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Ageing population an ‘opportunity, not a social challenge’

SINGAPORE — The ageing population may possess a silver lining, as observers at a conference yesterday felt that the demographic presents economic opportunities and the chance to provide innovative social and healthcare services.

SINGAPORE — The ageing population may possess a silver lining, as observers at a conference yesterday felt that the demographic presents economic opportunities and the chance to provide innovative social and healthcare services.

Ageing Asia, a marketing consultancy that organised the conference, estimates the Asia-Pacific’s silver market could be worth US$3 trillion (S$3.7 trillion) in 2017. Projected household savings in the region will also increase by 58 per cent in the same period.

In Singapore, ageing baby boomers will be better educated and more affluent, and would have a desire to age with dignity, said Ageing Asia’s Managing Director Janice Chia. “The sector needs a change of attitude and mindset that ageing is an opportunity (and) not a social challenge,” she added.

Speaking to reporters, Dr Tan Yong Seng, Chairman of the People’s Association Active Ageing Council, suggested that companies could, for example, design housing that is “ageless”, which would efface the need to build ramps or add non-slip tiles in the home later on. This could also mean a re-design of common applications, such as a bottle cap or a door handle. “Be it housing, be it healthcare, be it service, food and beverages, whatever it is, think ageless,” said Dr Tan.

He added: “In terms of services, the private sector has that kind of resource and assertiveness. They obviously can offer a very good innovative product. It’s unlike those (non-profit organisations) with limited funding.”

Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who opened the conference, said that while the Government may be good at providing “large-scale basic and homogenous products and services”, it may not be the most suitable provider for some services needed.

He said: “The challenge for us is to identify which areas are best provided by the Government vis-a-vis the private sector versus the people sector. To not leverage on the strengths of the respective sectors will be a missed opportunity for us.”

In Singapore, about 9 per cent of the population is above 65 today, with numbers expected to triple by 2030. And while there may be many challenges facing ageing populations, Mr Chan stressed they can be overcome.

“Many have used the words silver tsunami, as if there’s a disaster that’s going to happen,” he said. “Well, my first thought for the day is, ageing and an ageing population is not a crisis if we prepare, and prepare well.”

ASHLEY CHIA

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