Malaysia needs more aged care providers

PETALING JAYA: There is a need for more aged care providers such as geriatricians and occupational therapists as Malaysia transitions to an ageing nation, says Prof Nathan Vythialingam.

“If we look at the number of geriatricians in the country, it is frightening because we have fewer than 100 geriatricians for a population of (close to) 34 million,” said the Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society founder.

Prof Nathan, who is also an Honorary Fellow of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, said there is also a shortage of occupational therapists with only about 2,000 practitioners to serve the country and only four education institutes providing such courses.

He noted that there is demand for occupational therapists locally, regionally and globally, although the awareness on this allied health profession is still generally low.

Occupational therapists are experts providing rehabilitation therapy for senior citizens by helping them with their basic motor skills, strength, dexterity, range of motion, and mobility.

“If we are moving towards a developed nation, we will need more manpower requirements such as geriatricians and more palliative care professionals for aged care,” he added.

The Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine previously estimated that there were only 40 geriatricians in the country in 2018 with more than half of them based in the Klang Valley.

Meanwhile, according to data from the World Federation of Occupational, there were only 1,892 registered occupational therapists in Malaysia as of 2020.

This means there is only one occupational therapist per population of 10,000.

The Statistics Department estimates that the country’s ageing population is growing faster than expected, with more than 15% of the population above the age of 65 by 2050.

Meanwhile, a 2020 World Bank study found that at least 14% of the population is expected to be aged 65 and above by 2044, with this age group expected to exceed 20% of the population by 2056, giving it the status of a “super-aged nation”.

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