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Bishan coffee shop's speciality: Catering to those with dementia - a first in Singapore

Lin Yangchen on 07 Oct 2017

The Straits Times


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SINGAPORE - A bustling coffee shop in the heart of Bishan has a new set of decorations, put up on Friday (Oct 6): Every table has large decals showing life-sized photographs of hawker food.


And if you sit down and read the accompanying text in English and Chinese, it tells you that someone who has dementia may not be able to see coin denominations correctly, think they have been served the wrong food or ask for inappropriate condiments such as ketchup for half-boiled eggs.


Furthermore, 15 stall holders at Kim San Leng Food Centre at Block 511, Bishan Street 13, have been trained to recognise and help possible dementia sufferers in what is billed as Singapore's first dementia-friendly coffee shop.


They are also given a checklist to display in their stalls, explaining what to look out for, and with advice to be polite and to let those suspected to have dementia take their time instead of getting impatient and starting arguments.


This is the work of the Forget Us Not initiative (FUN) run by local philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation.


Since its launch in early 2016, FUN has similarly trained almost 18,800 so-called "dementia friends" from 86 businesses, government agencies, schools, places of worship and voluntary groups, including those from the finance and transport sectors.

In fact, the coffee shop is only part of a larger effort by Bishan East-Thomson constituency's effort to create a dementia-friendly community.


The constituency has joined FUN and is planning other outreach initiatives such as school talks, training, celebrity roadshows and even an art contest for students, and aims to train 3,000 dementia friends under FUN within a year.


Bishan East-Thomson Constituency grassroots leader Edmund Lim said: "This is a way of educating our younger generation... to be aware of the importance of caring for our elderly."


Lien Foundation chief executive Lee Poh Wah said Singapore still has a long way to go in creating a dementia-friendly community. He noted that Japan, which started the concept  12 years ago, already has 8.8 million dementia friends, which is 20 times more than Singapore per capita.


According to Singapore's Institute of Mental Health, one in 10 people above 60 years of age here suffers from dementia.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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