Ageing is a big issue. After all, it is inevitable that all of us will age. However, in Singapore, this is manifested more acutely than in many other countries. Singapore has the third longest living population in the world for countries with a population of over one million: a 60-year-old Singaporean can, on average, expect to live another 25 to 30 years.
With the ratio of young to elderly declining rapidly, going from 1:5 to 1:2, the old must be equipped and empowered to live by themselves, take care of themselves and enjoy a functional old age. With the lack of healthcare manpower, developing technologies to meet national need is key. NUS’ Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Medical Engineering (CHIME) is designed to focus our capability on addressing ageing-related issues.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) Greater Good Series event titled “A tool for functional ageing” brought together three speakers to discuss the challenges that lie ahead as we age, how we can prepare for old age and the technology and science being developed to help us all age better and benefit from a better quality of life.
Professor Lee Chuen Neng, Chairman, University Surgical Cluster, Chairman, CHIME, opened the event by explaining that Asian populations are ageing faster than in the US. As such, CHIME will bring together expertise from across NUS and beyond. To prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, it is imperative to look at ways to design our urban and home environments, ease our nation’s healthcare burden, study ways to delay the processes of ageing, rejuvenate with discoveries from biological sciences and improve the delivery of healthcare.
The Dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Professor Chia Kee Seng, shared the different stages that we will all go through as we age and how we can mitigate the effects. Our memory, nerve, heart, kidney and lung function will all decline. Older people also tend to put on weight, which in turn can trigger illnesses such as diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.
What can we do to lessen the onset of age? Prof Chia recommended staying active, both mentally and physically, as well as eating well and in moderation. He also underlined the importance of investing in one’s health by avoiding the trap of overscreening for illnesses we cannot treat, educating oneself on healthcare issues and putting a place a contingency plan in the event of falling ill.
Dr David Lai, Director of Surgical Research and Development, Department of Surgery, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, explored the many advances in science to combat or slow down the ageing process. These include: anti-ageing drugs; regenerative medicine and stem cells; medication and devices to treat erectile dysfunction; optogenetics to understand the causes of memory loss; assistive robotic exoskeletons and walking devices to improve mobility; tele-medicine; and intelligent walking sticks. Home care technology is also being developed as a substitute for care homes, thus allowing the elderly to live independently whilst being monitored remotely by their family.
Prof Lee closed the event by highlighting that CHIME is currently developing technology to address the issues of old age. Private support will play a key role in making these advances possible.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
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