MALAYSIA is currently seeing a steady increase in the proportion of older people relative to the total population.
This comes as a result of declining fertility and increasing life expectancy.
The number of Malaysians aged 60 years and above is projected to reach 3.5 million in 2020 and 6.3 million in 2040 (about 20% of total population).
Ageing can entail multiple losses, including loss of work and physical functioning. Much as people want to be able to stay youthful and enjoy life to its fullest, there will always be some kind of fear at the back of their minds about getting old, such as the fear of mental and physical decline, losing a spouse, losing one’s income and financial capability.
In spite of these depressing thoughts, ageing also can be associated with many rewarding experiences. Positive ageing is a term used to describe the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about oneself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life as a person ages.
Research has shown that those who age positively are healthier, live longer and enjoy a good quality of life. How people manage, think about and cope with the challenges to some extent can affect how well they cope with ageing.
There are a myriad of factors that can influence people’s attitude towards ageing.
Our survey on 518 Malaysians aged 40 years and above indicates that seven main factors influenced the respondent’s attitude towards ageing. These include individual problems/worries in life, fears of disabling disease and long-term illness, longer life expectancy, old age care, post retirement financial adequacy and sufficiency of government financial support.
A majority of the respondents are in employment and the gender proportion (male /female) of those surveyed is almost equal. It is noteworthy that a majority of those surveyed stated that they would expect to live between six and 20 years more after attaining the age of 60. As such, it becomes imperative that people be adequately prepared physically and financially if they were to live a quality and healthy life as they move in the cycle of life.
It then becomes important to understand the general public’s perception on ageing as the dynamism of factors associated with it inevitably has policy implications (Government’s) and economic impacts.
PROFESOR DATUK NORMA MANSOR
Faculty of Economics & Administration