Proposal of elderly new living concept

There have been a significant number of cases involving elderly people dying alone in their apartments, without anyone noticing this tragedy. Our volunteer Eddy Yap specially came up with a blueprint of how the elderly can live safely in their apartments, thereby minimizing the chances of such a tragedy repeating itself, and at the same time allowing elderly people to have more chances for interaction, ensure that they stay mentally active, and share happy moments in their twilight years.

This blueprint has already been presented to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth, and Sports on 31-3-2011 for their research and consideration.

We welcome everyone to contribute their opinions. Thank you!

有感独居老人臭死屋内无人知晓的事件层出不穷,我们的义工 Eddy Yap 特此绘出了一个供长者们安居的住屋蓝图,以减少这类悲剧继续发生,同时也让长者们之间有更多交流的机会,保持脑筋灵活,共享灿烂欢愉的晚年生活.



Pls double click on the below photos to enlarge for better viewing:

以下是来自早报新加坡时事论坛,我和网友们(普通人,理发师,nyhong29 ,荆棘,老人,phyleshia)之间的意见交流,感谢大家无私地提供了宝贵的意见,一起关心长者们的晚年生活起居

这十多年来,我看过很多独居老人死在屋内发臭的事一直无法改善,苦恼之余也很希望政府的精英团队能够想出什么好方法来阻止这样的悲剧不断发生,否则,再这样下去,不仅让老人害怕,也让单身的中年人害怕,难道自己接下来的下场就是这样,死得如此没有尊严吗? 对于我们一个世界级的国家,更是一大讽刺.我实在无法忍受继续看到独居老人臭死无人知的事件一再发生,而一些相关人员却可以若无其事,不深入研究出一个有效方案.

目前,那些乐龄公寓和一房租赁组屋,政府也在里面安装了紧急拉绳,但是,都无法阻止或减少这样的悲剧一再发生. 我曾经担任过这些租赁租屋和乐龄公寓的工作人员,了解里面的运作,也目睹不少这样的案例,而今以义工身份到其他地区开展老人事工,同样看到不少这样的例子发生,而且有更严重的趋势. 我拍了一些照片,证明目前的安全措施是白象.

政府是花了不少钱改善乐龄的居所,但是,不到位,钱白花了,因为, 反馈和监督机制不完善,下情没有上达.

我和义工们也曾经通过各个管道包括REACH,提出了很多意见,都不见实施或改善,我们只好用自己的方式来减少这样的事情继续发生. 除了教育老人之外,我们发现,最大的关键,应该要从建屋的设计着手.所以,义工马上绘制了这个蓝图, 他虽然教育不高,他虽然不是精英,他虽然参与老人工作只有短短的两年时间,但是,他却亲眼目睹了好几宗这样的案例,而促使他开始行动,从建屋结构着手解决问题.

这个计划,关乎MCYS和HDB两大机构,要推广到全新加坡,一定要政府来带头做起. 可以以试点计划开始,就以一或二座组屋开始试验进行。如果证明反应良好,也成功达标,才推广到全岛,甚至也可以推广到三房以上的组屋。

Below is an excerpt of the views exchanged between netizens and myself on Lianhe Zaobao’s Current Affairs Forum. Thank you everyone for your selfless and valuable opinion on the livelihood of the elderly.

For more than ten years, I have seen many cases of elderly people living alone die without anyone’s knowledge. This worrying situation has not improved hence I hope the elite team of the government can come up with solutions to prevent such tragedies from happening. If this continues, not only the elderly people are scared, but so will the single middle-aged who may wonder if their plight in their later years is as such – to die without dignity. This is such an irony to a supposed first world country like Singapore. I really cannot bear to watch such tragedies repeat themselves while the concerned organizations act nonchalant and do no in-depth research into the situation to come up with an effective solution to the problem.

Currently although the government has installed emergency alarm ropes (pull cord-AAS-Alert Alarm System) in the senior citizens’ apartments (NL) and one room rental flats, the measure has not been effective in preventing nor reducing the re-occurences of the tragedy. I used to work as a staff among such one-room rental flats and senior citizens’ apartments hence I know how the internal organization works. I have also seen for myself many such cases. Today as I continue to work among the elderly as a volunteer, I witness the situation worsening and have taken photographs to prove the current ‘safety measures’ are just white elephants.

