Boosting Singapore's silver industry

Boosting Singapore silver industry
  • Date 01 March 2017 March 2017 ISO Focus (Mar/Apr 2017)
  • In This Story

By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be over 65, triggering what many have called the new silver economy. This new economy will affect all aspects of our society – business, healthcare, policy, technology, the list goes on.

The fact that Singapore’s population is seeing an unprecedented shift in the age structure is no small matter. The challenges of this demographic evolution are well known. Less talked about, however, are the parallel opportunities presented by the growth of the silver economy : recognizing older adults as consumers as well as active economic contributors.

New opportunities

Singapore’s ageing population also provides excellent opportunities for the standards world. SPRING Singapore, ISO member for the country, set up a Silver Industry Standards Committee (SISC) in 2011 to develop and facilitate the implementation of standards in order to support active ageing initiatives. The positive effects are new products/services that meet the needs and wants of older adults.

“The silver industry has an enormous market potential ; however, there is a need to put in place standards to ensure the safety, quality and interoperability of products and services that support ageing,” says SISC Chairman Robert Chew. “ Technologies will play a key role in supporting the silver industries in the next wave, and standards will help enable the deployment of these new technologies.”

With inputs from industry associations, professional bodies, government agencies, institutions of higher learning and voluntary welfare organizations, SISC has identified a number of focus areas to support active ageing. These are liveability within homes and community, nutrition, healthcare and technology.

Liveability within homes and community

SISC has developed Singapore Standard SS 599, Guide for wayfinding signage in public areas, to describe wayfinding signing principles and elements for pedestrians, with specific attention to helping seniors commute more confidently in indoor and outdoor public spaces.

Taking into account the loss of cognitive functions that inevitably takes place with ageing, such as visual or mobility-related impairments, SISC also rolled out a new set of design guidelines for age-friendly homes (SS 605) that covers the provisions of ramps, grab bars, non-trip flooring and adaptable toilet layout to enhance seniors’ safety, comfort and accessibility at home. These provisions will help reduce the risk of seniors having a fall in their home environment.

Nutrition

A new standard – SS 604, Guidelines on nutrition and food service for older adults – was launched in March 2015, targeting some 20 acute hospitals/specialty centres, 80 intermediate and long-term care facilities and over 350 meals-on-wheels services. It covers guidelines on nutrition care policies and quality practices, food service standards, hygiene and food safety, menu planning, food selection, food preparation and portioning, fortified food and nutritional supplements. The standard also provides benchmarks to assess the nutrient content of meals served to seniors in intermediate and long-term care facilities, as well as social care facilities. In particular, nursing homes have given positive feedback, claiming that SS 604 has helped them meet the nutritional needs of seniors in their care.

“These guidelines have provided an invaluable technical checklist ”, says Mary-Ann Chiam, Chair of the technical committee on nutrition for the elderly. “ This standard will ensure that vulnerable seniors get adequate and balanced nutrition to face their daily health challenges head on.”

Healthcare and technology

SISC has also worked with the Information Technology Standards Committee to develop a technical reference on remote vital sign monitoring (TR 45). Taking advantage of advanced technologies, this new standard will help patients easily upload their vital sign data taken at home to a central portal.

Cadi Scientific, a Singapore-based healthcare technology company specializing in wireless sensing, tracking and matching devices, piloted the interface protocol defined in TR 45. The company used TR 45 in its Smart-Sense system – an ingenious disc-like wearable that automatically monitors a patient’s temperature and location round-the-clock – to demonstrate its interfacing feasibility to the national portal.

Dr Lim Soh Min, Chief Marketing Officer of Cadi Scientific, explains : “Through the adoption of TR 45, Cadi SmartSense System has become even more interoperable, allowing Cadi Scientific a first-mover advantage to tap into the region’s market.” Cadi Scientific’s solutions, including wearable tags, are now deployed to more than one million patients in Singapore and countries in the region.

Moving ahead into the next stage, a Silver Industry Standards Roadmap has been developed outlining standards development for the next three to five years. The roadmap, to be launched in March 2017, will support the Singapore government’s new Action Plan to enable its citizens to age successfully.

Coordination is key

“Better coordination among regional and international standardization bodies is paramount”, explains Ms Choy Sauw Kook, Assistant Chief Executive, Quality & Excellence Group, SPRING Singapore. “ Having gained experience in the development of national standards, SPRING is currently working with our counterparts to look into the development of regional and international standards to support an age-inclusive
society.”

One example of this approach is SPRING’s participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Project Steering Group (PSG) on the silver economy. This work, which will serve as a framework for the development of standards and innovative responses, is expected to assist APEC in its coordinating efforts to identify and capitalize on the increasing demand for innovative products and services for ageing.

Another example is SPRING’s involvement in the ISO Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) on Ageing Societies, which is investigating how standards can help solve the challenges posed by ageing populations. Its mandate is to consider the issues and opportunities arising from older societies and identify where knowledge already exists at a national, regional and international level. The end result will help guide ISO’s future work in supporting the demographic transition.

The silver economy is a rising issue on the world’s agenda. In the coming years, more standards will become available as the needs of the ageing market are better understood. And this is just the beginning. Further development of the silver economy – standards and all – will not only help promote growth and jobs in the future, but also, equally important, provide a way to create a just and equal society for all ages. Let’s not miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

ISO Focus (Mar/Apr 2017) www.iso.org/isofocus
Source: International Organization for Standardization©. Permission required for reproduction.
Photo: Council for Third Age, C3A



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