There is nothing that glitters for people in their golden years
PETALING JAYA: There is nothing that glitters for people in their golden years. They become more vulnerable, yet receive less attention. They lose their incomes and their health deteriorates, but they get very little support to meet daily challenges.
It is therefore imperative that a more concerted effort is made to make life easier for senior citizens, according to the founding president of Third Age Media Association, Cheah Tuck Wing.
The projections are not encouraging. In the decade to 2030, the proportion of citizens aged 65 and above is expected to double – from 7% to 14% – changing the demographic from an ageing to an aged population.
With a larger aged population, the pressure on the young to support the elderly rises.
Short of a more concerted effort by the government, several groups, comprising non-governmental, public and private organisations, came together to address the problem, beginning with the formation of the Malaysian Coalition on Ageing (MCOA) on April 3.
Cheah said the objective is to improve the quality of life for older adults through legislative, public policy, advocacy, education and community actions.
“We envision an equitable society for all ages, where older persons live in dignity, remain healthy, self-reliant, secure and free to commit themselves to others and society,” Cheah told theSun.
He pointed out that the elderly are often overlooked in areas such as policy-making, emergencies, and rights and entitlements.
Even the task of registering themselves for Covid-19 infection is difficult for some senior citizens, thanks to fact that they are largely not IT savvy.
Cheah said there is also a need for the government to re-look the elder care services. “In many instances, the staff are not properly trained to serve the needs of senior citizens, leading to abuse,” he said.
“Another issue is the discrimination against the seniors,” he said. “Once they are past retirement age, it is difficult for them to get employment, thus leaving them with no income. Even those who get to continue working face discrimination at the workplace.”
To help the seniors remain on their feet, MCOA has drawn up several initiatives.
“We want to advocate inclusion, to promote age-friendly livelihood and employment. This is to ensure that they have a basic income, thereby improving their living conditions in their senior years,” he said.
Another initiative is healthy ageing. “Given that older people are more susceptible to health problems, we want to promote a healthy lifestyle post retirement.”
Cheah said seniors will also be encouraged to be independent rather than rely on their children. “We understand that everyone, regardless of age, is struggling, especially under current circumstances,” he added.
He said MCOA will push for policies that address the health needs of older people, especially those who are at high risk of losing their physical or mental capacity.
“There is also a need to promote age-friendly communities,” he said. “We want to see more communities providing the necessary support to their elderly residents,” he said.
He pointed out that many seniors live alone, and there have been instances when one passes on without anyone being aware.
While there are retirement villages, he said, they mostly catered to the more wealthy people. “Vulnerable groups like the B40 and lower M40 depend largely on community support. Many of these seniors also prefer to remain in their own communities rather than in a home for the elderly, he said.
Cheah said the government could start by defining clearly how much exactly is spent on improving care for the aged.
“We should remove the portfolio on seniors from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and place it in a department or agency that reports directly to the prime minister. This will make the issue of senior care more specific,” he added.