Although there are seniors Activity Center (SAC) in the void decks of some HDB flats, the charity or grassroot organization cannot possibly be patrolling the area round the clock. The government does not even know the service level of some of such staff has dropped drastically!

The government has indeed expended a considerable amount to improve the living conditions of the elderly. However the money has been spent in vain as there are imperfections in the feedback and supervision mechanism – the higher-ups are not aware of what is happening on the ground.

My volunteers and I tried to submit many suggestions through various channels including REACH in the past but we have not seen any of the measures executed nor has the situation improved. Hence we shall adopt our own plans to minimise the occurence of such cases. On top of educating the elderly, we found that the crux of the matter is in the design of the flats. Hence our volunteer Eddy Yap immediately drafted this blueprint. Although he does not have a high level of education, is not an ‘elitist’ in any way, and has only participated in social work for elderly for a short two years, he has witnessed a few such cases and has set out to tackle the problem starting with the architecture of the flats.

The blueprint involves two large organizations MCYS and HDB hence it needs the buy-in and support of the government in order to promote it across the entire Singapore. We can carry out a pilot project first using one or two blocks of flats as test cases. If the results prove to be good and our objectives are met, we can then implement it throughout the whole island and even include 3-room flats and above.


这纸上谈兵装置可行性很怀疑, 当一个老人跌个四脚朝天或晕了或手脚身体伤了还能去拉救命索吗?

I doubt the feasibility of such an installment. When an elderly has fallen or fainted or hurt himself, how is he still able to pull the emergency rope?



Yes! You are right. The reality is the ‘life-saving’ rope has not been able to save lives in emergencies.

Many elderly also refuse to remove the ropes from their original positions and let them down despite the advice and persuasion of volunteers and staff at senior citizens corners.

To such elderly people, perhaps HDB needs to include a mandate in the rental contract to ensure the life-saving rope is let down and there are no obstacles in its vicinity.

Thus the rope will not become a white elephant and can be of use in emergencies.



政府其实也很关注,也有钱来花的,但是,之前我看到一些计划,很浪费钱,也许不应该花,可是,政府也大方出手,马林百列的乐龄设施调查计划,就是一个不应该花的计划. (等着吴资政来找我算帐,我就告诉他,不必调查,想都知道应该建什么乐龄设施?行动才重要,白纸黑字调查工作做那么多干嘛?浪费时间. 要用行动去做才对,又替政府省钱,以利人民。)

The blueprint is beautiful but the minister asked “Where to get the money?”

This is a win-win proposal which not only helps the poor elderly to save money but also helps the government to make money. Currently the monthly rent for each rental flat is $26. In the proposed new concept, the monthly rent is $22 but there are more units on each level. This can greatly reduce the number of tragic incidents of elderly dying alone without anyone’s notice while minimizing occurence of Alzheimer’s Disease, thereby cutting social costs. Hence it is a triple-win plan.

The government is also very concerned, and has the budget, however previously I saw some projects which could be unnecessary wastage of money yet the government was generous in expending such money. Marine Parade’s research project on facilities for the elderly is one such unnecessary project. (When SM Goh comes after me, I will tell him the research is not necessary as anyone with a mind will know the kind of elderly facilities required. Action is more important. What is the point of doing so much research on paper? It is such a waste of time. Only practical action can save the government money and benefit the people.)


这个设计看似老人院但是比老人院好,自由自在的出入,空间比原有的大,不用孤零零一个人面对着四面墙壁,何乐而不为呢?  我不写太长,看得懂听得懂有同感的人都会了解我说什么!

This design looks similar to but is better than an elderly home. One has the freedom of movement and the space is bigger. The elderly will not have to face the four walls all alone. I shall not write too much as I believe those who read and feel the same way as me will understand what I am talking about!



The unique selling point of this design is the big activity area which allows the families to look after one another. Even those elderly who hide behind closed doors have to step out to use the toilet.

Initially I was concerned if we are being inconsiderate by building the toilets in common areas with two households sharing one toilet. Will this inconvenience the elderly using toilet in the middle of the night?

