Azalina: Malaysia has to find ways to better manage its senior citizens

The Member of Parliament for Pengerang, Johor, is on a personal crusade in dealing with the ageing population. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
The Member of Parliament for Pengerang, Johor, is on a personal crusade in dealing with the ageing population. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Like many developed and developing nations of the world, Malaysia too is heading towards an ageing society, with 15 per cent of the population expected to be 60 and above by 2030.

This scenario is actually an inevitable downside of Malaysia’s very own success in providing good primary public health care, food safety and protection against infectious diseases via vaccinations since achieving independence 60 years ago.

The government’s effort in providing adequate healthcare has helped increase the average Malaysian life expectancy by 20 years — 73 years for males and 78 years for females.

The rising ageing population in the country will have implications in areas such as healthcare, financial services, city planning and social services, pointed out Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said who is the Deputy Speaker of Dewan Rakyat.

Her biggest concern is that unlike other better-prepared countries like Japan in managing senior citizens, Malaysia appears to be a novice in caring for the aged, with the lack of professionals in managing them being the biggest setback.

The Member of Parliament for Pengerang, Johor, is on a personal crusade in dealing with the ageing population. She has started her own efforts in helping senior citizens at her own constituency through the Pengerang Parliamentary Constituency Active Partner (Rakan Aktif Parlimen Pengerang) setup.

“At present, the country has only some 40 geriatricians and 2000 occupational therapists who focus on the care of elderly adults,” she said.

She opined that the country needs more such professionals to handle and treat senior citizens to ensure their quality of life are taken care of and added that it is important to keep each and every one of them active.

“Besides that, we need to have special physical assessment protocols and exercise prescriptions for senior citizens,” she added.

On the centre for the senior citizens at her constituency, she said the centre is open to senior citizens who are 60 and above besides being the first-of-its-kind that features exercise machines using Japanese and Italian technologies.

The centre places emphasis on dynamic balance protocol where participants will undergo an individual exercise programme tailored for them.

“We have also initiated a home health care programme called ‘Penggerak Kesihatan Komuniti’ (Community Health Movement) to train all Malaysians on the know-how to look after the elderly, namely in wheelchair safety,  basic first aid, and bed mobilisation and position transition aspects.

“These programmes will educate family members to take care of their old folks when at home,” she added.

Prior to this, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was reported as saying that more Malaysians will live longer and contribute towards an ageing society in the near future.

Dr Mahathir, 95, said the contributing factor for this scenario is that Malaysians were living beyond the average life span, added with a relatively healthy population and a decent healthcare system compared with many of the developing countries.

President of Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) Dr Wong Teck Wee was reported as saying recently that the quality of care for the aged remains “very poor”.

“Malaysia should set up more day-care centres where children can drop off their elderly parents before they go to work and pick them up after work.

“Meantime, the elderly person gets the opportunity to interact with others, be fed, and given simple treatments (for their ailments),” he added. — Bernama

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