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Technology, zonal system tipped to improve eldercare

HOE PEI SHAN on 19 Oct 2014

The Straits Times


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Better management of resources and raising productivity through technology are key areas in which eldercare can be improved in Singapore, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.


With the elderly population here rising quickly, the growth of social service staff and volunteers will be outpaced, he said at an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of volunteer welfare organisation Lions Befrienders.


The number of seniors living alone is expected to grow from 35,000 in 2012 to 83,000 by 2030.


Under a new eldercare system, the island has been divided into zones with each one overseen by a cluster operator appointed by the Ministry for Social and Family Development.


By having a single operator oversee community services for each zone - drawn around public housing estates - there will be less overlapping and wastage of manpower.


Mr Chan said: "We need to structure the way we organise our services better.


"In the past, in the same town, we could have many different operators working together, and sometimes, not together, to serve the elderly. Going forward, we will adopt the concept of cluster support, where in each and every town, the elderly will be taken care of by a cluster operator who has strong links to the other operators in town.


"We would like to cluster the services together so they enjoy the economies of scale and can leverage on each others' expertise." Lions Befrienders executive director Goh Boo Han said that in the past, it was not uncommon for an elderly beneficiary to receive the same type of services from two operators because neither knew that the other had already met the beneficiary's needs.


His organisation is one of the first four cluster operators to be appointed, and is in charge of the Queenstown cluster, overseeing more than 500 needy seniors in activity centres and group homes.


Mr Goh is looking to recruit about 100 residents, young and old, as volunteers so they can keep their ears close to the ground and better help their ageing neighbours.


"Not all elderly residents need help, and getting seniors who are not working to aid their peers is also a good way to keep them occupied and alert," said Mr Goh.


Databases will be centralised, so all service providers within the zone will know how each of the beneficiaries is being helped. Aside from restructuring eldercare, Mr Chan also urged the social service sector to boost productivity and quality of care by using technology.


He said his ministry is leading by example, and has introduced a two-year pilot project featuring a digitised attendance registration system for seniors at five activity centres.


This will allow clients to record their attendance for various activities by scanning their identity cards or ez-link cards on site or using mobile applications.


"It is a laborious process to track our elderly," said Mr Chan.


"We want to harness technology to lighten the workload of our social staff for us to be more efficient and effective.


"But this is just the start. There is much more we can do with technology in the coming years."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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