Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Singapore - Ageing Asia launches network on business of ageing
SINGAPORE: Homegrown company Ageing Asia has created the region's first industry network on the business of ageing.
The Ageing Asia Alliance aims to nurture investments, and develop new products and services to address the needs of Asia's growing ageing population.
The alliance was launched at an ageing investment conference on Wednesday morning, and currently comprises some 800 business, government and community leaders.
Ageing Asia's managing director, Janice Chia, said the eldercare industry in Asia is relatively new and growth potential is high.
She said: "From the business community, what we hear a lot is they're very interested in how they can develop products and services that can help the elderly age better.
"And whenever we travel overseas as a platform, a lot of international business leaders tell us they're interested in looking at the Singapore market... on how they can introduce new products here."
Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Halimah Yacob, added that the private sector has a role to play in the eldercare industry.
She said: "The elderly community is not a homogeneous one. Indeed, more needs to be done to cater to the needs and aspirations of the elderly who're financially better off.
"In order for us to address the needs of our elderly across various generations, backgrounds and life circumstances, government's initiatives alone are not going to be enough."
The number of seniors in Asia is estimated to reach 1.2 billion in 2050, representing over 63 per cent of the world's population of seniors.
With such a diverse, growing demographic, one objective of the new Ageing Asia network is to draw up industry standards for each country that can raise the quality of eldercare in the region over time.
Ms Chia said: "Currently across the Asia-Pacific, we don't really see health and housing standards being implemented across eldercare. For example in terms of housing, if an elderly person chooses to move into a retirement village in future, we need something that protects the consumers who move in, so that they're assured that a certain level of care is given year upon year."
Ms Chia said retirement home developers can also stand to gain from having a set of standards that they can benchmark across the industry.
Experts said Asian societies will eventually come to embrace nursing homes and retirement villages once the proportion of elderly in society becomes significant - around 20 per cent.
Barry Hirschfeld, CEO of Asia Investment Partners, said: "Across Asia, because of Confucian thought and filial piety, there's a real sense that a family should live together. And senior housing, there's been resistance to that concept.
"However what has happened in the case of Japan, because the need has become great, because the percentage over 65 is so high, that it just becomes much more difficult for the families to take care of everyone."
That is when quality, accessible housing for seniors will become an attractive option for many.
He added that beyond housing, business opportunities in the eldercare sector abound, from electronics to bedding.
He said: "Any business, not just in Asia but worldwide, has to address the demographic changes we're looking at. Every company is looking at how we can address the needs of the elderly. (Like) how can we create phones that work better for elderly people?
"Another example is beds, which people spend a lot of money on. The same thing is true with senior housing facilities - that's actually a very large growth area for bed manufacturers."
Some 200 eldercare industry professionals are in Singapore for an ageing investment forum from April 11 to 12.