A melodious dawn chorus is what usually wakes Dr Ding Lay Ming up in the morning.
The singing and chirping of birds from the nearby greenery surrounding her studio apartment in the heart of the Ipoh city has been greeting her first thing in the morning since she was transferred back to her home state about four months ago.
Ding, 56, says the Silver State is likely to be her last posting before her retirement in a few years time.
“As some born in Perak who has worked 30 years outside the state, it is great to be back to serve in my home state.
“For me, Perak is the ideal place to retire,” Ding told StarMetro.
Citing Ipoh’s good weather, tasty food, nice people and smooth traffic as some of the attractions, Ding, who was recently promoted to the position of state health director, describes life in Ipoh’s as “nostalgic”.
“Whenever I look out of my window, the green lung of D.R. Seenivasagam Park meets my eyes.
“At night, I usually sleep with the fan on at the slowest speed. Sometimes, it is without the fan or air-conditioning at all.
“This would be unheard of in Petaling Jaya and the Klang Valley,” said Ding who was originally born in Sitiawan. She previously served in Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah in Klang and also Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
On July 5, StarMetro reported that researchers and experts in the field of retirement living from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were “swept away” during their recent study of Ipoh as a retirement destination for foreigners.
With shared cultural backgrounds and languages, the group all agreed that Ipoh is an ideal place for Asian senior citizens to retire.
They attribute Ipoh’s suitability to its friendly culture, large Chinese community, language, laid-back lifestyle, good air and water, delicious local food, reasonable cost of living, quality healthcare, natural beauty, and plentiful places of interest both on land and at sea.
“It is necessary for us to preserve nature in the Ipoh, instead of constructing more new buildings. It is better to transform or restore old ones because they have so much history.
“Maybe it’s just my wild idea, but it might be good to let older people relive the past by living in buildings from their time,” added Ding.
State Local Government and Housing Committee Chairman Paul Yong Choo Kiong describes Ipoh as a “balanced city” with natural attractions, good infrastructure and modern facilities.
Yong lauds the idea of making Ipoh a preferred retirement destination for both locals and foreigners as suggested by the international researchers and experts.
He agrees that the city’s natural attractions should not be sacrificed for development.
“Ipoh is also known for the many limestone hills that surround it, other than its forests, island and seas. All this should be protected and not exploited any further.
“It is hard to find a place like Ipoh, where so many natural attractions can be found close to the city.
“Development is one thing, but we also need to preserve nature and prevent it from being destroyed in the name of development.
“We should spread development outside of Ipoh, and not have everything focused in the city,” he said, adding that this could also help stimulate economic activity and development in areas outside of the city.
Yong noted that a new airport is necessary for the state to bring in more tourists and visitors.
“The transportation links are good with trains, the alternative trunk road right next to the North-South Expressway and also flights to Johor Baru and Singapore.
“However, we still need to upgrade the public transport coverage and frequencies throughout the state to make locations more accessible to people.
“We need a new airport that is able to handle bigger aircraft, so that more routes can be offered to travellers,” he said, adding that the ideal place for a new airport is Seri Iskandar or Tronoh in Perak Tengah.
Ipoh City Watch President Prof Dr Richard Ng said Ipoh indeed has what it takes to appeal to retirees from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Japan, given its charms.
“Retirees usually look for a place that is liveable, equipped with the facilities and amenities, a good transportation system, healthcare facilities, shopping, and recreational places to spend their time.
“Both local and foreign tourists who have visited Ipoh will be attracted to the city as a place to live in.
“It is vital for the state government to expand the existing Sultan Azlan Shah Airport while waiting for a new one.
“More must be done to encourage direct flights from other countries to make it easier for senior citizens to come to Perak,” he said.
Ng said that transforming Ipoh as a preferred retirement destination for foreigners is something the state government should look into.
“The state can promote this as something that can bring more tourism dollars to the state coffers.
“Basically, they could be a market for senior citizens who are willing to spend time and life savings here away from their home countries.
“The state government can even plan on a tourism calendar to address the needs foreign senior citizens,” he added.
Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) Perak Chairman Tony Khoo Boon Chuan points to Ipoh’s charm that has won it numerous international accolades and lauded the idea of making Ipoh the top retirement city in Malaysia.
“Some might lament that things are slow in the city itself and they want to see more development and economic activity.
“However, it is possible for both development and retirement living to coexist, because there is still plenty of potential for development potential around Ipoh and its suburbs, which are not far away,” he said.
Khoo said that Ipoh, despite being the third-largest city in Malaysia with a population of about 800,000, has traffic conditions that are more pleasant than Kuala Lumpur, Melaka or Penang.
“Retirees could choose to stay around Meru or Tambun, where there is little traffic congestion,” he said.
Khoo suggested that, among other efforts, the state government should improve the state’s road network, upgrade the current airport or build a new one, and push for a commercial port in Lumut, to establish better connections in and out of Perak.
He also pointed out that the Federal Government and state government have to work hand-in-hand to push the idea.
Khoo said the minimum requirements under the existing Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme that allows foreigners to settle and buy properties in Malaysia might be too stringent for some foreign retirees.
“With different requirements imposed for each state, the minimum price of a landed property they can own in Perak was set at RM350,000 before 2017.
“Late last year, there was proposal for the price to be revised and increased to RM1.5mil. We are unsure if it has been finalised by MM2H’s Foreign Investment Committee, but the figure should be lowered,” he said.
“Firstly, foreign retirees might not be interested in purchasing expensive property here.
“Secondly, if the new limit is put in place, it will be a challenge for developers to come up with such housing, especially considering the high holding costs.
“Properties with such high prices are very uncommon in Perak, with many city dwellers looking at affordable housing for around RM250,000.
“So, how many developers are bold enough to build houses to be sold at RM1.5mil?” he said.
“Perhaps some changes in policy should take place beforehand to make it viable to draw foreign retirees here,” he said, adding that the minimum price for foreign retirees to own a landed property can be capped at RM500,000.
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