Located in a single-storey bungalow in the prime district of Bukit Timah, St Bernadette Lifestyle Village – Singapore’s first “retirement village” – will soon open its doors next month to welcome 8 seniors who need help looking after themselves.

Each resident will pay $3,500 dollars month for their stay, which includes breakfast, housekeeping and laundry services. Other nursing homes cost within the range of $1,200 to $3,500 a month, before government subsidies.

Each senior will have their own room with an attached wheelchair accessible bathroom. Residents share a living room which has a sofa and television and a dining area with a small kitchenette. If they fall or need help, they can activate an emergency bell to alert a 24-hour medical concierge. Or if they need greater medical expertise, they can call on the doctor and nurses in the nursing home next door.

Residents can also invite friends and family over for outdoor barbecues or use the open space outside for group activities like taiji or mahjong. There are also staff to accompany them for outings or walks to the nearby hawker centre or mall.

Such retirement homes, although common in Europe and the US, are a rarity in Singapore. Elderly who need help with dressing, bathing, eating or going to the toilet but who do not need intensive medical care are usually housed in nursing or old folks’ homes.

However, many elderly Singaporeans resist the idea of being relegated to nursing homes because of their association with loneliness and a loss of autonomy. Nursing homes usually have round-the-clock supervision and a structured timetable of activities which may be stifling for the more able adults.

”There is quite a lot of resentment among older adults if they are put in nursing homes, especially if they are still able physically, as they fear losing their autonomy,” said Dr Belinda Wee, 51, who runs the Good Shepherd Loft nursing home next door but decided to open the St Bernadette Lifestyle Village for those who are more mobile.

The Government has also started to explore European-style group living for the elderly poor in HDB flats.

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