AGEING in place and a retirement financial plan, complemented with good public infrastructure, are vital for all to have a quality life during their retirement, said two university dons.
The two University Malaya professors from the Medicine Geriatric Department of the Medical Faculty said living in retirement homes was a good idea but there were also lots of cons to it.
They were responding to StarMetro’s report yesterday suggesting for good retirement homes including special zoning of land for the purpose of setting up homes to care for senior citizens in Petaling Jaya.
Department of Medicine Geriatric Unit’s Professor Dr Shahrul Bahyah Kamaruzzaman said concepts such as the retirement villages had positive points and these should be within the community.
It would help in clinical work such as placing discharged patients from the hospital who cannot be treated at home.
A place within the community would maintain the elderly’s social network and social activities. “If it is located in the city, their children and grandchildren can visit them regularly, but if it is far, it will be troublesome,” she said.
However, based on experiments and findings, the department’s Associate Professor Tan Maw Pin said the elderly prefer to integrate with society while being near their family.
They suggested that everyone plan for their retirement early while taking into account the type of care they would need and the cost involved.
Plan retirement early
Prof Tan said retirement planning should start while someone is in the workforce with financial stability.
“Ask yourself can you grow old in the property and grow old in the neighbourhood that you have purchased. Otherwise you might be burdening others when even you didn’t plan for it,” she said.
Dr Shahrul Bahyah said neighbourhoods need proper infrastructure and facilities that would help ageing in place.
“Have your retirement plan in mind before you build a nice house for yourself,” she said.
Amenities in countries such as Taiwan defied age with good common facility standards for the young and old.
This enabled people to stay longer in the job market, support themselves and contribute to society.
“When this type of facility exists beyond your house then it allows you to age in place,” she said.
Prof Tan said growing old was perceived as a curse because it usually led to poverty.
“Many lose their income and exhaust their provident fund within 10 years of retirement and they rely totally on their children.
“A large proportion of people who are in nursing homes do not want to be there,” she added.
Caring needs and cost
Caring for the elderly requires integrated efforts from the experts and it varied based on the needs of the community.
There are several existing private care giving centres offering training on caring for the elderly.
Some of the trainers are foreign from countries that are well-trained and locally adapted to such communities.
“However, we need to integrate. University Malaya Medical training centres organise caregiver workshops every year. We invite those from the nursing care facilities,” said Prof Tan.
She added that cost was the factor which dictated where someone went when they got old.
“When you start to implement regulations and more requirements, the building cost goes up. This would result in higher cost of the senior care centres.
“The problem the welfare department is now facing is gravitating towards unregistered homes due to the affordable rates. Nicer homes are expensive because they met regulations and provided training for the staff and have registered nurses.
Dr Shahrul Bahyah said the majority of Malaysians would not be able to afford the expensive centres because they would run out of savings 10 years after retirement due to poor financial planning.
Unregulated and unregistered
Prof Tan said some of the homes wanted to follow the rules but did not know how to register the establishment.
“The heavy bureaucratic processes involved is posing a barrier to get the establishments registered,” she added.
Most homes are only registered under the Care Centres Act 1993 as old folks homes. Many were unable to negotiate the bureaucratic jungle or afford to pay for professional help.
In order to provide nursing care, homes should be registered under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
Residential care facilities often found it impossible to register as nursing homes, therefore, as the requirements were heavy, they would no longer be affordable to potential clients.
Prof Tan said the next step should be regulations for nursing homes.
Only a few nursing homes are registered as most found it difficult to comply with the Private Healthcare Act.
“It is extremely costly to set up legal nursing homes as no one can afford the infrastructure. I believe all these are under consultation in the proposed Aged Healthcare Act but we are not clear on what has happened to this,” she said.
The Women, Welfare and Community Ministry is also actively working with current care homes to help them register under the Care Centre Act.
Prof Tan and Dr Shahrul Bahyah said facilities such as walkways and pavements in Kuala Lumpur and other cities in the country were far from being friendly to senior citizens.
“There are a lot of constructions and it is a shame because it is difficult to walk on our pavements.
“Get all the stakeholders set up a committee to look into this age-friendly cities. This should be the first step.
“Government, Non-governmental organisations and private providers need to start working together. The elderly should be empowered,” said Prof Tan.