However we feel that this is better than not giving the elderly a reason to step out of the flat.

==========================================================新的设计和建筑可以这样做. 新买/新搬进去的人可以避免独居的问题.
对于现在已经在独居的老人来说,帮助不大, 因为多数都不想离开现在住的地方.

You can implement the new design in new buildings thus those who just bought or moved in will not have the problem of living in seclusion.

However the plan does not benefit those elderly who are currently already living alone as most do not wish to leave their current living environment.


Yes elderly people wish to stay in their original flats.

Do you have anything to add to or improve on the above blueprint?

I hope to collect more opinions from the public as I believe there are geniuses among the crowd and more heads are always better than one.

===============================================对于现在已经独居的老人, 我觉得以下建议是很不错的.
“装行动感应器, 设定一时间内屋内若无动静可无线通机负责人”这不会有隐私的问题,因为看不到他们的影像.

I feel that the below suggestion may apply well to those elderly who are currently living alone.

“Install movement sensors and program them such that if no movement is detected after a period of time, the person in charge will be notified.”

This will not be a breach of privacy since it is not a record of their actions.


We have heard of such an invention by students but there has been no news since.

A few years ago, when the government arranged for the installation of four life-saving ropes in the senior citizens’ apartments (such that if the senior citizen fell and the rope was pulled, a signal would be sent to the computer in the activity centre located on the second storey), the contractor gave me a few watch-like life-saving devices and advised me to only give these to the elderly who really need them as such devices are very expensive!


Let’s start with a trial. Make arrangements for all the elderly who cannot afford rent to move in and let them experience the new concept first then measure the results. This will also give them a roof over their head thus killing two birds with one stone.

In the new concept, we should apply those toilets found in hospitals with emergency alarm buttons!


Yes! Start with a pilot trial first so we won’t have to worry about wasting funds and reducing the project to a white elephant.



装CCTV, 现又不是很贵监控需要特别看护的老人,可知道他们在家的情况

装行动感应器, 设定一时间内屋内若无动静可无线通机负责人






Can deploy IT

The main point is “government has the responsibility, duty and the money”.

Install CCTV. It is not very expensive and can be used to monitor those elderly at home requiring special care.

Install movement sensors and program them such that if no movement is detected after a period of time, the person in charge will be notified.

Wear movement sensors on the ankles like those you see on criminals whose use is as above.

It will be best if neighbours help look after one another.

Use of IT concerns one’s privacy so it’s not a good idea. Furthermore there are so many units of elderly living alone in the whole country!

Actually such a device already exists.

Generally the elderly people do not like to stay in old folks’ homes. Our above-mentioned design concept allows them to maintain their privacy and possess their own space but requires them to step out of their rooms daily into a common area to use the toilet.

Currently there is quite a number of weak elderly who shut themselves in and refuse visitors and volunteers. This is the group which requires the most attention.



Old folks’ home is the continuation of child care centre. When you are young, he sends you to child care centre. Now that he is old, you send him into old folks’ home. Actually this is quite fair!


乐龄日间看护中心—-Social Day Care  (SDC) 和老人院的概念不一样,它和托儿所的概念一样,



政府接下来也会在租赁组屋楼下多建造乐龄活动中心-Seniors Activity Center (SAC). 照顾楼上那些住在一房式单位的贫困老人家。



The concept of Social Day Care (SDC) centres is different from that of old folks’ homes; it is similar to that of child care centres.

I feel that the demand for SDC may increase in future so the children can have peace of mind at work. They can fetch their parents home at night.

The elderly parents can socialise with other seniors at SDC and also take part in the activities organised by the centre. This is far better than leaving them at home to face the walls alone.

Recently a senior suggested that I ask the government to build a SDC at the void deck of every 8 blocks of flats (3- to 5-room flats)  allowing the senior citizens in the area to gather at the centre in the day and share some tea, food, chatter or take part in activities. She suggested capping the fee at $400 with government subsidy. It will be free for those who are very poor. This is because the fees for old folks’ homes are about $2000 hence she came up with this idea.

The government will also build more Senior Activity Centre (SAC) at the void decks of rental flats so as to take care of those poor elderly staying in the one-room units above.

