SINGAPORE: It has been more than five months since 94 year-old Wong Ying moved into her bright, newly furnished two-room flat in Margaret Drive. She looks forward to returning to her old neighbourhood, Tanglin Halt, every Wednesday, and more importantly, to the centre that regards her as a family. She said that she is going back to FaithActs, her face lit up when a van emblazoned with the words FaithActs Seniors drew up outside her block.
Last year, CNA Insider told the story of this non-agenarian and other Tanglin Halt old-timers who were moved to Dawson Estate under the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. The relocation highlighted the lack of social isolation and amenities for elderly people who spent years building ties in their old community, for example at the centre run by FaithActs. The good news: FaithActs recently got approval to run a centre near Wong's new flat. In response to CNA Insider's questions, the Health Ministry said it had assessed that there was a need for eldercare services in this area and is therefore supportive. This comes after months of FaithActs having to shuttle beneficiaries like Wong back and forth. At the earliest, the new centre won't be ready to serve residents until January.
The old-timers of Tanglin Halt have moved to two sites in Margaret Drive: SkyResidence Dawson and SkyOasis Dawson. The Margaret Drive hawker centre opened on Aug 1, but there are no other shops nearby. The past few months, many seniors, including those with mobility issues, have had to go to supermarkets or shops that are an eight to 15 minute walk away for the average person. The HDB pointed out that there were extensive delays to almost all construction projects due to the Pandemic. The authority said it prioritized construction resources and activities so that residents could move into their new homes without any delays. A supermarket will be opened at SkyResidence Dawson before the year end, while an eating house, mini-market and more shops are expected to open at SkyOasis Dawson in the second quarter of next year.
FaithActs applied to run a new centre in Dawson in 2019 when the agency was informed that its beneficiaries would be moving out of Tanglin Halt, but was rejected. It expressed interest in a space in Margaret Drive but was close to giving up, according to executive director Shirley Ng. She said that it had been too long a wait, and that there was no space for us because most people had already moved in. When the good news came, everyone was overjoyed she added with a laugh. They made a lot of noise rejoicing in the office. She was surprised in June when she saw a banner strung up at the pick-up point where she would wait for the FaithActs minivan. It said Queenstown grassroots organisations provided a free bus service to take Margaret Drive residents to Tanglin Halt on weekend mornings. The service runs at 45 minute intervals from 7 am to 10 am, as suggested by Eric Chua, the Member of Parliament for the area. It was initially piloted on Sunday mornings but has since been extended to Saturdays as well. He said the service was started partly for convenience, partly for nostalgia and partly to benefit the merchants and hawkers who are still operating in Tanglin Halt. He sees between 50 and 60 residents making use of the service every Sunday. He said it could be extended and that it is slated to run until the end of the month. We will consult with the residents before we can make a decision.