PETALING JAYA: Living facilities for senior citizens will be more user-friendly and accessible, with government guidelines on such standards to be ready soon.
The Physical Planning Guidelines for the Elderly is being drafted by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.
Such plans will be timely with the expected growth in demand for retirement villages, homes and care centres, given the longer life expectancy of Malaysians and the country’s ageing population.
“It will guide government agencies, local authorities, developers, private companies and non-governmental organisations in preparing settlements and facilities for senior citizens.
“The guidelines are expected to be presented to the National Council for Local Government this year.
“After that, they will be brought to each state’s planning committee to be adopted at the local level,” the ministry told Sunday Star.
Among others, the guidelines will focus on site planning, building design and provision of facilities in three types of settlements for the elderly, namely, new housing construction and retrofitting of existing homes, senior care centres and retirement villages.
A senior citizen or retirement village is a planned area where within its boundaries, elements of accommodation and support services exist.
Residents live there voluntarily, whether on a long-term or temporary basis.
Under the proposed guidelines, retirement villages and other settlements must include elderly-friendly elements such as suitable height levels of electrical switches and windows for wheelchair users, as well as pedestrian crossings with sufficient walking time.
“Senior citizen settlements must also be easily accessible and reached by public transport, and close to facilities such as hospitals, parks and shoplots.
“The location of facilities should be within reach and easily accessed with a network of interconnecting footpaths, safe, convenient and without any obstacles,” the department said.
Once adopted, the guidelines will be enforced on new developments.
As for existing old folk’s homes, it will be up to the state and local authorities to impose such requirements.
“Local authorities may impose conditions under the guidelines at the planning permission stage for the buildings. If these conditions are not complied with, action can be taken under the Town and Country Planning Act or Building By Laws,” added the ministry.
The proposed guidelines will further boost the quality of life for senior citizens, especially when coupled with the Health Ministry’s proposed Aged Healthcare Act, which is expected to be tabled this year.
The new Act will put a stop to squalid conditions in old folk’s homes by penalising operators that provide inadequate care and facilities for their residents.
Former Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said the need for senior citizen homes and settlements is expected to increase until 2030.
“Far-sighted developers know there will be an increase in demand for retirement villages and homes.
“In fact, housing developers have to consider our ageing society if they want to stay competitive,” she said.
While the ministry welcomed the concept of retirement villages in Malaysia, she said such settlements should be built according to the requirements set by the authorities.
Meanwhile, developers have already taken steps to tap into the potential market for retiree settlements.
Real Estate And Housing Deve-lopers’ Association patron and immediate former president Datuk Seri Michael Yam said many big developers have been planning to include retirement homes as one of the components in their large mixed developments.
“By 2030, when an estimated 15.3% of the Malaysian population or 4.9 million are aged 60 and above, we will be an ageing nation,” he said.
However, he added that the cost of such properties may be proportionately higher with the features required for them to be elderly-friendly.
It was reported that 10% of the Malaysian population is projected to be aged 60 and above in three years’ time.
By 2050, one in four people in Malaysia will be aged 65 and above, making up 24% of the population.
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