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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Proposal to build Retirement Homes in Johor Baru


One Singaporean's appeal to the Ministry of Community Development, Singapore

Present scenario:

1. The current practice of looking after our old folks is to build a few inadequate Old Folks Corners in some void decks of HDB blocks.
2. These are totally inadequate to the special needs of the old folks because they have no privacy, no equipment except for a few dilapidated plastic chairs and maybe a lockable TV set and a small lockable cupboard for Chinese chess sets, checker boards, etc, and other cheap and inadequate items.
3. Not many of the old folks even bother to gather there as it is a pretty meaningless way to spend time there.
4. The sight of these few old folks doddering about the void deck all day long waiting to die is a sorry sight in a proud nation that has achieved so much.
5. There is no money to take better care of them.
6. They have no money to pay for better and more dignified facilities.
7. These blocks with such Old Folks Corners and doddering old people probably fetch lower prices on resale because most young families especially those with children do not want these doddering old folks around their blocks. It would be interesting to do a survey to check this out.
8. However, these old folks do have some small savings, a flat they can sell, and some small children's allowance for them every month.
9. By itself, this does not mean much in high-price

BUT what if ....

10. But what if these assets in Singapore dollars were to be converted into Malaysian terms?
11. By that, I mean that we could take advantage of the disparity of the Singapore-Malaysia dollar to ringgit conversion. Think of the handsome price the old folks would get if they sold their present flats to the HDB/Govt or resale market and add on to that the small stipend the old folks get every month from their children, which is about S$200 a month.
12. In short, these old folks have very little money in
Singapore terms but are quite well off in Malaysian ringgit terms.
13. If they sell off their present 3-room or 4-room flats on the resale market, each couple could get a handsome S$100,000. Converted into ringgit terms in JB, and living by JB standard of living, this can stretch a long way. In addition, they may have some CPF and cash savings and the $200 from their children would multiply significantly in ringgit terms in JB's standard of living.
14. All these mean that if Retirement Homes were to be built in JB, many of our old folks could live in reasonable comfort and dignity till the end of their lives instead of waiting to die in the present Old Folks Corners in void decks.

A few more details ....

15. How would this scheme work?
16. Retirement Homes or Complexes will have to be built in
Johor State where land is incredibly cheap, the cost of living much cheaper and maintenance costs and facilities also much cheaper.
17. Why Johor? Because it is nearest to
Singapore. Just three-quarters of a mile across the Causeway or the Tuas Bridge. This means that the old folks who opt to retire in Johor can be visited by their relatives easily on weekends, etc, with only a short drive or bus ride equivalent to say, travelling from Bukit Batok in the West to Changi in the East. A very short trip.
18. This means the old folks can keep in touch with their family yet not be a bother to them as they go about their daily lives. They need not be a worry as the Retirement Homes will provide all that they need.

Other considerations ....

20. What about some details?
21. The Malaysian Govt will need to be marginally involved in this. They will need to pass a few laws to allow these Foreign Retirees to stay long-term in their Johor State Retirement Homes. They can also require that each retiree couple place a minimum of 100,000 ringgit in an approved Malaysian bank. This will ensure that the Malaysian economy benefits from this Foreign Retiree Scheme.
22. There is so much unused land in
Johor State. So, for the Malaysian Govt to set aside a couple of acres for a Retirement Home is very cheap. Construction costs of the Retirement Home are also very cheap.
23. Each Retirement Home can vary in facilities and therefore, price. A basic retiree couple will get a small bedroom, common canteen, common lounge, common games facilities and a pool.
24. The more upmarket homes will have facilities close to a hotel, with pools and games centres that the retirees' children can enjoy when they visit on weekends. If these Retirement Homes are by the seaside, that would be ideal, in idyllic surroundings, which is impossible in

and more implications ....

25. When the retiree couple sell their 3 or 4-room flat, the flat re-enters the market and help to be recycled; instead of having to keep building in Singapore, which is by now, very short of land, making land far too expensive for Retirement Homes.
26. Since the country will have a steady injection of 3 and 4-room flats back into the market and the economy, the savings in land, construction costs, etc, will be enormous.
27. At the same time, the money that each couple will bring into Johor will be a tremendous boost to the Malaysian economy.

Facilities galore ....

28. What sort of facilities would a Retirement Home need?
29. Each couple would have a bedroom. The Home itself will have computers, videophones, music karaoke lounges, canteen, 24-hour medical attendance by geriatric doctors and nurses.
30. There would also be games organisers who would organise games for the old folks, like Tombola and sailing, etc. There would be TV rooms for videos, movies and mahjong, etc.
31. There can also be a hydro-therapy pool for exercise and attendant physiotherapists and masseurs..
32. Once or twice a week, a bus will take the retirees on outings or to JB malls for some shopping.

Finally ....

33. Design and construction of these Retirement Homes can be by Singapore and or Malaysian consortiums. Geriatric-trained personnel will be trained and stationed in these Homes.
34. Retirees can retire anytime they wish. As long as they are still reasonably healthy and fit and are prepared to live in Johor, they can apply and take up residence in these Retirement Homes.
35. However, those terminally ill and in need of intensive care may still need to be warded. If Johor can have one or two private hospitals, with a geriatric unit, the very ill can be treated there. Alternatively, they can be brought back to a
Singapore home for the terminally ill to die.
36. Although this Scheme will be privately run, some governmental oversight is needed from both the
Singapore and Malaysian Govts. This is because both will have some responsibility for the retirees.
37. The truth is,
Singapore has no money and land and resources to take care of its old folks with the facilities and dignity they deserve. Singapore is a harsh place where only the fit and productive and the young have a place. Singapore has no place for the retired old.
38. Some of the better retirees can help run the place. They can be paid a small allowance for their work in helping to run the place and organise games and outings.
39. Talks and seminars can also be a weekly activity.
40. Computer appreciation can also be an option since the old are increasingly literate and better educated.

So please ....

41. What next?
42. This proposal is the product of an idle but hopefully creative mind. It needs to be fleshed out by some facts and figures which if there is the will are no doubt obtainable. A preliminary study can be made to see if it is feasible and the assumptions reasonable. It will take years to materialise, if at all. By that time, relations between
Singapore and Malaysia will be better and with sanity on both sides of the Causeway, this Scheme may be implemented.
43. This Scheme is uniquely possible for
Singapore and Malaysia. I don't think any other two countries are so near geographically, with a large disparity in currency values and land and construction costs and living costs to make it possible elsewhere. So, please do think about it.

Robert HO
22 Sep 1998