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Aging oftentimes comes hand in hand with a lack of independence, but public policy changes in Singapore attempt to remedy this situation by making the city more elderly-friendly. Singapore could become the next epicenter of longevity research because its elderly population lives longer, healthier, and more independent lives than those of many other cities.
Singapore’s Public Policies for an Aging City
Since the turn of the millennium, Singapore has attempted to address its aging population through socio-urban policy changes. According to a 2017 public policy report, these changes include four major areas:
- creating housing for seniors
- making the city more accessible
- integrating an eldercare healthcare system
- offering active lifestyle opportunities for older adults.
Housing an Aging Population
The first round of housing initiatives provided older adults with public housing in some of Singapore’s many apartments. In the original plan, launched in 1998, older adults could live in an age-friendly studio apartment. However, later research found that these age-segregated apartments led the inhabitants to feel isolated and lonely.
In 2012, private institutions began envisioning ‘retirement villages’ that would lessen older adults’ feelings of ostracism. While most of these villages—like the St. Bernadette Lifestyle Village—have been developed by private investors, Singapore’s state agencies have played a major role in granting access to land and encouraging development.
Creating an Accessible Island
One of the prime approaches to aging in Singapore burgeons from the idea that older adults should have the right to age in place—to live in one’s own home and community for as long as desired. This means that the built environment itself should be amendable to older populations—so much so that they will not need to move to senior-only housing facilities.
In 2008, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) aimed to create “a more people-centered land transport system that [would] meet the diverse needs of an inclusive, livable, and vibrant global city.” As part of this plan, the LTA attempted to make the city more accessible to aging population by providing safer, easier, and more comfortable ways to move about the city.
Unlike many western urban areas that try to move older adults to more accommodating locales, Singapore attempts to make the urban area itself more accommodating. Singaporeans prefer to age-in-place, so state agencies work towards bettering the life of its aging population within the city.
One example? Over the last two decades Singapore has dramatically shifted its healthcare distribution. As recently as early 2017, the Ministry of Health (MOH) made a plan to redistribute primary care throughout the city. That way, older adults would not have to travel as far to get the care that they required.
Funding Fun for Older Adults
Sure, doctors, hospitals, and medical interventions play in important role in maintaining health and wellbeing. But those goals are often best addressed outside of the medical environment. Connecting with others and the feeling of belonging are key to healthy aging. Sociability helps fight off age-related deterioration and simultaneously bolsters older adults’ mental health and healthspan.
To encourage those kinds of interpersonal relationships, Singaporean agencies have funded initiatives to prompt older adults to participate in their communities, healthcare, and civic duties. Programs that focus on life-ling learning, voluntarism, and more inspire older adults to remain a part of their social networks, keeping their brains and bodies healthier, longer.
Aging Research and Aging Policies
Singaporeans’ emphasis on aging in place offers a great benefit to researchers interested in aging. Older adults in Singapore—like in some areas of the United States—make up the cultural lifeblood of the area. Studying these healthy agers can help us better understand the detrimental effects of aging stigma and the psychosocial mechanisms of aging.