BEYOND the queue system and the numbers, there are the people. A scheme by the Housing Board to get out of the office and talk to people face to face changed the life of Madam Khong Shiu Moi, 85, and others like her.
Madam Khong had fallen twice and had undergone surgery for her hip and leg, learnt a team of HDB and hospital staff who knocked on the door of her Marine Terrace flat in 2012.
They showed up after identifying the senior citizen living alone in a two-room flat as a possible candidate for a scheme to subsidise facilities for the elderly in HDB flats.
Madam Khong, whose five children have moved out, says: “It showed they were concerned for us old people. I wouldn’t have gone to ask for these facilities on my own.”
Doorway ramps, non-slip tiles and grab bars were fitted to walls around her flat – including the bathroom – under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme. Back then, the scheme was in its pilot stage. The team undertook 50 home visits over half a year, which helped it work out what equipment to subsidise.
Being on the ground gave the team – comprising staff from the HDB, Health and National Development ministries, and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital – feedback it could not have otherwise received.
HDB upgrading programmes director Lawrence Pak says: “This is something we don’t see on a day-to-day basis because we deal with housing, the poor, the queue system. Meeting the people was a great opportunity.”
The team quickly learnt not to knock on doors empty-handed, but to bring sample grab bars to help seniors visualise where the fixtures would go in their homes. Later, they carried iPads pre-loaded with explanatory videos in several dialects and an app which could calculate exactly how much Ease would cost each flat after HDB subsidies.
The scheme was cited by Civil Service head Peter Ong as a successful policy example of how such attention to detail leads to practical benefits for seniors, in his speech at the annual Administrative Service dinner two weeks ago.
The visits helped some elderly residents to sign up for Ease. Says HDB architect Liew Jin Jin: “They asked why they needed it. A lot never had these in their home, so if you put in grab bars, they say it looks like a hospital and you’re cursing them to fall down. But they understand after a while.”
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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