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Speech by Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, at The Pioneer Generation Office (PGO) - Tampines Third Anniversary Celebration

03 Nov 2017

Pioneer Generation Ambassadors 


Ladies and Gentlemen 
1.    A very good evening to all. I am happy to see everyone here today to celebrate the third anniversary of our PGO - Tampines.  Nice to see all of you looking so happy and healthy.   

a.    The third anniversary is a very happy occasion, especially for some of us who have not celebrated a single-digit birthday in many years.   

b.    It may be just 3 years, but all of you have accomplished so much in this time.  

i.    Pioneer Generation Ambassadors, you have engaged over 20,000 seniors. And not just once.  You’ve gone back to visit, sometimes multiple times, 80 percent  of these seniors.  

ii.    So, thank you very much for your care and your friendship. 

2.    It takes a special, dedicated person to be a PG Ambassador.  

a.    Not only do you have to learn about the various Government policies and schemes to support our seniors, you also need that special touch to connect with them.  

b.    You have to commit time and energy to go door to door to visit the seniors.   

c.    Yet rain or shine, I have seen our PG Ambassadors out and about, always with a smile, ready to serve. 

3.    So, our anniversary party today is really about celebrating you – your commitment and care, your own growth even as you seek to help others.  

a.    I am especially happy when I hear about PG Ambassadors who encourage their family and friends to join them.  

i.    Sharon joined us as a PG Ambassador last year. It didn’t take long before she convinced her mother Mdm Ivy Lim, to also join her.  I think Sharon and Ivy both enjoy it lot and find the PGA’s work meaningful.  Now, both of them are working on the father to join up too.  So I hope to see the whole family with us soon. 

b.    And age is no obstacle.  Many of our PG Ambassadors are seniors yourselves.  

i.    At 71, Rajagopal, who by the way has been with us since day one, is out and about knocking on doors, looking after others, and still has lots of energy to take younger volunteers under his wing.  

c.    Some of our PG Ambassadors also continue to serve despite great adversity. 

i.    Mdm Zainab Bte Saini was already an active PG Ambassador, when she got the bad news that she had a brain aneurysm. She fought the disease, went for surgery, took a few months to recuperate, and is now back in action as a PG Ambassador. Not many people have this kind of resilience and determination.  So I thank Mdm Zainab for this, and I think your personal experience can be very inspiring to the seniors who meet you, and also to all of us here.

Community Networks for Seniors Pilot in Tampines 
4.    What more can we do to build on the bonds our PG Ambassadors are forging with our seniors?  In 2016, I announced the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) programme in the Budget speech. The aim is to help seniors age well at home and within the community, by promoting more systematic collaboration between Government agencies and community-based partners, and also among community partners.  

a.    As our society ages, all of us – the Government and the community – need to work together to support our seniors.  

b.    There are now about 485,000 Singaporeans aged 65 and above. Without volunteers like you, we would not be able to reach each one personally. 

5.    We are building communities of care where we pool together resources, and look out for one and other.  

a.    I was happy when the PG Offices in Tampines, Marine Parade and Choa Chu Kang stepped forward with enthusiasm to support the CNS initiative. The intention was to do the following:  

i. Help seniors who are well stay healthy and active through Active Ageing programmes in the community. 

ii. Link up seniors who are lonely with new friends.  

iii. Get help quickly to the seniors who need it.

6.    The early feedback from the three CNS pilot sites has been promising. I’m sure you all share your experiences with one another, but, for the benefit of some of other guests here tonight, I thought I would share a few stories of the CNS in action in our Tampines. 
Active Ageing Programmes 
7.    Under the CNS in Tampines, PGO works with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and grassroots leaders to encourage seniors to take part in Active Ageing Programmes – to keep the mind, body, and social life healthy.  

a.    HPB arranges weekly exercises by professional fitness trainers, near the homes of seniors. One example is the Fit+ programme, where they do stretching exercises that strengthen their muscles and improve their balance. 

b.    PG Ambassadors encourage the seniors they meet to come to the exercise sessions.  

c.    And grassroots leaders make sure these are not boring exercise sessions.  They make things fun, making friends and sharing healthy snacks, so that the seniors will keep coming back.  

8.    Mr and Mrs Ngeow Chung Loi from Tampines North learnt about the exercises from our PG Ambassadors, and are now active participants.  

a.    They enjoy the exercises and meeting other seniors.  

9.    Our PG Ambassadors Betty and Ronald also frequently join in the Tampines North exercise session. 

a.    I’m sure the seniors enjoy seeing their familiar faces there. 

