Bad news: S’pore is aging rapidly. The good news? The infrastructure to plan your life is already in place.

It’s natural to feel a wee bit sad when you read such headlines:

Yes, Singapore is an ageing society. But before you go all slumped in your chair, questioning the meaning of life, here’s a glass half full scenario: You get more years to live and plan your life the way you want it to be because the infrastructure is already in place.

We will get there in a bit.

Increasing life expectancy

Ageing population is a by-product of two factors: low fertility rates and increasing life expectancy. According to the Action Plan for Successful Ageing published in 2015, the average life expectancy increased from 79.6 years in 2004 to 81.7 in 2010.

Ok great, so now that you have a longer life. All’s good?

Not really, to fully enjoy your golden years, you need to be physically and mentally sound to do things. So this points to the quality of life – Sure, even with improved medical technologies, it’s not all that great if you are spending the last few years chained to the hospital bed for chronic diseases you could have prevented in your halcyon and energetic years (yes, even if the average healthy years have increased).

The good news? Healthier SG.

Now, we won’t go into the nitty gritty of the initiative (but if you prefer, you can read it here and here) but let’s remember what Healthier SG is about: transforming the healthcare system into a preventive one, while giving the power to individuals to chart their own journey towards a healthier life.

Suffice to say, said transformation is going to be mammoth and for the better.

For instance, citizens above 60 can enrol in Healthier SG from the second half of next year where there’s:

1. Face-to-face onboarding health consultation with GP will be fully paid for by the Government.

2. Fully subsidised nationally recommended screenings and vaccinations for Singapore Citizens.

3. Full use of MediSave to manage chronic illness. No cash co-payment needed.

4. A new Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) subsidy tier for common chronic disease management drugs so that drug prices in private GPs and polyclinics will be similar.

5. More rewards for leading a healthy lifestyle under HPB’s Healthy 365 health points system.

Keeping mind and body active

Now that we have a good shot at a quality life, what’s next you ask?

Yes, what nourishes the soul indeed?

Plenty in this little red dot. Actually, more than you expect.

For starters, how about going back to school? But this time with just the intention of learning more things.

Continuous learning is going to be a key feature of the education framework here, with SkillsFuture leading the way.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said multiple times of its importance, especially in today’s rapid changing world where technology moves in such a blinding pace that talents are needed to fill jobs with specific vocational skills that haven’t been taught in schools yet.

He went as far as referring the commonly-known institutes of higher learning as “institutes of continuous learning”.

However that’s not to say you can only pick up new industry skills to reenter the workforce in your 60s; there are plenty of interest-based courses too.

But if you are still looking forward to work, like many seniors who wish to remain financially independent and keep active, the law dictates that employers must offer re-employment to eligible employees who turn 63, up to the age of 68.

If you would like to give back to the community, you’d be glad that the volunteering scene among seniors is vibrant.

And if being independent is part of your retirement plans, then Healthier SG is, once again, doing something good for seniors.

More Eldercare centres (now at 119, to be increased to 220 by 2025) will be set up and the health ministry estimates that by 2025, about eight in ten seniors will have an EC in the vicinity of their homes.

ECs are not just for the sick; they also provide community support with health initiatives like end-of-life planning, basic health screening for early detection of risk of dementia or loss of muscle mass, and community health events. Plus, you get to socialise with not just your age group but with younger volunteers too.

Having the foresight to put the infrastructure in place

The point is that, such initiatives, save Healthier SG, were planned years ago. The Action Plan for Successful Ageing, for example, was launched in 2015 and ditto the SkillsFuture movement.

This is what a responsible Government would do: to not just solve the here and now, which may gain immediate political capital, but to look far ahead and plan for the inevitable, even if it may cost a few votes.

Just imagine what would happen to Singapore if the Government only solves current issues and fails to plan ahead: surely there’s no SkillsFuture, no Healthier SG.

From all these initiatives, it is clear that the PAP Government is here for the long haul even when political contestations in Singapore are getting more competitive.

Indeed, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that the Party does not assume that it will win the next general election.

“Every GE from now on will be about which party will form the government, not just how many seats the opposition wins or what percentage of the votes the ruling party gets,” he said earlier this year at the press conference that announced him as the 4G leader.

But one thing is for sure: the team led by DPM Wong is here to serve Singapore and Singaporeans and do the right and necessary thing – even if a political price has to be paid today.

Cover photo credit: NTUC Health Facebook