St Christopher’s visits Singapore to share ideas and insights on preparing for an ageing population

Categories: Leadership.

Ruth and I were delighted to be in Singapore at the end of April to attend the 7th Ageing Asia Innovation Forum, which focused on integrated care and ageing-friendly communities.

The conference brought together over 550 business, government and voluntary sector leaders from 17 countries to share innovations, insights and experiences focused on preparing for an ageing population.

The event was fascinating – the brainchild of an extraordinary woman and entrepreneur Janice Chia.

Janice has a mission to drive innovation to help people live well as they age, by engaging the business community to create better products and services that will enable older people people to live healthy, independent and dignified lives.

Influenced by the changing needs of her elderly relatives, and inspired by higher expectations for quality of life held by the baby boomer generation, Janice believes that the social challenges of ageing can be transformed into economic opportunities for Asia – benefiting all involved.

The conference brought together individuals with a similar vision and interest.

Over the course of the two-day programme we were introduced to a whole host of innovations – retirement villages, new approaches to supportive housing, age-friendly cities and technological advancements (including a robot from Japan), to name but a few.

Giving the closing plenary – “Changing the way we think about end of life care” – I was able to explore how incorporating aspects of the philosophy and practice of hospice and palliative care into the innovations described during the course of the event could augment their efforts to enable people to live – and die – well, and support those close to them in bereavement.

With the exception of one other speaker, and our masterclass on end of life care and its contribution to ageing well, this plenary was the only contribution that considered issues relating to the end of life – a salutary reminder of a global reluctance to acknowledge death as part of life.

While in Singapore, we also had the opportunity to visit two local hospices – Dover Park and HCA Hospice Care.

Many of our challenges in the UK are shared by professionals working there, including a tired workforce, growing levels of need and difficulties recruiting skilled staff in sufficient numbers.

They share similar aspirations too – an interest in outcome measures, a desire to think carefully about reducing inequalities in provision and access, and an intention to use more volunteers to do different things.

The learning between the three organisations was reciprocal and valuable, confirming the value of a global community in palliative care to find solutions to some very complex issues.

So, how does this important thinking continue?

Janice Chai and her team will be leading a study delgation from Asia Pacific to the UK between 18 and 21 July to gain insight into the UK’s best practice models in palliative care, dementia care, aged care, senior living and technological innovations.

As part of this visit, the group will visit St Christopher’s to better understand the operational and service model, and explore opportunities to work together on technological advancements, care of people with dementia, and more holistic models of ageing which better represent the uncertainties and changing nature of ageing.

Importantly, we hope to learn from her organisation about ways in which business and hospice sectors could work together to achieve “intimacy at scale”. This was the challenge posed to hospices in 2010 by Charles Leadbeater at the Hospice UK conference and one that remains, in our view, unanswered at present.

For more information on the Ageing Asia Industry Tour & Global Masterclass visit the Ageing Asia website.

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