Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the 5th Tow Tiang Seng Distinguished Lecture and Book Launch of “Ageing With Dignity” by the NUS Mind Science Centre on 8 May 2022.
Ageing with Dignity, Living with Hope
Dr Cheong Choong Kong, Chairman of the NUS Mind Science Centre
Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Board Member of the NUS Mind Science Centre
Prof Chong Yap Seng, Dean of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
Associate Professor John Wong, Director of Mind Science Centre
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased to join you today for the 5th Tow Tiang Seng Distinguished Lecture and the launch of NUS Mind Science Centre’s new book, “Ageing with Dignity”, which raises awareness about positive ageing and dementia prevention in Singapore.
Dementia is a growing problem around the world. According to the World Health Organisation, there are currently more than 55 million people living with dementia worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases every year1. Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases, and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among the elderly globally2. Here in Singapore, one in 10 seniors aged 60 and above has dementia. With increased life expectancy and our ageing population, we expect the number of people with this condition to increase. It is therefore critical to raise awareness of dementia and increase support for persons with the condition and their caregivers. We want to build an inclusive society in which persons with dementia are understood, respected, supported and well-integrated in our community, and are able to lead purposeful and meaningful lives.
Since 2012, the government has been strengthening our support for mental health care, including dementia care, under our Community Mental Health Masterplan. We have launched health campaigns to raise awareness and reduce stigma of dementia, and to encourage Singaporeans to seek help early if they detect related signs and symptoms. In addition, we have worked with community care partners to establish community outreach teams and intervention teams, to provide greater support to those living with the condition as well as their caregivers. We are also working with our primary and community care providers, including nursing homes, to improve their capability and capacity for dementia care management.
The government greatly values the contributions of our partners like the NUS Mind Science Centre, which has done important work in building mental resilience among Singaporeans and helping our elderly to live with dignity, meaning and hope. The book that we are launching today documents the Mind Science Centre’s Age Well Everyday (or AWE) program, which is the first dementia prevention programme in Asia. When my late wife Poh Yim first mooted the idea in August 2014, she was trying to challenge the team working on the Jurong Ageing Study for dementia prevention to consider the translational importance of their research and to extend the benefits to other seniors in Singapore. Since then, it has grown into a nation-wide programme with a group of passionate and determined philanthropists and medical experts, who aim to strengthen our understanding of dementia and develop strategies for early detection and to tackle risk factors. Combining health education, mindfulness practice, art, music, horticultural therapy and physical activities, the programme is designed to delay cognitive deterioration, reduce anxiety and increase sociability, and in so doing help to delay the onset of dementia and improve the quality of life of seniors.
I am pleased that there are now eight centres running the AWE programme. The programme is well-loved by our seniors, who regard it as a valuable platform to expand their social connectedness, be involved in the community, raise their self-esteem and live with dignity. The programme has trained more than 110 volunteers to bring the programme to a wider audience. Through the AWE E-learning Training Course launched in 2018, more than 8,000 individuals have enrolled and benefited from various self-help preventive healthcare modules offered in both English and Mandarin. This will enable more learners to become active volunteers in the community.
The NUS Mind Science Centre and AWE Programme always had a special place in Poh Yim’s heart. She fervently believed in your mission and your work, in helping both the young and elderly to develop positive perspectives on ageing, and in the potential to transform the lives of people through rigorous evidence-based research and structured community programmes. I know she would be immensely proud of what the NUS Mind Science Centre and the AWE programme have achieved.
My family and I thank the NUS Mind Science Centre, editors Prof Kua Ee Heok and Associate Professor Rathi Mahendran, contributors, publisher Write Editions and many others who have come together to produce this book. We are honoured that the book has been dedicated in the memory of Poh Yim. I am also looking forward to the 5th Tow Tiang Seng Distinguished Lecture by Professor Kua Ee Heok, which will trace the genesis of the AWE program and provide new insights into the significance and meaning of living with dignity. I am confident that the book, and all your good work, will strengthen our collective knowledge about mental health and dementia, and help us build a more inclusive and supportive society where our seniors can live happier, healthier and more dignified lives.
Thank you very much.
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