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Address By Prof Cheong Hee Kiat At The Ngee Ann Kongsi Social Impact Hub Signing Ceremony

Address by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SUSS, at The Ngee Ann Kongsi Social Impact Hub Signing Ceremony, 12 July 2022, SUSS, Block C, Level 7 Seminar Rooms C7.07 and C7.08.


Good Afternoon,

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development, and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration

Mr James Teo, President;

Mr Jamie Teo, Vice President and Chairman of the Donation & Charity Sub-Committee;

and Members of The Ngee Ann Kongsi

Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairman, SUSS

Professor Alex Siow, Member, SUSS Board of Trustees and colleagues

Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for joining us at this afternoon’s ceremony to mark the inception of a new strategic initiative named “The Ngee Ann Kongsi Social Impact Hub”, made possible by the generous donation of $10 million by The Ngee Ann Kongsi.  We are deeply appreciative of this latest partnership and contribution which intensifies the Singapore University of Social Sciences (or SUSS)’s mission of doing good for society.

In the last 12 years, SUSS has been advancing the study and practice of gerontology in anticipation of the growing ageing population and meeting the needs of our seniors.  We have trained many for the gerontology sector and brought together communities to support senior activities and well-being.  Today, we are heartened that more nursing homes and institutionalised care facilities, and elderly-friendly facilities are being built.  But, beyond this, what more can we do for seniors, to enable them to maintain a sense of autonomy and independence in living out their senior years, fulfilled and with dignity?

The broader questions are: How can we facilitate ageing-in-place, and engage our wider communities, including the eldercare sector, social service agencies, community partners and caregivers, and businesses, more effectively and pervasively, to foster elderly inclusivity and mobility in the community? And, especially for seniors who depend on their similarly ageing family members (spouses, siblings, children) for care, how can we, through our endeavours, provide cohesive and coordinated care for the family unit? 

How do we get our young to embrace their vital role in this undertaking?  How can we nurture a spirit of entrepreneurship among our young and mid-career students, who are then empowered to innovate products and services that address the needs of our wider communities to make a positive impact on society?

The formation of The Ngee Ann Kongsi Social Impact Hub is timely and addresses these questions by taking a multi-prong approach - through training and awareness building, socio-entrepreneurship and innovation for the elderly sector, application of technology for successful ageing and increasing community engagement with the senior population.  These can be broadly clustered in three pillars.

The first pillar is the Gerontology pillar, which advances our applied research, discovery, and practice capabilities in the field.  We do this in 2 main tracks – Geronengage and Gerontechnology. Spearheaded by the Gerontology faculty at the S R Nathan School of Human Development, Geronengage fosters an ecosystem of stakeholders who each contribute expertise to collaborate and develop innovative approaches towards successful ageing-in-place practices.  These practices can then be scaled up in Singapore and adapted across the regionIt takes a holistic approach and looks at the multi-faceted, interconnected issues seniors face as a whole, instead of treating them as singular and episodic concerns. The team has already been engaging with local communities – one in progress now is supporting the re-location efforts of HDB-owners who have to move from Tanglin Halt to Dawson as a result of the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

The GeronTechnology track delves into exploiting technology to create products that compensate for seniors’ cognitive and physical decline, thereby maintaining their quality of life, enabling them to continue leading independent lives, and alleviating the toll on their caregivers. Potential products include companion robots and bathing devices.

The Gerontology faculty – Associate Professor Carol Ma and Dr Kelvin Tan – are in attendance today. Waylay them at the reception later. I think they will be happy to share more about their current and upcoming plans for GeronEngage and GeronTechnology.

The two other pillars are Social Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship in Gerontology.  Through these two pillars, we aim to raise new ideas and solutions to address the multi-faceted and unique issues faced by current and successive generations.  Social entrepreneurship nurtures the spirit of entrepreneurship among our young and mid-career students through learning and exposure to innovations with social impact.  It has a broader social application, encouraging sustainable entrepreneurship for general social good.  The  Entrepreneurship in Gerontology pillar, on the other hand, specifically targets to raise entrepreneurs and businesses to serve the senior generation.

In both pillars, students are our particular target agents to innovate and build start-ups.  Incubators will be established for these 2 pillars, where students are mentored to first identify gaps in current services and provisions, such as in Gerontology, Education Technology, Mental Health Awareness and Support, Sustainability and the Social Sector. And thereafter, ideate and validate the products and services to help the end-users bridge the gap. Students are offered a safe environment and tools to experiment, test and refine their concepts, and are guided by domain experts and partners to launch their social entrepreneurship start-ups successfully.  In so doing, we hope they will also develop soft skills, such as empathy, tenacity, resilience, and the ability to learn and upgrade continually - qualities which they will find crucial as they lead their lives in service of society.

So, through The Ngee Ann Kongsi Social Impact Hub, we will train, organise, do, and nurture to build an eco-system to support our seniors and the general social services sector.  We are excited about how much we can collectively achieve. On behalf of SUSS, I would like to express our deep appreciation to The Ngee Ann Kongsi for your generosity.  Many of our students and collaborators will be inspired by, and benefit greatly from, your support.  There is much to be done, and I am confident that our joint efforts will bear much fruit. 

And finally, thank you, Minister, for your support and for gracing this special milestone. 

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