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Address by Prof Robbie Goh at the World Ageing Festival x SUSS Geronpreneurship Innovation Festival

Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Mayor, Southwest District

Dr Päivi Sillanaukee, Special Envoy for Health and Wellbeing, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland

Ms Yasuko Arase, Deputy Mayor, Fukuoka City, Japan

Partners and Friends from the Gerontology Community

Welcome to the World Ageing Festival and the inaugural Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Geronpreneurship Innovation Festival. It is our honour to be able to team up with Ageing Asia to present a full and exciting Geronpreneurship segment within this week-long showcase event.

Singapore is set to become a ‘super-aged’ society by 2026, just like many countries around the world. Like many of the major global issues that we face – including climate change, AI and its potential disruptions to jobs and social relations, online falsehoods and others – global ageing admits of no simple solutions. It must be tackled in innovative ways that cut across traditional disciplines, and involving new partnerships between government, non-profits, industry and academia. For the laggards, ageing communities can indeed pose serious problems: these include loneliness and isolation in affected individuals, strains on healthcare and social services for government agencies, and challenges to traditional business models for industry. However, for forward-thinking societies and individuals, this profound demographic shift can also be a time of innovative practices and solutions that can bring benefit to affected individuals, communities, and businesses.

Here, universities like SUSS can certainly play a part. SUSS is an applied university whose remit is to bring education, training, research and service to bear on social good, and to forge the partnerships with government and industry that can make this happen. Gerontology naturally became one of our early flagship disciplines, begun over a decade ago.

Our Gerontology programme consists of a series of stackable courses of study, to boost continuous, agile learning and upskilling: You can begin with a Graduate Certificate, stack to a Graduate Diploma, and then to a Masters and PhD in Gerontology. Since 2021, we have also launched a Minor in Applied Ageing Studies to nurture an interest in ageing matters among our undergraduate students. Upon graduation, our Gerontology students would be well equipped with applied knowledge and skills to fill leadership or practitioner roles, carving out rewarding career paths in the silver industry.

Today, more than 400 of our Gerontology students and alumni are out there impacting society. One of them is Daniel Lim, our Master of Gerontology student, who will also be speaking at this event. He co-founded Enable Asia, a first-in-Asia platform with its signature annual event, to empower people with dementia to live a life of dignity and grace, while providing support to their caregivers. Daniel’s inspiring journey into this field was born out of a need to care for his own parents who are both suffering from dementia and other ailments. If you are interested in our Gerontology programmes and partnership opportunities, do visit the SUSS booth – the team will be on hand to respond to your queries.

SUSS’ Gerontology contributions are recognised in the community and industry. Last year, we received a major boost of S$10 million from The Ngee Ann Kongsi to set up The Ngee Ann Kongsi (NAK) Social Impact Hub. This enabled us to scale our efforts to promote successful ageing. Let me share two key outcomes:

Firstly, we launched several community-based senior-friendly projects in Singapore. One of them was the mass resettlement of 400 households who had to move due to the demolishment of their old rental blocks as part of urban development. Moving to a new environment can be highly destabilising for the elderly. Our students, alumni and faculty worked closely with HDB, People’s Association and community partners to journey with affected vulnerable seniors and help them settle into their new homes over a course of 12 months.

Secondly, we spearheaded eldercare research with regional and global partners. Notably, our team is working with the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Community Health Services to train the first batch of assessors in Singapore in the application of the WHO Integrated Care Assessment for Older People (ICOPE) to better assess older adults’ functional capacities and recommend the best personalised care for them.

In terms of practice and advocacy, SUSS has also been playing a significant part. SUSS has been championing age-friendly best practices and innovations with our government, corporate and community partners. Again, let me share a few examples.

As Singapore’s manpower crunch persists in this post-pandemic world, we are priming the silver workforce to meet our talent needs. Our team is working with Johnson & Johnson to run a series of business roundtables, to develop a longevity framework that includes a holistic approach to creating an age-friendly workplace. This will benefit not only our seniors, but also employers and businesses.

Also, our series of SUSS Impact Startup Challenges with a focus on Gerontology galvanises our student community to discover and incubate solutions for a silver future. Together with our SUSS Venture Builder programme, our student entrepreneurs receive end-to-end training to build their impact-driven businesses as well as stipend support throughout the programme. Upon completion, they can also access a $25,000 grant to boost their ventures. To date, we have disbursed 12 grants, totalling $300,000, to our promising startups to further the growth of their impactful solutions. All these are made possible under the NAK Social Impact Hub funding.

Let me conclude by reminding all of us that ageing is one of those aspects of the human condition that brings us all together. We share this experience, as ageing individuals, caregivers, care professionals, or interested members of the community. SUSS is proud to be an agent for good in helping to train and enable individual gerontology professionals, and to help inspire and catalyse innovative solutions. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our donor, Ngee Ann Kongsi, for their steadfast support of our initiatives. My congratulations also to Ageing Asia for its organisation of this signature event and its leadership in the ageing space. Last, thanks to the speakers, partners and guests at this festival – I wish you all an enriching time of connections, ideas and collaborations ahead.

Thank you.

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