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Creating a support community for senior citizens’ care

With many senior citizens living alone without family or support, having a community to lean on for assistance will go a long way.

PETALING JAYA: With many senior citizens living alone without family or support, having a community to lean on for assistance will go a long way.

Gerontologist Lily Fu said based on her observation, more government-run old folks home which are equipped with nursing care are needed to help senior citizens who could not afford costly private care homes for the aged.

She added that homeless or abandoned senior citizens are usually sent to a halfway home where they are temporarily housed once they have been rounded up from the streets.

“Those who are fit and mobile are encouraged to look for a job to remain independent.

“Others are sent to The Welfare Department’s Rumah Seri Kenangan,” she said

Activist Kuan Chee Heng, who is fondly known as Uncle Kentang, said while there are cases of senior citizens being abandoned and neglected, there are also those who left on their own will.

Kuan said his team gets about one to two cases a month and about 15 cases a year.

“Due to the pandemic, most of the children have also had their income affected. So, it also becomes a problem when the parents are sick and bedridden,” he said. “Most of them abandoned their parents in the hospital,” he said, adding that they hoped that the Social Welfare Department will care for them. On what can be done to address the issue of an ageing population, Kuan proposed that the government make affordable homes and better regulations such as easier approval for old folks home. “The quality of the homes must be maintained and the standard of healthcare of the senior citizens must be enhanced,” he said. The World Bank said Malaysia became an aging society in 2020 with 7% of the population aged 65 and above. Third Age Media Association founding president Cheah Tuck Wing suggested a Parent Maintenance Act. He said building more old folks homes will not resolve the problem but instead he suggested aging in place with a community support group among one’s peers. He also proposed for a day care centre for seniors where the elderly are taken care of while their children are at work. In GEORGE TOWN, Rose Charities Malaysia chairman Datuk Lawrence Cheah said the close-knit group has 600 members, especially those in their 50s to the 90s. “Before the pandemic, we held multiple weekly activities, including having our centre in Codrington Avenue here turned into a digital resource centre where the aging community can learn how to use their smartphones. “We have members who live alone and we check on them and look into their needs, if needed,” he explained. Cheah said the centre has free medical consultants who can be contacted when there is a need. He added that the centre has a junior group of people, aged between 18 and 40, who help out by running errands or providing transport for the senior citizens. Persatuan Syukur Penyayang Pulau Pinang founder Peter Tan said he started the home 17 years ago after noticing there were many elderly people living on the streets. “We welcome those without families who need a home in their old age,” he said. Penang welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said when it comes to the aging community in Penang, some are single and do not have families, while others have families who live overseas. “Due to the surge in children going overseas to study or work in the 1990s and early 2000s and not returning, it has resulted in many above the age of 60 living alone. “This is why we need as many centres for senior citizens as possible to create a safe space for them,” he said.

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