Speech by Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive Officer of the National Library Board, at the Opening of EnvisAGE 2021: Envisioning Meaningful Ageing Together on 11 June 2021, 9.00am, via Zoom

Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President of SUSS

Ms. Khor Hwai Lin, Chairperson of SUSS Gerontology Students and Alumni Committee

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good morning everyone, and welcome to EnvisAGE 2021: Envisioning Meaningful Ageing Together. This is our 2nd joint seminar with the team from SUSS’s Gerontology programme and it has been a very meaningful and rich collaboration. We each bring our unique value proposition: NLB – with our extensive reach to seniors and our experience in supporting their reading and learning; and SUSS – with your research into how seniors learn and the best methods to support their learning, as well as your professional network of educators and researchers.

2. Globally, the proportion of people aged 65 and over is growing faster than any other age group, which increases the importance of this demographic group. As a result, the range of products and services targeted specifically at seniors has expanded significantly, to enable seniors to live healthily and age actively. There is also an East-ward shift in the geographic distribution of this demographic group. According to the projections of the United Nations, by 2050, the majority of people aged 65 and above will be in Asia. Closer to home, our life expectancy in Singapore is among the highest in the world, standing at slightly below 84 and continuing to inch up every year. These are megatrends that will profoundly change societies and we hope that events like EnvisAGE 2021 can serve as a platform to share views and explore new opportunities to empower our seniors as they age meaningfully and gracefully.

3. With Covid-19, digital has now become an integral part of everyone’s lives. This is why the concerted efforts by the Government and the community to reach out to and support seniors who do not have digital devices and are not familiar with using them are so important. We need to make sure that no senior is left behind in the digital age. For NLB, we have worked with IMDA to set up SG Digital Offices across all our public libraries and deployed Digital Ambassadors to provide personalised one-on-one assistance on digital queries for seniors. We also introduced Library Learning Journeys to help seniors access our digital library services. There is now an extensive suite of support to help equip seniors with digital skills and gain confidence in using digital tools in their everyday lives, whether it is to perform transactions or facilitate their learning, employment or entertainment. So far, we have assisted more than 31,000 seniors.

4. For our programmes, we have similarly pivoted to delivering many of them over digital platforms. Since the Circuit Breaker in April 2020, NLB has reached out to more than 10,000 seniors and organised more than 230 online programmes for them.

5. Many of you in the audience have similarly contributed to the widening array of online learning opportunities for seniors that are made available by different organisations. There is much to learn from each other in order to enhance the digital learning experience for seniors. Notably, the EnvisAGE 2021 organising team has included some exciting elements in the programme such as:

a. Video tours of seniors’ living concepts and options in Singapore and other countries (including United States, China, and Malaysia)

b. A programme about immersive virtual reality travel experience

c. Interactions with distinguished ‘granfluencers’, passionate seniors with their own unique expertise and experience which complement the perspectives shared by professional gerontologists.

6. But it is not all about digital, and the topics that will be covered include physical and mental well-being enhancements, reminiscence therapy, and the entrepreneurial spirit in seniors. We are especially honoured to invite granfluencers who promote causes they believe in, such as entrepreneurial couple Mr. Richard Koh and Mdm. Ong Bee Yan who started their online coffee business, as well as Team Strong Silvers, a group of enthusiasts who maintain excellent health through comprehensive exercise and strength-training. They truly represent the indomitable drive and passion seniors can have as they thrive in their later years.

7. I wish all of you a fruitful and enriching session ahead. Thank you.