Lion William Loh, Immediate Past Chairman of Lions Befrienders,
Ms Karen Wee, Executive Director of Lions Befrienders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good afternoon to all. It is my pleasure to be here with you at Lions Befrienders’ inaugural Befriending Conference. I am heartened to see practitioners from the community care and healthcare sectors coming together in the spirit of joint learning and relationship building.
2. The theme of today’s event is “Redefining Befriending: Building Relationships and Enhancing Care in the Community Care Ecosystem”. To provide the best services for our seniors, we not only need to know and understand them, but we also need to work with one another to provide seamless and integrated care for seniors so that they can continue to age well in their own community.
Healthier SG Strategy
3. To help our seniors age well, we must start with keeping them healthy for longer. Healthier SG seeks to do exactly that, and it will require a whole-of-community approach. For example, Active Ageing Centres (AACs) will need to collaborate with General Practitioners (GPs) and community partners to provide holistic support for their seniors. These include connecting seniors to a wide range of lifestyle programmes and activities organised by the People’s Association, SportSG, Health Promotion Board and other community partners as prescribed by their GPs. To further strengthen support and coordination, healthcare clusters as the Regional Health Manager will build relationships, coordinate activities and support across community partners such as leveraging AACs to deploy their community assets such as Community Nursing Posts.
4. This tightly connected ecosystem will be a crucial strategy to shift the centre of gravity of care to the community. Community partners will have an important role to play in our Healthier SG efforts to keep seniors healthy for as long as possible.
Anchoring Care for Seniors in the Community
5. Complementing our Healthier SG Strategy are the efforts of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA), which brings together multiple government agencies and stakeholders to formulate various responses towards ageing. The MCA has been working on a refreshed Action Plan for Successful Ageing that centres on the three ‘C’s – Care, Contribution and Connectedness. I will share more about the kinds of initiatives that can support these 3 ‘C’s.
6. The first C is Care. Holistic care that improves seniors’ physical, mental, and social wellbeing calls for a close and seamless collaboration between AACs, healthcare clusters and other community stakeholders like GPs, schools, neighbours, and volunteers. To strengthen social-health integration, healthcare clusters will leverage AACs’ physical spaces to roll out other health initiatives such as end-of-life planning, basic health screening for early detection of risk of dementia or loss of muscle mass, and community health events. These preventive care services can be led by community nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists to anchor care in the community.
7. The second C is Contribution. Many of our seniors want to contribute meaningfully. This may be through learning, volunteerism, and employment. Community care partners will need to become adept at exploring and creating opportunities to bring out the best in our seniors as contributing members of the community. Volunteer centres like the one launched in Blossom Seeds AAC help to foster community partnerships by linking up volunteers to meet various community needs. This again highlights the importance of having good relationships between the different stakeholders in the community.
8. The last C is Connectedness. We will need to support seniors to age-in-communities while staying connected through support networks that embody the “kampung spirit” by increasing opportunities for seniors to engage with others.
9. Loneliness and social isolation among seniors are perennial issues. The health impact of loneliness is significant, and research has equated its detrimental impact to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. These issues were thrust into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the dialling back of social services, lack of social engagement and lack of technological savviness had exacerbated the sense of loneliness among seniors.
10. The research done by NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in collaboration with Lions Befrienders can shed some light on individual and social attributes related to social isolation, loneliness, and community engagement. We need to be more proactive in increasing connectedness amongst the more vulnerable seniors in the community. AACs, like the ten centres operated by Lions Befrienders are well positioned to keep seniors engaged and connected by collaborating with community partners to ensure that we can reach out to as many isolated and lonely seniors as possible. MOH will also continue expanding our network of AACs to create more shared spaces and social networks for seniors.
11. Today, many subject matter experts and researchers are gathered here to share their knowledge and insights into these key topics and how they align with our Healthier SG plans and the three ‘C’s. I hope that the discussions today will foster collaboration between community stakeholders, improve engagement with our seniors and encourage them to live healthier and fulfilling lives.
12. I would also like to congratulate Lions Befrienders for organising their first conference and providing a platform for learning and building relationships within the Community Care Sector.
13. In closing, it is my hope that we continue to build a better network of care and support for seniors. I would like to thank all of you for your dedication in caring for seniors in our midst. I wish everyone a fruitful conference ahead.
14. Thank you.