Senior citizens are pleased that the Budget 2021 has taken into consideration the needs of the country's elderly. Among the allocations for seniors is increased funding for Citizen Activity Centres (PAWE) from RM33,000 a year to RM50,000 as well as additional tax deductions for employers who hire seniors. These deductions will continue until 2025.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz also announced an increase in monthly welfare aid for senior citizens, caregivers of people with disabilities and bedridden chronic patients from RM350 to RM500. Through the Home Support Services Programme for senior citizens and people with disabilities, the cash amount for volunteers will go up from RM150 to a maximum of RM400.
"Compared to previous years, Budget 2021 is overall a kinder allocation for seniors. It shows that the government is aware that the population is fast ageing and that the country needs to be prepared," says gerontologist Lily Fu.
"The increased allowance for caregivers is also good news. Carers give up jobs to look after their elderly parents and they should be given aid as well," adds Fu who founded Seniors Aloud, an online community of senior citizens.
Consultant geriatrician at University Malaya Medical Centre Prof Dr Tan Maw Pin says that the inclusion of vaccines with specific mention of influenza and pneumococcal vaccines is probably the biggest healthcare breakthrough in that there is finally a recognition that prevention is way better than cure, adding that it will benefit older adults most since they are the ones most likely to succumb to flu and pneumonia.
"It seems a bit of a windfall for older adults. Perhaps the vulnerability of our older population at this time has led to an awakening. The increase in tax rebate for healthcare expenditure for older parents is welcome, long due, but not enough as our older adults are universally uninsured.
"This goes along with the increased Bantuan Orang Tua which is a long due increase, but better late than never," she says.
The increased allocation for the country's 285 PAWEs, says, Fu is also laudable.
"Hopefully it'll be well spent. The government must also make sure they get qualified people to run the centres. Apart from that, the government must develop and spend on running regular, sustained programmes, activities and courses for seniors.
"Set up a national training institute for older people and introduce courses on entrepreneurial skills especially for home-based small businesses for senior citizens. This is especially important now, because of all the job losses. Older workers are often the first to go," she offers, noting the additional tax deductions to employers who hire senior citizens.
Dr Tan adds that another budget allocation that would likely to benefit older adults would be investments in online clinics as it reduces the need to travel and for adult children to take time off work to take their older parents to clinic.
"Overall, a thumbs up from the geriatrician. More budgets like this in the future years will do nicely, please," says Dr Tan.