Janice Chia Founder & Managing Director Aug 28th 2020

A purpose built Dementia Village for Singapore?

The Singapore government announced its plan to release a piece of land to pilot a dementia care village on 16 July 2019. Situated at the North of Singapore at Gibraltar Crescent, Sembawang, this village will be the nation’s first purpose built dementia care village.

Singapore will have 27 percent of its population (over 1.5 million person) aged over 60 by 2030. As Singapore’s population continues to age, the number of persons with dementia is expected to increase, too.

In 2015, Singapore has a total of 45,000 persons with dementia. The number is expected to hit 103,000 by 2030, according to a report by the Alzheimer’s Disease International. The estimated cost of dementia in Singapore is US$1.6 billion.

So news of this proposed village was timely, and set the Singapore sector buzzing with curiosity, interest and even excitement. Even industry representatives from overseas markets were observing this development with keen interest as the call for proposal is opened to overseas organisations as well.

The village comprises of 10 state bungalows that make the built environment of the village that sits on 2 plots of land, with a total area of 28,106 sq m. The site comes with a 30-year lease.

According to the Singapore’s Ministry of Health and Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Gibraltar Crescent dementia care village will be specially designed to “provide a safe, home-like environment where residents are assisted to live independently”, and there will be tailored services and programmes to “create meaningful participation and social interaction among its residents.”

Taking a leaf from Global Best Practices

Since Singapore is taking a leap towards changing its ageing landscape and providing options for its people in care delivery, the nation is perhaps set to make her first purpose built dementia care village a sustainable state-of-art facility, just like its World Class airport.

So what are some of the global leading models of care delivery in dementia that Singapore could learn and perhaps adapt?

Having visited over 400 care concepts and models worldwide, Ageing Asia and our industry partners have spent a lot of time studying and examining successful and sustainable models. We also observed the elders there enjoying a variety of options and facilities that cater to varying stages of ageing from independent living, assisted living, dementia care to ageing-in-place.

One notable concept we have seen is the World’s first village that enables normal living for persons with severe dementia – De Hogeweyk, in the Netherlands. The care vision for De Hogeweyk is to offer people with dementia appropriate care in an environment, which supports them in living life as usual, in a normal household, in a normal and safe society.

When team Ageing Asia first visited them in 2014, we were amazed by the level of energy they residents displayed. We didn’t feel that we were in a place for people with severe dementia. The environment is nothing like a dull or clinical-like facility, it was vibrant and lively! We visited them again in 2015 and in 2016, and the energy level we got each time from the interacting with the residents and the staff of the village was just inspirational.

In an interview the Alliance Journal had done previously with the Co-Founder of De Hogeweyk, Yvonne van Amerongen, she said, “it’s possible to have such a nursing home for people with dementia. It doesn’t feel, look, or smell like a nursing home. It feels like home and that is very important!”

Let’s now move closer to Singapore, and look at some innovative ideas that our friends from Hyper Ageing Japan have put in place for their elders.

One such concept that engages the community might be a concept that countries with multi-generational living that thrive along with the community ecosystem would look up to. At Greater Tokyo, Japan, Ageing Asia visited a community based integrated care model focusing on dementia care in 2017.

The founder of this concept, Tadasuke Kato, believes that a person with dementia is a “social resource not a burden”. By focusing on their strengths to enable them to continue normal daily living, the progression of dementia can be slowed down. It is also necessary to create the right environment with the strong support of a community to enable quality of life and quality of death. So he started Aoi Care – one of the first group homes and small scaled multi-functional homes for persons with dementia as well as a community driven day service for the young and old.

Culturalising and localising to uniquely Singapore’s

The key component that embodies the essence of the village would perhaps be a Person Centred Enablement Model that is integrated with the community. A village that is be open and welcoming to both residents and the neighbouring community whilst still ensuring a secured environment for the elders. After all it is about the care for the person.

We were so inspired by the quality of life the older people are having during our trips. We see greater motivation and independence for the elders in terms of engaging in activities in the community, having active employment with the community, and partaking in voluntarism etc. Basically have activities that would give the elders autonomy, be independent and lead an engaged lifestyle.

An ageing-in-place retirement, care and wellness precinct

Singapore has planned and built the various estate precints like a community with easily accesible amenities and strong infrastructure. Each estate can easily evolved into a NORC (Naturally Occuring Retirement Communities), so with the purpose built dementia care village situated within an estate precint, community engagment would be key for the elders.

Access criteria to this village should be based on needs, with a comprehensive assessment. Persons who need advanced dementia care and could no longer live at home, should be given priority. Thus a community that enables life, laughter and independence is one that would be beneficial to the residents, too, providing the support and substantially enriching their lives.

Unique to Singapore

Singapore has a rich and diverse cultures and history, which the elders grew up with and is familiarised with. So being uniquely Singapore, we should embrace our ‘kampung’ concept, from food to lifestyle, activities and the built environment.

Singapore may not have the World’s first village that enables normal living for people with severe dementia, but by gathering insights from these global best practices, and adapting the best to its own context, Singapore could have a dementia village that is uniquely Singapore.

This would be a model that brings global best practices in concepts, programmes, technologies, but culturalised and localized to suit the older people that live in the village.

A model that will age well over time with changing needs of each generation.

This article was first published in the Ageing Asia Alliance Journal – September 2019 issue.

Read the full article here