THE elderly in Malaysia are expected to make up 14% of the total population by 2050, with those aged 65 years and above estimated to reach 7.5 million.
In 2020, the elderly population was estimated to be 2.4 million or 7.5% of the total population of 32 million.
Statistics like these prompted two entrepreneurs to set up a website and an app called Amazing Seniors to meet the needs of this fast-growing market.
Mature adults over 50 are an important demographic, and one of the aims of Amazing Seniors is to bring together organisations that provide senior- specific products and connect them to individuals in this age bracket.
The Amazing Seniors app was launched last November when founders Penny Low and Jasmin Amirul Ghani, both from a corporate background, organised a Seniors Festival.
“We launched the website in 2021 and received positive feedback.
“Users said they love how it has fun content but serious matters are highlighted at the same time. The app can do what the website could not.
“We are looking into including a chat function in the future,” said Jasmin at their headquarters in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The Seniors Festival also served as a catalyst for the app which provides information, deals, jobs, articles, and community event listings.
“Amazing Seniors is about encouraging successful ageing, and giving opportunities to those in this group through mental, physical and social aspects,” added Jasmin.
The mental aspect incorporates courses and activities seniors can attend, insightful articles and products as well as services that can benefit those in this category.
The social aspect includes listicles of activities comprising senior communities which users can join.
“We realised that plenty of senior communities conduct their own little events, and if you are not part of that group, you would not be able to participate.
“But with Amazing Seniors, if someone wants to organise a ‘dancercise’ lesson for example, they can put it on the app and others are free to join,” said Jasmin, who also founded an employment platform for mature adults.
Low said many seniors experience loneliness but most were reluctant to acknowledge this.
“We had a senior approach us because she wanted to organise an afternoon tea session, but she implied that she did not have enough friends to have such a gathering.
“We provided a space, and worked with her to make it interesting, with karaoke, games and food,” said Low.
However, both women stressed that Amazing Seniors should not be confused as an event management platform.
“Not at all, it’s about spreading awareness.
“At the Senior Festival alone, we had 200 people attending one talk, so by digital means, we can have a larger reach.”
While it can be a struggle for seniors to adapt to a digital lifestyle, Low and Jasmin said there was a definite increase in their adoption of technology during the pandemic.
“For us in our 50s today, it’s not much of a problem, but those in their 70s should and can benefit from technology too.
“For a lot of people, when they reach their 60s, they think, ‘Yay, I’m retired, but what do I do now?’
“The Amazing Seniors app prepares you at 50 to age successfully with the help of our business partners,” Low said.
Creating ripples of change
Positive outcomes in many spheres can be derived by leveraging technology.
One Malaysian social enterprise is providing comprehensive and affordable behavioural healthcare via the web.
Ripple Community is already on a mission to help people, especially in mental health and special needs.
They participated in the Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) Global programme under the Singapore International Foundation.
Ripple was one of six winners at “Pitching for Change”, the final event of the programme last December, and received S$20,000 (RM65,270).
Its founder Kee Joey participated in the YSE Global workshop last July, comprising webinars, peer learning sessions and business clinics.
Kee told StarMetro that its team of 16 licensed therapists aimed to not only provide intervention for patients but develop a holistic support system that was sensitive to their needs.
“What differentiates us from other mental health and developmental providers online is that we use a family-focused approach.
“All our practitioners are also licensed and practising professionals, comprising a multidisciplinary care team that can offer the most affordable behavioural therapy services through technology,” said Kee, who is also a clinical psychologist.
The ripple metaphor refers to special needs people and those seeking mental health assistance who play the role of “droplets”, while the “ripples” represent the individuals around them.
“Today, both the droplets and ripples are lacking social and emotional support, so we aim to provide this while raising awareness through community and advocacy work,” she added.
A virtual behavioural clinic web application provides not just family-focused interventions for clients but also develop a holistic approach and support system.
“The YSE grant was to enable us to build a web application to help children and adolescents with mental health and special needs in particular.
“A child with special needs, particularly neurodevelopmental disorders, will also impact parents and siblings.
“Our aim is to empower and provide them with emotional support,” she added.
The web app will help those who often have to deal with stigma regarding mental health and special needs issues, provide early intervention and address backlog at public and private clinics.
“We want to reach out to more cases and leverage technology to automate the help-seeking process because some parents of special needs children are on a two-year wait list.
“Some children may experience delayed development and parents suspect they may have particular traits of a disorder, and want confirmation through a diagnosis.
“The web app will offer features to address this,” she said.