East Coast must be a good place for families and seniors

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GRC must be a for families to raise children and to grow old in, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday. In the People’s Action Party’s second online rally for the GRC, he and the other four candidates shared personal anecdotes about parenthood and ageing, linking these to the challenges many Singaporeans face in both areas.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, 54, recounted how his late father had mild dementia, which impacted his recovery from eye surgery. “He forgot that he had just gone for surgery and when he went for his shower… he rubbed his eye so hard that it bled terribly and he ended up blinded,” he said, adding these are issues Singaporeans will increasingly have to grapple with as the population ages.

In his Siglap ward – in which the majority of housing is private – a scheme has been set up to pick up seniors from their homes and take them to community centres for programmes on a daily basis.

And in Fengshan, overseen by incumbent Cheryl Chan, 44, the number of eldercare centres has increased. There are also plans to increase support for caregivers of dementia patients across the GRC.

A variety of programmes must also be rolled out for healthy seniors, said Mr Heng, 59. “Our seniors should not just be defined by age, because their activities and what they hope to do in the future are also very different,” he said.

Parenting was also discussed, as new face Tan Kiat How, 43, is expecting his first child in August. “I’m honestly a little bit nervous. It’s my first time being a parent,” said the former Infocomm Media Development Authority chief executive. “I’m very grateful for all the residents I’ve met over the last few days, who were offering me tips on how to take care of my first child.”

On the cost of raising a child, Mr Heng said every child gets about $50,000 in subsidies from birth to pre-school. And from Primary 1 to the end of secondary school, the Government pumps in another $130,000. Tertiary education is also highly subsidised, he added.

Ms Chan said the new HDB flats in her ward have resulted in an increased demand for childcare spaces. This issue was solved by converting PAP Community Foundation kindergartens to dual-use childcare centres, she added.

Upcoming developments in the Bayshore area, which will be served by two new MRT stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line, also hold promise for young families, Mr Heng said. The team, which includes three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, 54, also discussed issues such as green developments in the constituency and helping people keep their jobs.

Mr Heng also called on Singaporeans to work together to turn good ideas into action. “I would like very much to see that we can bring together everyone, both in conversation and in action.”

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