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​Inaugural ARISE Research Symposium

Published on: 11-Nov-2017

Address by

Professor Bertil Andersson
President, Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore)

1ST ARISE RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM

LKCMedicine, Mandalay Road Campus
Saturday, 11th November 2017, 8.30 am



Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health,

Mr Goh Kim Hock, Chairman of the Education/Scholarships & Bursaries Sub-Committee, Ngee Ann Kongsi,

Mr Yeo Boon Hon, Member of the Committee of Management at Ngee Ann Kongsi,

Distinguished guests, colleagues, students,

Ladies and gentlemen,


A very good morning and welcome to the new Novena campus of NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, or LKCMedicine for short. And welcome to the very first research symposium organised by NTU’s Ageing Research Institute for Society and Education – or known simply as ARISE.

We have this giant Clinical Sciences Building here, which is the biggest academic building in Singapore. I don’t know how many football fields it covers – I’m talking about football because last night Sweden beat Italy in a World Cup qualifying match!

This was a hostel for senior medical students back in 1924, it now serves as the school’s headquarters. Although the heritage building is from a different era, it still serves an important purpose today, 90 years on. So age is just a number, a concept. Many things get better with age, like wine, and of course, a young and promising biochemist like myself who is only 69 years young!

With that philosophy, ARISE was launched in May 2016 to coordinate research into ageing and ageing related issues across NTU. The Institute works closely with the various schools, colleges and research centres across the university, making its research truly multidisciplinary. ARISE shares a vision to empower the ageing community and to improve the quality of life for those in their silver years.


Key areas of focus for ARISE

ARISE focuses on cutting-edge research under four thrusts, namely Ageing Medicine, Social Integration & Education, Ageing-in-Place, and Care & Lifestyle Enhancement. To further strengthen efforts in ageing research, ARISE most recently spearheaded two kinds of internal funding initiatives to encourage research on ageing.

The first is to integrate a set of thrust-cutting, multi-disciplinary strategic programmes led by senior faculty and researchers to address an ageing population in Singapore through healthy and active ageing and integrated eldercare. Using a top-down approach with diabetes leading as a case example, these programmes will integrate research areas in brain health, gut health, nutrition, exercise, mobile health applications and health coaching to produce a holistic framework for diabetes care management. 

The second initiative is in the form of providing seed funding to encourage junior faculty to embark ageing-related research projects aligned with the four ARISE Thrust Areas. So far, ARISE has awarded funding to 14 faculty members for the inaugural grant call.

We have also been fortunate to have received the generous support from the Ministry of Health’s National Innovation Challenge (NIC) on Active and Confident Ageing. This has helped NTU to embark on research into finding innovative ways of addressing issues related to ageing in Singapore.  Some of these projects are on display at the symposium today, such as “H-Man”, a machine that helps conduct physiotherapy sessions for the elderly in the convenience of their own homes, and easing the need for human caregivers. Engaging with such projects also ensures the research focus of NTU and ARISE are aligned with Singapore’s national initiatives on ageing spearheaded by the Ministry of Health.


Importance of developing strong industrial partnerships

Of course, research without the involvement of industry doesn’t get very far. That is why NTU firmly believes in pairing university research expertise with various industry players. ARISE has forged partnerships with prominent stakeholders such as the Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing, Workplace Safety and Health Institute and South West Community Development Council. And just yesterday evening, ARISE held its first Industry and Community Engagement Day, which was co-organised with NTUitive, the University’s commercialisation arm.


Transforming Ageing Societies through Science and Technology

Singapore is one of the world’s most rapidly ageing societies. Singaporeans are living longer, but are also having fewer babies. My way of saying this is that there are fewer productive romances in this country. In the next 10 years, about 20 per cent of Singapore’s population is expected to be over 65 years. Consequently, the ratio of working-age citizens to each older adult has also decreased alarmingly. Today, the ratio is 4.7 and by 2030, it is expected to drop to 2.1.

That is why we are here this morning to discuss and think what can be done on the academic and research side. Hence, the theme for today’s research symposium, ‘Transforming Ageing Societies through Science and Technology’, is very appropriate in the Singapore’s context. Science and engineering yield answers to some key challenges faced by ageing societies. Automation and robotics for example, can help to alleviate the quality of life for the aged. Investigating biological mechanisms of ageing can also shed more light on chronic diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis. We also talk about education and lifelong learning. But we have to be aware old pedagogic approaches and learning processes target children and young people. There is still a challenge to understand how people in their fifties learn. Do they learn the same way as someone in their twenties? More research needs to be done on this.

Today’s symposium will bring together established and world-renowned experts on three pertinent sub-topics:  Patient and Eldercare Management; Biology of Ageing; and Community Care. I am sure you will benefit tremendously from the exciting topics discussed led by the Expert Moderators. On this note, I would also like to welcome all our speakers, and thank them for their time and for sharing their knowledge with us.


Scholarships in Master of Science in Applied Gerontology

Today, we will also be presenting scholarships to deserving students. For the inaugural intake of the Master of Science in Applied Gerontology, Ngee Ann Kongsi (pronounced: Nee Ahn Kong See) is awarding four scholarships to NTU students. Many congratulations to our students, and a big thank you to the Ngee Ann Kongsi for your generosity and continued support!  The launch of this programme is very timely as we need more and more healthcare specialists, especially in the geriatric and geron-technology sectors.

ARISE will open its door to the MSc in Applied Gerontology students to work on various ageing-related projects.  Similarly, ARISE will facilitate research opportunities in partnership with the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine on community health projects. Working with other programmes at NTU, ARISE will also emphasise research and education on ageing.


Partnership with the Geriatric Education Research Institute

Along with research and education, ARISE is also committed to studies that will make a meaningful impact on today’s elderly population. In this spirit, we will also witness today the signing of an MOU between ARISE and the Geriatric Education Research Institute (GERI in short). As a national body, GERI has a well-established approach on ageing research and is working on several levels to address this national issue.

Under this MOU, ARISE and GERI will enter a number of research agreements. This partnership will identify opportunities for cooperation and joint research with focus in the areas of frailty, community and home-based care, health systems & applications, health coaching and policies, and psychosocial wellbeing of older adults. ARISE and GERI will complement each other in various areas and work in sync towards the national goal of healthy and active ageing.


Conclusion

Ageing-related issues will bring challenges, but opportunities as well. It should not any longer be how old you are, but how young you are. And on that note, I wish you a very fruitful symposium.

Thank you very much! 

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