Ageing Well in Post-Pandemic Cities
25 Feb 2021
8.00 pm – 8.50 pm, GMT+8
3 SIP CPD Pts
With one in six people in the world projected to be aged over 65 by 2050, ageing is set to be a key global transformation of the 21st century. How has COVID-19 altered trajectories in planning for older communities, and what opportunities has the pandemic presented? How can cities continue to remain liveable for their citizens to not just age, but age well?
Slides by Dr Emi Kiyota (PDF: 3.1MB)
Slides by Charlene Chang (PDF: 1.4MB)
Giving elders a voice, choice and control
Dr Kiyota noted how the pandemic has cemented perceptions of seniors as vulnerable people needing help, but pointed out that society needs to recognise that seniors can contribute to communities, to prevent them from becoming disenfranchised. She emphasised how empowering seniors can be powerful in building communities, connecting people and enabling them to help each other during times of crises. “What elders want to have is a voice and choice and control”, said Dr Kiyota. Ms Chang agreed, adding that it is “important not to assume that someone who needs some kind of help is not him or herself incapable of providing another kind of help to someone else”. Dr Kiyota also shared how the Ibasho Project has a bento box service where seniors help fellow seniors by delivering and catering bento boxes to them.
Turning the “Silver Tsunami” into Gold
Ms Chang asserted that ageing narrative the “Silver Tsunami” puts ageing in a negative light and undermines the elderly, and should be reframed to “turning silver into gold”, to unleash the potential of ageing. She noted the rise in seniors who live alone without their families, which could be attributed to an increasing desire for independence in seniors who are more highly educated and possibly be even better-resourced. She highlighted the need to balance seniors’ desire for independence against aspirations of connectedness and community building, saying “we want to be near our families and friends, we want to be connected with them but we don’t want to be dependent and reliant on them”.
Technology for Social Connection
From the poll posed to the audience during the webinar, most felt that maintaining social connections is the greatest challenge to ageing well in post-pandemic cities (66%), coming above options such as supporting healthy longevity (41%). Relatively few people felt that leveraging technology would be an issue (23%), which came in as the least selected option. Dr Kiyota cautioned against the use of technology as a panacea, saying “technology is great but we’re not using technology for the sake of technology. What we want to do is to connect people”. Ms Chang agreed, emphasising that giving smart devices to seniors is to encourage them to “use it in a way that improves their social connectedness and social capital”.
Mental health and social isolation
Both speakers highlighted the urgency of addressing social isolation and mental health, particularly in persons with dementia, that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Ms Chang noted how seniors who had to stay home during lockdowns and were unable to see their families and friends had worsened feelings of isolation and loneliness. The burden on caregivers also increased, as many seniors with dementia were taken out of high-risk long-term care facilities such as nursing homes due to the pandemic.
Ms Chang shared how the pandemic also led to a key finding that vulnerable seniors are not only those who in public rental flats, but throughout Singapore. She noted the timely rollout of basic services such as Active Ageing, Befriending/ Buddying and Information and Referral to Care Services across all elder care centres in the island under Singapore’s Action Plan for Successful Ageing.
It takes a village to plan for ageing
Ms Chang explained that plans for ageing should also consider seniors in the future, who will be more educated, tech-savvy and more likely to pursue diverse activities than seniors today. She shared how the Action Plan for Successful Ageing was launched after a year-long public consultation with all segments of society, highlight that planning for ageing societies is a whole-of-nation effort. Dr Kiyota agreed, sharing how “one fits all” may not work, and that policy and grassroots have to cooperate to share local knowledge and local wisdom.” As Ms Chang shared, “it takes a village to raise a child, all the more so it takes a village to come together for everyone to age well and age successfully.”
Having access to socialisation
Ms Chang explained that seniors want to be connected with their families and friends, but not necessarily dependent and reliant on them, and that cities should be built to encourage such interactions.” Dr Kiyota added that a key problem the elderly face is mobility, saying “I feel like we fail to provide so-called accessibility for people who want to access to socialisation because we didn’t design buildings or neighbourhoods well enough.” She raised the importance of studying mobility through different perspectives such as having access to the outdoors, public transport, equitable mobility and cognitive disability (such as dementia). Mr Koh also noted how access to amenities such as public spaces, park connectors and facilities in Singapore was a boon during Singapore’s circuit breaker period. He shared how the Urban Redevelopment Agency, Singapore’s urban planning agency, targets to have residents reach the nearest neighbourhood food centre via walk, cycle or ride within 20 minutes by 2040 in their latest Masterplan, which will greatly promote equitable access.
About the Speakers
Dr Emi Kiyota
Founder and Director, Ibasho
Dr. Emi Kiyota is the founder and director of Ibasho, an organisation that facilitates the co-creation with elders of socially integrated, sustainable communities that value their elders. She is an environmental gerontologist and a consultant with over 20 years' experience in designing and implementing person-centered care in long-term care facilities and hospitals globally. Her current focus is on creating socially integrated and resilient cities where elders are engaged and able to actively participate in their communities, and has been awarded fellowships to investigate this topic, including the Loeb Fellowship at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and the Rockefeller Bellagio Residency Fellowship for a one-month residency on an ‘Innovative Response to Global Aging’ from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Group Director (Ageing Planning Office), Ministry of Health, Singapore
Ms. Charlene Chang was appointed Group Director of the Ageing Planning Office in the Ministry of Health on 1 April 2019. She oversees the development and implementation of the national ageing agenda, to bring about the national vision of opportunities, communities and a city for all ages. Prior to this, Charlene held various positions at the Public Service Division (Prime Minister’s Office), the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth, the Ministry of National Development, the Ministry of Manpower, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Charlene holds a Second Upper Honours from the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, and a Master in Public Management from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. She is married with 2 daughters.
Executive Fellow, Centre for Liveable Cities
Mr Michael Koh has 25 years of experience in the public service including 7 years as CEO of the National Heritage Board and 4 years concurrently as CEO of the National Art Gallery. He was also the former Director of Urban Planning & Design at the Urban Redevelopment Authority where he spearheaded the planning and urban design of the new mixed use Downtown at Marina Bay, revitalisation of Orchard Road as a shopping street and creation of an arts and entertainment district at Bras Basah Bugis.
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