited family or social support and are at greater risk of social isolation, with psychosocial support.

Even as the Government and our community partners expand our efforts to engage our seniors, this ought not to diminish or replace the role of family support. In Singapore, families are a key pillar of our Social Compact. They form the core of our society and are our first line of support. Family members have shared responsibility in providing care for one another, including our seniors, through the ups and downs of life, as a stable anchor of support, complementing other forms of government and community support. As a society, together, we can all play our part to engage our seniors and to keep them safe during this pandemic.

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