However I saw that there are also many lonely elderly staying in 3-room flats and above who are not able to participate in SAC’s activities. Hence the above suggestion by the senior on a new SDC concept is a very good one.

We may also mobilise the general public to donate rice and necessities, mobilise more senior citizens to manage and run the new SDC themselves, thus benefitting more senior citiens at the lowest price so everyone can truly enjoy a happy ageing lifestyle.

Actually there are many samaritans in our society. If you give them the opportunity and the platform, and you sincerely wish to be of service, they are very willing to help contribute both money and effort.



This is a good concept…



Thank you!

I welcome everyone to actively contribute your views. This also serves as an online survey which will have higher persuasive power to convince the government to implement the plan.

I have also conducted an informal survey among the elderly. To date, they all welcome this plan and are willing to adopt it themselves. Some active seniors even volunteered to lead some activities…



Jane, your perseverance and sincerity really touch me. Thank you!

What do you think of adopting the concept of a China courtyard house for the senior citizens’ homes? There can be two to three courtyards on each level. Each courtyard will have six to eight senior citizens supporting and taking care of one another. The centre of the courtyard can be designed into a mini garden which lets sunlight in on every level where the senior citizens can do gardening, chit-chat, play chess, learn a skill etc.

The ground floor is public access area with an emergency clinic, a shop, free test listening room etc. Of course as suggested by you, we can build such courtyard houses in the midst of HDB flats so the small convenience shop can survive with higher traffic. The senior citizens’ home can be made up of a room, a small hall, a kitchen and a toilet. I’m sorry I am not trained in drawing. I can only suggest hence I hope you will not laugh at me if my suggestion is not practical.


Thank you for your suggestion! It is very good!

Your suggestion is suitable for those senior citizens who are better off financially and provides them another choice.

I welcome everyone’s continued discussion. This policy concerns elderly citizens’ housing safety hence I will take into consideration everyone’s views when drafting the proposal.

I will also discuss this issue in the official website and write another email to the Prime Minister and MCYS because the previous email has yet to incorporate everyone’s opinion.



Singapore’s land is limited thus we see taller and taller HDB flats being constructed. Some senior citizens asked me to help pass the message to allow senior citizens to stay on lower floors of HDB as they are afraid they may not be able to run to safety if there is a fire.


As we know senior citiens are afraid of height. However it is nearly impossible to allow every senior citizen to stay on low floors due to the limited land in Singapore. How about turning all the ground floor of existing flats into senior citizens’ homes? In this way the residents on the floors above can also help take care of these elderly. Do you think the residents will object to the idea?


Last year on REACH the topic of building senior citizens’ homes on the ground floor of flats had been discussed. Quite a number of netizens did not think it was appropriate quoting reasons such as lack of ventilation and space for communal events such as marriage or funerals.


在旧裕廊路有个老人院是单层还是在乡村里, 以前好像是小学, 旁边有个小菜园,真是休养好地方, 在林厝港尾也有个老人院是田园式的, 很好, 只是交通不好要经过公司山, 对老人家进出不方便.

An old folks’ home along Old Jurong Road is still found in the countryside. I think it used to be a primary school. There is a small vegetable garden besides it. It is a really nice place to recuperate. There is another old folks’ home located at the end of Lim Chu Kang which is also farm-like and very good but transportation is a problem for the elderly.


Is that a drug rehabilitation centre or a nursing home? The internal activities of nursing homes should be strengthened or else many senior citizens are afraid to go into old folks’ home as they feel they are just waiting to die in it.

I have passed by that place; it is a good area. However that is a nursing home concept, What we are discussing here is the concept of senior citizens’ home in the community – those who are still able and how they can live healthily and enjoy a higher quality of life in their later years.


I got it! How about transforming an old army camp into new living quarters?


Are there many such old empty army camps??? Not if they are far from community.

There should be all-convenient amenities for the senior citizens to enjoy.

We cannot isolate the elderly.

新加坡还有很多空着的地方,很浪费,空了这么久还没有拿来用呢! 看看旧的红山SAFRA 就是一个最好的例子!已经空着好几年了,没有用空着好浪费哦!

