Your Excellency, Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore,
Friends and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and welcome to NTU’s Novena campus, located right in the heart of Singapore’s integrated healthcare district.
It is an apt location to speak about an aspect of modern society that is a direct result of improved healthcare. It is none other than population ageing, driven by falling fertility rates and an unparalleled rise in longevity. But don’t get me wrong – ageing is a triumph of development. It is the outcome of achievements in health and nutrition, socio-economic development, and it reflects a better quality of life not just in Singapore but around the world.
As a city-state limited by its geographical size, it is important that we look at this issue from a multi-faceted vantage point, comprising of healthcare, housing and urban infrastructure perspectives. This holistic approach requires a multidisciplinary lens that will help foster better policies, enhance inclusivity, and build resilient social systems.
Which is why today’s Think Tank Roundtable will be the start of an annual series of discussions that will go beyond addressing ageing. It will serve as a multidisciplinary platform where policymakers, industry representatives and healthcare professionals gather to come up with innovative solutions that addresses the rapid population changes in Singapore.
The core of the discussions and dialogues will explore the subject of gerontology – a multidisciplinary study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of ageing. It will tackle a myriad of challenges ranging from policy issues such as social safety nets, to the design of residential and public spaces for older citizens. Forming a tripartite collaboration model involving industry, academia and the government, the Roundtable will provide a comprehensive and coordinated platform that will come up with ways to tackle ageing related challenges and give our senior citizens the freedom and autonomy to age-in-place, comfortably.
NTU’s translational research excellence in ageing
Today’s Roundtable is also a reflection of NTU’s drive in translational research excellence that is tuned to benefit society, industry and beyond. It is one of the many initiatives led by NTU’s Ageing Research Institute for Society and Education, or ARISE, which is a pan-university institute that combines the strengths of NTU’s schools and research centres under a single arm.
Launched in 2016, ARISE examines the ways the elderly can stay healthy through disease prevention, treatment and management. It also develops strategies on promoting active lifestyles and lifelong learning among the elderly; as well as leveraging technological innovations to enable vibrant and independent lives.
For example, ARISE is working with eldercare centres around Singapore to improve homecare and caregiving through the use of technology. The research will also gain a deeper understanding of human issues such as homecare recipients’ needs, behaviours, social, and community support, which were trialled in real-life community settings.
Another project uses a virtual reality platform to develop toolkits for cognitive assessment and intervention. They will allow senior citizens to experience a wide range of scenarios virtually, which will aid medical practitioners and therapists tailor programmes to suit senior citizens. NTU is also developing semi-autonomous “shelver robots” to aid senior workers in the service industry such as supermarkets. These robots would make it easier for older citizens to lift heavy items and shelf things into hard to reach spaces, enabling them the opportunity to continue working comfortably, if they so wished. These are some of the projects that are showcased at the exhibition booths located around us.
ARISE is also supported by another NTU initiative, the Centre for Population Health Sciences (CePHaS), which is led by NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. While ARISE focuses on ageing, CePHas will look into pressing healthcare problems and develop practical solutions to improve overall population health. It explores how we can use info-communication technology to solve healthcare issues, and to enhance the healthcare system. CePHaS also supports preventive healthcare, creates intelligent healthcare designs, and optimises existing solutions. Together, ARISE and CePHaS translates NTU’s research efforts into practical and impactful solutions that will help create a better society as people live better and longer lives.
I would also like to highlight that NTU offers a Master’s level degree programme in Applied Gerontology. It provides a multidisciplinary perspective in the rapidly expanding field of gerontology, by incorporating other ageing-related aspects such as food and nutrition, mental health, public policies related to ageing, and end-of-life care. With this programme, the University hopes to nurture future healthcare givers, who will be equipped with the skills and hands-on experience in working and caring with older people.
In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to President Halimah Yacob for taking the time to grace this special occasion. I would like to thank Professor Theng Yin Leng, Deputy Associate Provost (Faculty Affairs) and Acting Executive Director of ARISE, for her efforts in making this event a success.
I have no doubt that the Roundtable will help address new healthcare and population challenges to ensure a vibrant and active society.