Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Singapore - 5 Lessons Singapore Can Teach Us about Our Aging World
I’ve visited the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore 7 times in the past 4 years. During each visit, I give researchers, government officials and university students as much information as I can about the Housing Plus Services models that we are developing here in the United States.
Over the years, I’ve helped my colleagues in Singapore discover some exciting new ways to address the challenges associated with their country’s rapidly growing older population.
In return, they’ve taught me 5 important lessons that could help the United States prepare for the anticipated aging of our own population:
Craft social policy around feelings of gratitude. Singapore became a republic in August 1965 after years of political instability that began with World War II. The nation owes a collective debt of gratitude to the now-aging pioneers who helped secure its independence almost 50 years ago. Singapore has placed these feelings of gratitude at the center of policies and programs that help older citizens age with dignity. We should do the same.
View age-friendly communities as an economic imperative. Singapore is experiencing significant economic growth. However, some business leaders and government officials worry that a rapidly growing and highly dependent older population could have a detrimental impact on the country’s economy. To keep this from happening, Singapore is expending considerable resources to support its older citizens and promote their independence. We should do the same.
Value evidence-based models. The warm welcome I have received in Singapore reflects that country’s willingness to look beyond its borders to find good models that it can apply at home. Organizations throughout Singapore are eager to pilot evidence-based programs like the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program, which was developed and tested by LeadingAge member Cathedral Square Corporation. Singapore is clearly open to trying out innovative ideas while carefully measuring outcomes. We should do the same.
Foster public-private partnerships. Singapore has a long history of collaboration between government and business. Thanks to that culture of collaboration, the country’s public and private sectors have made substantial investments in programs that support older citizens. We should do the same.
Use your existing infrastructure. Residents of Singapore typically live in large public housing complexes that are both intergenerational and economically diverse. Singapore is working hard to use that existing infrastructure as a vehicle for delivering services and supports as efficiently and effectively as possible. We should do the same.
Singapore and the U.S.: Learning from One Another Despite Differences
Singapore differs from the United States in many ways.
First of all, the island country is much smaller than our sprawling nation. Its 5 million citizens live in less than 300 square miles.
In addition, most Singaporeans live in densely populated urban neighborhoods. This allows providers of services and supports to take advantage of economies of scale that are not always available to U.S. providers, particularly those in suburban and rural areas.
Despite these differences, I still believe the lessons I’ve learned in Singapore are extremely relevant to U.S. providers of aging services.
That’s why I’m so excited about the work that the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research is doing in Singapore, thanks to our relationship with the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing (IAHSA).
This work brings benefits to providers of aging services around the globe. It also illustrates one final and important lesson:
We have the best chance of addressing the challenges of an aging world if we are willing to learn from one another.
Robyn I. Stone