Community care apartments to fill a gap in housing market

Experts believe that the new housing model is expected to plug “the physical, cognitive or psychological needs of seniors” by providing a safer, stress-free environment for the elderly. Image: HDB

Experts believe the recently announced senior-friendly flats in Bukit Batok would fill a gap in the housing market, reported Channel News Asia (CNA).

Known as Community Care Apartments, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats come with elderly friendly features and mandatory subscription to care services, which include basic health checks, 24-hour emergency monitoring and response as well as simple home fixes. 

An onsite community manager would facilitate the care services as well as organise social activities for the residents.

Lee Sze Teck, Head of Research at Huttons Asia, said the extra care services bring the apartments a “step up” from two-room Flexi flats, which also come with senior-friendly features and short leases.

However, the flats are a step lower from nursing homes or dedicated institutions, offering variety for seniors, he said.

Lee noted that the centralised care and service provider within the housing block would address the space constraints faced by ageing households.

“In other housing types for seniors, such as two-room Flexi flats, the concern is: ‘If I need a helper, I don’t have space for her to live in my apartment.’ This addresses that,” he said as quoted by CNA. 

Dr Angeline Seah, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s Head of Geriatric Medicine, said the new housing model “plugs the physical, cognitive or psychological needs of seniors”.

Aside from having wheelchair-friendly doors and slip-resistant floors, Dr Seah said a new and refreshed housing unit would be safer for seniors.

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This comes as many seniors live in large and old flats that are challenging to maintain, which could lead to greater risks of fire or electric hazards, for example.

Dr Seah added that the new model also eliminates the potential stress of hiring a foreign domestic worker or adapting to life with a housemate within rental flats. 

“For seniors with a lifetime of entrenched habits and expected challenges in learning due to ageing, it is cognitively heavy and psychologically stressful to have to adapt and they may not have the resilience to re-equilibrate,” she told CNA. 

The extra “a la carte” services, such as meal delivery or personal care, also create flexibility in matching the varying needs of the residents.

Professor Sing Tien Foo described the facility’s location in Bukit Batok, which will see the rise of new amenities and Build-to-Order flats, as strategic.

This would encourage grown children with young families to live within the neighbourhood to be close to their parents, said the Director of the Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies at the National University of Singapore.

“That will create a more vibrant community … By having other kinds of housing options nearby, it gives more variety and encourages interaction with other groups,” added Sing as quoted by CNA. 

And given the limited number of apartments, he expects the 160-unit development to receive robust demand.

However, the development may face some potential challenges, which include dealing with different abilities of senior residents.

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Dr Seah explained that seniors’ “varying communication needs” or different communication abilities could lead to “under or over provision of services, misunderstandings between staff or between seniors”.

Some residents may also have audio-visual, continence and cognitive issues.

As such, the facility should have a “clear and well-organised environment with reduced distractions” to address residents’ cognitive limitations, said Dr Seah.

On continence issues, the building may need more toilets which should be cleaned more regularly.

Prof Singh also suggested making lease increments more flexible. Presently, applicants should purchase leases in five-year increments, starting from 15-year lease period. 

“With shorter minimum increments, people can evaluate whether they want to continue with this and if not, they can return it to HDB … Because it’s a very new concept. People need to understand and get used to the system,” he said.

The Community Care Apartments are set for launch in February.

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