One of the world’s most expensive cities offers a new affordable housing solution for the ageing population residents – Community Care Apartments
With just S$295 a month or S$12 a day for a long-term lease of 35 years, seniors would be able to live comfortably in a newly launched assisted living facility by the Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HDB). The Community Care Apartments are Singapore’s public housing concept that was unveiled in December 2020 to enable seniors to live independently within the community.
The cost of living in the Apartment could increase to S$80-S$120 per day, subject to the physical and mental abilities of the senior residents. And when one is unable to perform more than two activities of daily living (ADLs), the next step would be to move to a neighbouring nursing home facility.
The Community Care Apartments by HDB in Singapore is a game changer for seniors. For the first time, there is a public sector led option for assisted living, enabling those who have two or less ADLs to age independently with the support of community care services, versus making the jump immediately from regular residential housing to nursing home. This solves the nursing bed and manpower crunch, enables ageing-in-place and costs savings for seniors. One additional feature the government can consider would be to allow seniors downsizing into such facilities to enroll their excess funds into the government retirement programme so that the monthly payout for life increases to enable payment of additional care services as their physical condition changes as they age.
Apartments will offer seniors aged 65 and above an affordable housing option, which integrates senior-friendly design features with care services that can be scaled according to care needs. There will also be services and programmes to enable meaningful participation and social interactions amongst residents.
One of the interviewees whom Ageing Asia surveyed, Madam Deborah Ong, 69 years old, concurred that the lease duration and price point offered are fine, but she thinks she will only move in when she is unable to do all the household chores herself.
Jointly developed by the Ministry of National Development (MND), Ministry of Health (MOH) and Housing & Development Board (HDB), the new Community Care Apartments aim to expand the continuum of residential options for Singapore’s seniors today. Residents will have to subscribe and pay for a Basic Service Package. With this package, all residents will enjoy services such as 24-hour emergency monitoring and response and dedicated programming to facilitate interaction and the building of a close-knit community amongst residents. An onsite community manager will also help to link residents up with relevant care services according to their needs, assist with simple household fixes, and organise community activities according to the preferences of residents.
While these Apartments hold a smaller-than-usual internal floor area of 32 square metres, the assisted living concept still remains its attractiveness as the units come with senior-friendly features, care services and social activities. Another interviewee, Mrs Lee who is in her 70s was enticed by the apartment’s living space. She felt the Community Care Apartment would be easier to clean up as compared to her current flat. Other senior-friendly features and fittings include, easy-to-slide partitions that separate living and bedroom spaces, built-in wardrobe and cabinets for storage and a furnished kitchen for meal preparation, large wheelchair-accessible bathroom with slip-resistant flooring and grab bars, as well as a wide wheelchair-friendly main door with a built-in bench beside the entrance.
Mrs Lee expressed her support for the introduction of this compulsory Basic Service Package. She remarked, “The S$50/month partial payment for the compulsory Basic Service Package is not too expensive, especially for those who require these care services. If you get [external vendors], you would be paying way more than this amount.”
Residents at the Apartment may also layer on additional optional care services depending on their care needs and preferences at additional cost. Examples of optional services include, help with their activities of daily living, as well as household services such as meal delivery, laundry and housekeeping. All residents will also be prioritised for admission to the nearby Bukit Batok Care Home should the need arise in the future.
Madam Thio S.G., 62 years old, who was interviewed, highlighted her potential concern about the uncertainty of service fees as her physical needs change, as well as the duration it takes to obtain an apartment once she is no longer independent.
With just 160 units available, the flats that will be launched for sale in the February 2021 Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, and is expected to be oversubscribed. Singapore has 1.2 million older people aged over 60 years old. According to HDB, allocation of the flats will be prioritised for seniors with more pressing care needs, where at least one applicant or essential occupier requires permanent assistance with his/her activities of daily living. Seniors can also choose to jointly ballot for the flats with a friend or family member who is also eligible to purchase a Community Care Apartment. If successful, both applicants will be able to book their flats together. In addition, HDB has created a physical three-month exhibition for the public to learn more about the Community Care Apartments. The exhibition will feature 3D models of the Community Care Apartments, a mock-up of the communal space and a showroom of the flat. Visitors can also get more details on the service packages, eligibility conditions and flat prices at the exhibition.
How much could a senior expect to pay for services?
Ageing Asia created a scenario below on the expected costs of services for a senior who enters the facility from 80 years old, and what she can expect to pay.
Madam Tan is single at 80 years old and moves into the Community Care Apartment with mild cognitive impairment. Based on her age, she would be expected to pay S$62,000 for a shorter 15-year lease to the age of 95 years old, which includes the flat price and basic service package. She is fairly independent, active and enjoys playing Mahjong and meeting new friends. However, she is physically frail, and will be requiring social day care, delivery of two meals daily, help with laundry, housekeeping and occasional medical services.
Madam Tan is projected to consume a variety of additional services to enable her to age successfully due to her physical and mental condition. In this scenario, Madam Tan will spend approximately S$2,504 per month for the next 15 years at the Community Care Apartments. Based on the scenario of an upfront payment of S$62,000 for a 15-year lease with basic services, she will still have to bear an estimated monthly expenses of S$2,160, assuming her care needs does not increase.
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Eating, Bathing, Dressing, Transferring, Toileting, Mobility
Independent Living: Barrier-free designed housing for older people who are active, healthy and independent older people with no ADL requirements (Typical configuration is apartments with 1-3 bedrooms, living room and kitchen)
Assisted Living: Specially designed housing with care services for older people who require assistance with up to two ADLs (Typically configuration is a large room with attached bathroom and facilities for light cooking requirements, size ranges from 28 sqm to 45sqm)
Nursing Home: Facilities with 24 hours supervision and medical support for older people who require assistance with up to three ADLs (Typical configurations are multiple beds in one space with shared toilet or single room with attached bathroom)