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OCBC joins AWWA in battle against dementia

OCBC Glowing Years Programme provides the incentive for seniors to improve their motor and cognitive skills

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Soh Kim Huay, 75, trying her hand at a shooting game, with Dr Koh and Mr Ooi cheering her on.

Singapore

OCBC Bank has partnered AWWA under its #OCBCCares programme to design a holistic programme to tackle dementia.

According to the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WISE) study conducted in 2013 and spearheaded by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), one in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore has dementia.

This translates to 28,000 Singaporeans above the age of 60 affected in 2012. The number is expected to rise to 80,000 by 2030 as Singapore's population continues to age.

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Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Koh Poh Koon launched the programme on Aug 4, together with OCBC chairman Ooi Sang Kuang. The event took place at the AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre (DDCC) in Ang Mo Kio.

Dr Koh said: "This is an excellent collaboration between a private sector and a non-profit organisation, bringing in private sector employees into the community. More importantly, it is not about just engagement - the private sector plays an active role in uplifting the community. Specifically in this case, it prevents depression and dementia.

"The volunteers take time and effort to build a friendship with the elderly. It's the friendship and engagement that keep the elderly active and happy, and give them the incentive to continue to work towards a more active lifestyle. I want to encourage more corporate sectors to look at this as a role model. Hopefully more corporates will follow in OCBC's footsteps."

With the rise in ageing population in Singapore - and the probable increase in dementia that comes along with the trend - the OCBC Glowing Years Programme, with S$50,000 of funding, provides the incentive for vulnerable seniors to improve their motor and cognitive skills - two of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of dementia or, for those who have begun to show symptoms, to slow down the deterioration of the condition.

Points are awarded to participants of keep-fit or mentally-stimulating exercises, in a bid to combine a fun exercise regime with a compelling incentive scheme. The points can be used to redeem carefully-selected rewards like a massage, a pedicure, an outing or a hairdo refresh.

These incentives are meant to encourage a more participative lifestyle, and the rewards have been modified based on feedback from the seniors.

Following a pilot roll-out in January, more than half ot the 80 seniors from the AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre showed marked improvement in mental alertness and social interaction after six months.

It is hoped that the Programme will benefit especially at-risk seniors who are socially withdrawn, physically inactive and lack social networks or family bonds.

Koh Ching Ching, OCBC Bank head of Group Corporate Communications, said: "Regular interaction with AWWA's seniors enabled our volunteers to identify the gap. To develop a comprehensive programme to tackle dementia, we engaged our long-term charity partners who provided useful insights on the psyche of the elderly.

"We realised that tackling dementia goes beyond exercise. Incorporating a meaningful reward scheme can move the dial significantly, and help the elderly safeguard their precious golden years, memory by memory. We are delighted that our programme has delivered positive outcomes."

The next phase will involve scaling up the programme to reach out to other seniors under AWWA's care and extending it to vulnerable seniors supported by OCBC Bank's other charity partners, Care Corner and Thye Hua Kwan.

Potentially, this can benefit close to 2,000 seniors over the next two years.

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