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Sunday, 9 July 2017

(The Star) Yes to villages, no if it’s expensive

The idea of living in a convenient, peaceful community after retiring is much welcomed by Malaysians.

And while many are receptive towards retirement villages, they want the price to be reasonable.

National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations (Nascom) president Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh lauds the idea of more retirement villages which will cater to a growing number of senior citizens.

“But the price should be affordable to the middle or lower income groups. These villages must also be easily accessible through public or other means of transport,” he urges.

Dr Soon, however, regrets that currently, property developers are more willing to cater to higher income groups with upscale projects.

For some senior citizens, he says income security needs to be addressed given the higher cost of living and number of older persons being left to fend for themselves.

A newly-retired businesswoman, who wishes to be known only as Ming, says she would consider settling in a retirement village if living alone poses a health risk.

In such a case, she says a retirement village based on the “assisted living” model would be an ideal fit.

“There is no one-size-fits-all for retirement villages. There should be different tiers and categories based on personal budgets and needs,” says Ming who is in her 50s.

She says the private sector could build high-end retirement villages with smaller, one-bedroom units in urban locations.

“Meanwhile, the Government can build lower cost retirement villages, similar to the PRIMA schemes,” Ming proposes.

All major developers should also consider allocating a small segment of their township projects for retirement villages within the same area, she adds.

And while she is a single lady, Ming believes that retirement villages are also a good option for couples and parents whose children may be living separately.

To Ming, an ideal retirement village should be easily accessible and close to the city, equipped with modern accommodation and cleaning services.

“It would be good if medical care is available on-site and also an in-house kitchen with catered meals,” she says.

Some Malaysians are also mulling the option of living in retirement villages when they are older.

Teacher S. Meena Kumari, 40, says it is not a bad idea, especially for those who are single, divorced or widowed.

“Communities in retirement villages may reduce the chances of people feeling lonely because, at least, they have people surrounding them, with friends who may be able to take care of them when they are ill.

“It can make a person more independent since they will not be reliant on their children or other relatives,” she says.

However, she hopes that the prices will be reasonable because not all Malaysians will have enough savings for their old age.

“Industry players should consider catering to middle income earners. How many can afford exorbitant prices when they are older, taking inflation and other factors into account?

“Personally, if I can afford it, I don’t mind living in a retirement village community. It would be better than being home alone and depending on people for help,” she remarks.

While many Malaysians hope their children will take care of them in their twilight years, she points out that not everybody will be as fortunate.

“Have there not been cases of parents burying their child first or cases of children abandoning their parents? We need to be realistic.

“Happiness is something you create and, perhaps, living independently in these places is a better bet for those who don’t want to burden others,” she adds.

However, some believe there are better alternatives than retirement villages.

Julian Ding, father of a two-year-old daughter, says while he is not ruling out the option, he is leaning away from it.

“I would prefer to stay in a mixed community with all ages.

“As a parent, of course I would like my daughter to visit me often, but there is no pressure on her to take care of me and my wife daily when we are in our golden years,” says the 32-year-old.

He suggests that instead of retirement villages, perhaps more senior citizen activity centres could be set up close to homes so that they can mingle with each other and still stay in existing housing developments.

“That way, the elderly can still be surrounded by friends of a similar generation and interact with people of other ages in their community,” Ding adds.

A bank senior manager, who wishes to be known only as Deena, says she would consider living in a retirement village in future if the prices are affordable.

“But given the option, I would rather retire in my own home and in a familiar neighbourhood, parti­cularly near a mosque.

“Hopefully, by then, our housing loan will be settled and we will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour,” says the 42-year-old mother of three.

She finds that living in a retirement village would be akin to paying for another housing loan, with it eating into her retirement fund.

“But I may reconsider if I am all alone at that time,” Deena says.