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Philanthropists can provide greater support to help seniors gain better quality of life: Gan Kim Yong

EVEN as the level of philanthropy in the healthcare sector has improved, partnership with the community can be further strengthened as the government steps up efforts to better serve seniors here.

This was a point made by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday morning when he spoke about healthcare giving at the Credit Suisse Philanthropists Forum 2017.

Mr Gan said that there is much room for philanthropy to play an even greater role in the ageing and eldercare space.

He named the three areas that philanthropists can provide greater support. They are: delivery of care services to seniors to help them age in place, development and application of innovative products and services that could enhance the ageing experience and improve quality of life, as well as facilitating the provision of "last mile" delivery of care to seniors on the ground.

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He noted that the Commissioner of Charities 2016 Annual Report stated that Singapore has about 138 charities and 83 Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) registered under the health sector.

In 2015, donations accounted for about S$334 million - a 38 per cent rise from 2011 and slightly higher than the increase of 34 per cent across all sectors.

"To encourage greater charitable giving in healthcare, especially in the intermediate and long-term care sector, the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced the Community Silver Trust Fund in 2011, to provide dollar-for-dollar matching grants for funds raised by VWOs (voluntary welfare organisations) in the sector. Apart from matching donations, the government also provides tax deductions for donations to IPCs. We also partnered Tote Board in setting up the Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund to support ground-up community initiatives in preventive health and intermediate and long-term care," the minister noted.

By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 years and above, about double that of today.

Mr Gan said that if every individual can achieve longer healthy and productive life years in tandem with the expansion in the total life years, then everyone can "collectively turn a potential silver tsunami into productive longevity".

To this end, there is the Ministerial Committee on Ageing that launched a S$3 billion Action Plan for Successful Ageing in 2015. Under the blueprint, there are over 70 initiatives across 12 areas, including moves to partner employers and community-based organisations to bring health education and preventive health services to seniors, Mr Gan said.

That said, he pointed out that Singapore has to transform how it delivers and organises care so as to cope with the rapidly ageing population in a sustainable way.

Already, the government has started work on this, pushing for active ageing and by delivering person-centric care for seniors, he said.

"We have continued to work closely with our VWO partners in delivering services to our seniors. For example, Tsao Foundation launched their new Community for Successful Ageing (ComSA) Centre at the Whampoa Community Club in partnership with the National Healthcare Group earlier this year."

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