SINGAPORE – The Community Ageing in Place Ecosystem (Cape) – a project to make the Republic a better place for elderly citizens to live and thrive in – is a key part of an agreement that SingHealth and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) signed on Jan 16.

The pact aims to deepen their collaboration in research, innovation, enterprise and education in population and preventive health.

SingHealth started work on the project in June 2022 in Marine Parade and Bedok, with SUTD as one of its key partners. Cape engages elderly residents, healthcare professionals, urban planners, caregivers and other stakeholders to build communities that combine health and social care, utilise smart technologies, and adapt urban spaces to be elder-friendly.

“As lifespans grow, we must now focus on increasing healthspans – the number of years spent living healthily, productively and with full functionality,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the signing ceremony held at Changi General Hospital.

“Enabling our seniors to age well is one of the core planks of the Government’s plan to refresh our social compact under the ForwardSG movement,” added DPM Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.

According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, the proportion of residents aged 65 and above rose to 17.3 per cent in 2023 from 16.6 per cent in 2022. The 2023 Action Plan For Successful Ageing also expects about one in four citizens to be aged 65 or above by 2030.

Cape is expected to benefit about 1,000 seniors from selected areas in Marine Parade and Bedok from 2024 to 2027. Associate Professor Low Lian Leng, director of SingHealth’s Centre for Population Health Research and Implementation, is optimistic about applying lessons learnt from the trials to other locations and hopes to reach at least 200,000 elderly residents in Singapore’s east in the future.

For instance, through photographs that elderly residents took of places they frequented in their neighbourhood, Prof Low and his team learnt that public benches helped the seniors travel farther by giving them places to rest along their journey.

“That’s something that is not (directly related to) healthcare – like your blood pressure or diabetes – but rather your functionality on a day-to-day basis,” he added.

Thus, to improve the seniors’ quality of life holistically, one of Cape’s aims is to expand the number of places that they can travel to by improving their neighbourhood’s facilities.

“We hope (the collaboration agreement) will yield even more innovative and transformational initiatives that will impact not just those living in the east, but for all Singaporeans and beyond,” said Professor Ivy Ng, group chief executive of SingHealth.

The Jan 16 agreement is the latest in SingHealth and SUTD’s decade-long partnership, which started in 2013 between SUTD and Eastern Health Alliance, now part of SingHealth’s healthcare cluster in the eastern region of Singapore.

Professor Chong Tow Chong, president of SUTD, highlighted how the collaboration has benefited SUTD students by nurturing them to become “clinician innovators” who are adept at practising medicine and harnessing technological advancements across disciplines to impact healthcare.