10. Next, let me share the story of Mdm Chen Chin Chee.  

a.    When PG Ambassadors visited Mdm Chin at her home in February this year, she shared that she meets her friends occasionally and her children and grandchildren visit her on the weekends. Even though Mdm Chen lives alone, she appeared active, strong and independent.  

b.    However, our PG Ambassadors could sense that Mdm Chen would also enjoy more social interaction.  They referred her to befriending partners under CNS.  

i. Befrienders now visit Mdm Chen regularly. In addition, the befrienders pooled together and organised outings for the seniors they support. Mdm Chen is very happy with her new friendships. 

Providing Coordinated Health and Social Support 
11.    Sometimes during our engagements, we meet seniors with multiple needs, and the CNS has allowed us to better address their different needs. When our PGAs engaged Mdm Katijah Bte Bakri, we realised she was living alone. Her siblings who live nearby keep an eye out for her, but she prefers to live independently. However, Mdm Katijah is frail and has difficulty cooking her own meals.  
12.    Tapping into the Community Network for Seniors, our PG Ambassadors referred Mdm Katijah for the befriending programme, meals delivery as well as medical escort. In addition, a dedicated case manager got to know Mdm Katijah, to assess her longer term care needs. She now receives regular visits from befrienders, and enjoys nutritious meals delivered to her daily. She is also able to attend her medical appointments with the help of the medical escort and taxi service.  
Our Plans for Next Year 
13.    These are just a few of the many stories of support and care that happen every day, thanks to PGO – Tampines and the CNS pilot. Credit goes not only to our PG Ambassadors, but also our supportive community partners and Government agencies.   

a.    1 in 2 Residents’ Committees in each of the three pilot sites have started weekly active ageing programmes. On average, more than 1,000 seniors attend these programmes every week.  
b.    Over 600 seniors who live alone have been linked up with a befriender, neighbour volunteer or the Care Line telebefriending service.  
c.    And close to 800 seniors with more complex needs in the CNS pilot sites have been referred to the CNS Office (CNSO) at MOH for further assistance.   

14.    In July this year, the Prime Minister shared the good news that the CNS programme will be extended to more constituencies. Coordination on the ground is not always easy. Seniors with several needs may be served by multiple service providers, all of whom may not have a holistic picture of his or her social and health needs.

a.    The positive stories I shared just now show us that the health and social well-being of our seniors are two sides of the same coin. For example, seniors who are socially isolated may have poorer health, if they become depressed or no one helps them access the healthcare services they need. 
b.    Only by delivering integrated social- and health-related services for seniors, in a truly person-centric manner, can we best enable our seniors to age confidently and gracefully within the community. The integration of social and health-related services will also ensure that we deliver the most impact from our coordinated efforts – be they public resources, community networks, or individuals’ time – to build better health and aged care facilities and develop new services.  
c.    As we proceed, we must learn from the experiences of the CNS pilots, to see how we can address both sides of the coin – the social and health issues – to achieve the best overall outcome for our seniors.  There are many useful learning points from the CNS pilot and the Government agencies are going over them thoughtfully. Are there better ways to organise the different public sector agencies, so that we work together better? And also better with our community-based partners? The different Ministries and agencies – MOH, MSF, Agency for Integrated Care, People’s Association – are reviewing our processes to see how we can achieve better integration of health and social services for our seniors. 
d.    The outcome of these discussions could be in the form of new processes for working or better use of technology. With these, we hope that seniors with multiple needs will be able to receive targeted, holistic and effective help from both Government and community-based partners, so that they can age well at home and within the community.  PG Ambassadors, your suggestions would be most welcome. You have the most experience. 

15.    In the meantime, PGO will continue to play a part by drawing on the lessons we have learnt from the pilot effort over the past one and half years, to refresh our training for PG Ambassadors.  

a.    We will provide training for PG Ambassadors to better identify seniors with needs.  
b.    And also some persuasion skills so that PG Ambassadors can encourage seniors to take part in Active Ageing Programmes. 
c.    PGO will conduct the additional training for all PG Ambassadors.   

16.    All of us have to play our part to make every community a place where seniors can age well in place.  

a.    As individuals, it is important that we watch our diet, exercise regularly, and attend regular health screening so that we can take good care of our bodies. 
b.    As PG Ambassadors, you will continue to be the cornerstone of our efforts to create local communities of care, and reach out to seniors to help them stay healthy. 

i.    All our successes thus far, from the launch of the PG Package and sharing about MediShield Life and Support Schemes for Seniors, to the successes in the CNS programme pilot, come down to the perseverance and dedication of our PG Ambassadors. 

ii.    You serve tirelessly to deliver care and concern to every senior in the community. 

iii.    As we create communities of care, your role as communicator, connector and navigator will become even more critical.  

iv.    I commend and thank you for your service to our seniors. 

17.    I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays and successes with you.  Once again, happy third anniversary! Thank you very much for your dedication and hard work!