There are many empty plots of land in Singapore which have stayed wastefully empty for a long time! Take for example the old Redhill SAFRA! It has been empty for quite a few years. It is such a waste not to put it to good use!

我们建议让我们来经营 。

This one is good! Conveniently located amenities in surrounding area with hospital and coffeeshop.

We suggest to run it ourselves.


Have you ever wondered what the root cause of all diseases at old age is? Who is responsible?

The other day I was chatting with an auntie who sold chicken rice. She said after selling chicken rice till 3pm, she had to rush to another job. She needed to hold two jobs as her husband was ill and she had 4 schooling children. Money is not enough. She was aching all over yet she dared not see a doctor. Is she alive, or is she living?

Every HDB resident has to take care of his or her own family. Who has the time to help care for other people’s aged parents?

If we do not solve the fundamental problems brought about by an unreasonable social system, we will always be solving each problem as it arises. This will not help the elderly live a healthy and self-managed life.

Rather than having more old folks’ homes and courtyard homes, why not have a healthy body and lessen society’s burden and Jane’s workload.

健康在于运动,人协PA的wellness programme 一定要加速全岛推行才行!

Good healthy starts from exercise. People’s Association’s wellness programme has to step up its country-wide implementation quickly!

The government still has the responsibility towards those elderly citizens whose health is starting to fail to uncover ways to help them.









*议员家访时,不要带太多的基层人员,要敏感注意每户家庭的需要,要主动接近这些家庭,如上这个家庭,可以这么说:“我是你们的议员,今天来拜访这整座的居民,你可以让我进来和你聊天吗?” 有了这第一次的接触,以后就可以找机会再上这个家庭,议员可以自己封一个红包和买一些食物给她,这样就可先豁免要向社理会申请援助金和粮票的繁杂手续。先让案主吃饱和有一点钱解决眼前的急务,才有机会慢慢深入了解她的其它问题。




Actually senior citizens love to have young visitors as the vitality of the youth rubs off on them and make them feel young emotionally.

A student who used to participate in my work for the elderly is only about 22 years old! He does have lots of compassion and strong organizational skills. Besides the local community work for the elderly, he has also participated in volunteer work for disasters overseas. I am very happy to see such a young person. He will definitely be a pillar to this country in future and I should learn from him instead.

As long as you are sincere, you will be able to move even the most stubborn senior citizen with your enthusiasm and concern. Once you have built a strong rapport with the elderly, they will heed the advice of volunteers.

There were also some senior citizen who after meeting the grassroots members or the minister rejected their help and would rather suffer hunger and die alone at home than to visit the senior citizens corner just a stone’s throw away below them.

Very depressing, isn’t it?

When I visited her that day, I knew just the day before she had stood by the window in the kitchen and contemplated to jump.

Due to work ethics, I cannot reveal much here.

I would like to give MCYS, social workers, community development councils, ministers and grassroot members the following sugestions and reminders:

* Please waive the miscellaneous procedures for some special cases or they will feel more defeated.

* When ministers pay home visits, please refrain from bringing many grassroot members. Do be sensitive to the needs of each household and take the initiative to approach such families. For instance when visiting the above family, you may say, “I am your minister and I have come to visit the residents of this block today. May I come in and have a chat with you?” Once you have made the first contact, you may find reasons to visit the family again in future. The minister may give her a red packet or buy some food for her. In this way we can avoid the many procedures necessary to apply to the community development councils for welfare assistance and food coupons. By solving the immediate problems of food and money, he will then have the opportunity to deeper understand her other problems.

Although the reporter from the English newspapers would like to interview her urgently, and was confident that many kind hearted people will offer assistance upon reading her story in the papers, she rejected the reporter.

This is a critical case and really requires careful management.

(I visit more than 300 senior citizens living in one-room rental flats on a monthly basis.)


It is also very important to plan for yourself when young.

Save the money you spend on cigarettes, alcohol and gambling for old age.

Use a multi-prong approach – educate the young to be responsible for own actions while at the same time support those who cannot catch up. Do not brush them off as lazy and dependent on the government.

Recently I saw a few sad cases which have rejected help even when you offered government assistance.


Good health begins with the right exercise and the right perspectives on life. Only with an able body and mind will you have quality health.


Yes, health lies with body and soul.



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