Start preparing for ageing society

Photo: Bloomberg

IN less than 10 years, Malaysia will become an ageing society as 15% of the population will be 60 years and older.

This means there will be greater challenges for the government, medical professions, service industry and family members to meet the future needs of senior citizens who are a treasure of knowledge and experience.

Are we adequately prepared for what lies ahead? We are already facing a number of issues and if we do not address them now, the problems will only redouble by 2030.

Health is a major issue for almost everybody above 60. The government should provide free annual medical screening and check-ups plus treatment at public hospitals for the elderly.

These should be supplemented by the provision of aids such as hearing aids, reading glasses, wheelchairs and dentures at subsidised costs.

Many, especially those in the B40 group, will be financially strapped as they do not have much savings. A recent report said that at least half of EPF contributors will have only RM10,000 in their savings at retirement age. This is grossly inadequate even at today’s cost of living.

There needs to be some social security mechanism to assist senior citizens in this category. This could include special subsidies or discounts for groceries, utility bills, and other essential services.

Lately, the “priority treatment” for senior citizens is being somewhat disregarded. It is sad to see many of them queuing up for hours at the Covid-19 vaccination centres, hospitals, banks, etc. sometimes even in the hot sun. This situation needs to be rectified.

Another area of concern is boredom and loneliness. Some are abandoned by their immediate family members or constantly being made to feel like an unnecessary burden.

This affects their mental health, causing emotional imbalances that could lead to fear and insecurity.

Malaysians are generally a caring lot, and it is not uncommon to see someone giving way to senior citizens at supermarkets and other public areas. However, it is still the responsibility of the government to start planning now to cater to the multifarious needs of our senior citizens.

In this connection, I wish to propose the setting up of a Senior Citizens Bureau to put in place all the safeguards necessary for the well-being of our ageing and aged population.



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