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Sunday, 9 July 2017

(The Star) Senior citizens prefer to ‘age in place’

Most senior citizens in Malaysia do not wish to move from their current residence.

This shows that older persons prefer to “age in place”, or remain living in a community with some level of independence rather than in residential care, says former Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, whose senatorship ended on June 24.

“Some 77.6% of senior citizens indicated that they did not want to move from where they were living,” she says, quoting statistics from a survey conducted by the Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing (MyAgeing) in Universiti Putra Malaysia in January.

However, the survey also showed that over 80% wished to be taken care of by their children, followed by their spouses.

“The findings concluded that older persons in Malaysia can be categorised into four main groups – “poor and unable”, “poor and healthy”, “not poor and healthy” and “not poor and unhealthy”.

“So, various categories of homes are needed to cater for different groups,” says Chew, adding that the ministry welcomes the concept of retirement villages but says that they must be in line with the guidelines and legislations set by the Government.

She says the Government will continue to ensure the wellbeing of older persons and encourage ageing in place and independence.

“The ministry will expand community-based programmes, advocate volunteerism and strengthen collaborations with stakeholders in ensuring the welfare of older persons.

“The wellbeing of the elderly should be a shared responsibility between the Government, local authorities, private sector, NGOs and the community,” says Chew, who is also MCA vice-president.

And when it comes to taking care of the elderly, some have previously proposed that Malaysia come up with laws similar to that in Singapore and China to compel children to take care of their aged parents.

But the National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations (Nascom) says it is not in favour of this.

“Instead, we wish that the Asian value and culture of filial piety and taking care of elderly folks will be maintained and cultivated in our children,” says Nascom president Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh.

“At the same time, we also encourage older persons to maintain good health, have an active mind, and be financially independent. Retirement villages can also be a new trend of quality living for older persons in Malaysia,” he adds.

And for some senior citizens, income security needs to be looked into given the higher cost of living and number of older persons being left to fend for themselves.

“There is also the issue of quality health service and long-term care. For better quality of life, senior citizens must also have access to an enabling environment and infrastructure,” he says.

Chew says resorting to legislations to compel care for the elderly will be last on the agenda.

“The ministry views that the protection of the elderly can be done through strengthening existing legis­lations, instead of (having) a new law,” she states.

In April, the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for the first reading.

One of its main proposed amendments involves the widening of the definition of “family violence” by including dishonestly misappropriating someone’s property which causes the victim to suffer distress due to financial loss.

“This will provide protection for the financial wealth of older persons,” Chew says.