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OCBC Bank introduces first holistic, private sector-initiated programme to tackle dementia among vulnerable seniors

OCBC Bank introduces first holistic, private sector-initiated programme to tackle dementia among vulnerable seniors

  • 04 Aug 2018

Singapore, 4 August 2018 – Recognising the growing issue of dementia along with the rise in Singapore’s aging population, OCBC Bank has successfully partnered AWWA under its #OCBCCares programme to design a holistic programme to tackle the silent disease. After a pilot roll-out in January 2018 involving 80 seniors from the AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre (AWWA), more than half the number of participants showed marked improvement in mental alertness and social interaction after six months.

Combining a fun exercise regime with a compelling incentive scheme, the OCBC Glowing Years Programme, with S$50,000 of funding, has hit the sweet spot in motivating vulnerable seniors to improve their motor and cognitive skills - two of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of dementia or, for those who have begun to show symptoms, to slow down the deterioration of the condition.

It is hoped that the Programme will benefit especially at-risk seniors who are socially withdrawn, physically inactive and lack social networks or family bonds. Points are awarded for taking part in keep-fit or mentally-stimulating exercises; these can be used to redeem carefully-selected rewards like a massage, a pedicure, an outing or a hairdo refresh. These incentives are meant to encourage a more participative lifestyle. The types of rewards are in turn modified based on feedback from the seniors.

The next phase will involve scaling up the Programme to reach out to other seniors under AWWA’s care; and extending it to vulnerable seniors supported by OCBC Bank’s other charity partners - Care Corner and Thye Hua Kwan. Potentially, this would benefit close to 2,000 seniors over the next 2 years.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry; and Member of Parliament of Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency 2

officially launched the Programme on 4 August 2018, together with OCBC Chairman Mr Ooi Sang Kuang. The event took place at the AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre (DDCC) located at Ang Mo Kio.

Taking a Holistic Approach - Combining Exercise and Motivation

According to the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WISE) study conducted in 2013 and spearheaded by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), 1 in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore has dementia. This meant that in 2012, 28,000 Singaporeans above the age of 60 were affected. The number is expected to rise to 80,000 by 2030 as Singapore’s population continues to age.

At the AWWA Dementia Day Care Centre, OCBC staff volunteers had noticed that while there were adequate activities to keep the seniors engaged, several of them were non-participative. The seniors were more willing to exercise once they understood the importance of exercise for their physical and mental health. When there were tangible incentives for their effort, they were even more willing to persevere in their efforts.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC Bank Head of Group Corporate Communications shared, "Regular interaction with AWWA’s seniors enabled our volunteers to identify the gap. To develop a comprehensive programme to tackle dementia, we engaged our long-term charity partners who provided useful insights on the psyche of the elderly."

"We realised that tackling dementia goes beyond just exercise. Incorporating a meaningful reward scheme can move the dial significantly, and help the elderly safeguard their precious golden years, memory by memory. We are delighted that our Programme has delivered positive outcomes."

During the pilot project, OCBC volunteers visited the centre monthly to exercise with the seniors. Besides physical activity such as dancing and Zumba while seated on chairs, the volunteers helped keep minds alert through puzzle-solving activities and games that strengthen mental capacity, including those that encourage verbal articulation of ideas and recollection of memories.

The seniors were awarded points whenever they participate in various activities.

Two specific activities, baking and batik-painting, which involved learning new skills attracted strong interest among the seniors. Both required focus, recollection of the steps involved and good hand and eye co-ordination, which are useful activities in improving the seniors’ motor skills.

Baking is the latest form of therapy introduced at the AWWA DDCC, after OCBC funded the revamp of the kitchen. Fittingly, a cake-cutting ceremony was chosen to commemorate the launch of the OCBC Glowing Years Programme. The cake is baked and decorated by three seniors from the centre, together with four OCBC volunteers. 3

Mr Keith Lee, Director of AWWA Health and Senior Care, shared, "Keeping our seniors physically and mentally active is key to maintaining their physical and mental functions so that our seniors can continue to live in the community. We are glad to partner OCBC Bank in this exercise-and-reward programme that helps boost our current programme and activities for our seniors at the centre. It cheers them on to continue staying active."

Seniors and caregivers have a say on choice of rewards

Apart from the usual incentives of food, personal care items and vouchers which are handed out by OCBC volunteers during their monthly visits, other rewards are designed to encourage seniors to exercise more in order to feel good about themselves. These include massage, manicure and pedicure sessions, visits to the hairdresser for a cut or colour and even outings to various parts of Singapore for seniors who feel nostalgic and want to capture memories of the past.

The types of rewards are changed from time to time, depending on feedback from the seniors and their caregivers. Involving families in the selection process has proven to be effective in ensuring end-to-end lifestyle changes, at home and at the centre.

The most popular reward to date is the massage sessions provided by members of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

Positive outcomes by third month of pilot project

With support from all quarters - the Centre Managers, caregivers, OCBC volunteers and the seniors themselves, the programme yielded positive outcomes by the third month of the pilot run. It motivated 80 seniors to participate in more activities in order to achieve points for monthly redemptions. As a result, there was a boost to the centre’s daily attendance, with a 20% increase in attendance from January 2018 to June 2018. The seniors also welcomed new activities such as monthly outings, morning walks, outdoor and shopping activities; as well as new art and craft activities such as art therapy, batik painting, and making of bookmarks, cards and photo frames.

Ms Candy Tan is happy that her mother has benefitted from the OCBC Glowing Years Programme. "My mum enjoyed interacting with the young OCBC volunteers. They could successfully persuade her to participate in various cognitive games. It is truly a joy to see my mum become more of her own self."

Another caregiver, Ms Radiah Binte Hashim shared "The Glowing Years programme has encouraged my father to exercise more than before. He also encourages other seniors to participate in various activities at the centre. Every month, he looks forward to redeem his prizes especially the massage service."


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The OCBC Glowing Years Programme rewards seniors who adapt lifestyle habits to reduce risk of dementia, starting with exercise and therapy to enhance their motor and cognitive skills.

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