Malaysia is ageing

Malaysians aged 60 years and above are now accounted for 8% of the population


As we gradually move towards the status of a developed nation, we seem to overlook one fundamental issue, and that is — our people are ageing.

Malaysia appears to be the fastest ageing nation in the world yet the further we get to modernisation, the bigger our city become, the more developed our technology gets; the more the old are being shoved into a forgotten corner.

Today, people are living longer thanks to the advances in healthcare, hygiene, water quality and sanitation. In fact, over half a century, life expectancy has been drastically increasing.

This should be a reason for celebration but, no, considering that growing old is generally not easy — especially with the current economic situation. As a matter of fact, older people are among the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the country.

Scores of them live on less than a ringgit a day and only 5% out of these millions have access to a type of retirement plan in later life, shocking! To put it plainly, a large number of them have to carry on earning a living doing menial jobs until the day they die in order to survive.

The UN Development Programme recently declared that 90% of the contributors towards the Employees Provident Fund in Malaysia did not possess an adequate amount of money to have a basic standard of living for a period of five years after retiring.

This poses a major concern for the country as Malaysia has now come to a point where people above 50 out- score the number of children. DM Analytics MD and chief economist Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid said Malaysians aged 60 years and above are now accounted for 8% of the population. This means we can anticipate people over the age of 58 to encompass almost a third of the workforce and almost half the adult population by the year 2020.

With this in mind, our nation needs to start taking a hard look into the wellbeing of these individuals. One way is by hiring older people who are still fit to work just like what Singapore did in July 1, 2017, when they made three key changes to the Retirement and Re-Employment Act.

These changes include rising the re-employment age by two years to 67, which means that workers at 60 will be allowed to be re-employed by another company as well as when they turn 60 and above, their employers will no longer be able to cut their salaries.

Apart from that, the government should also look into the living conditions of retirement homes.

A retirement home should be a place to retire after a lifelong service given to our nation. Therefore, it is only right for them to have a nice place to retire and not just a place to wait for death to knock on the door.

The government should provide multi-residence housing facility designed specifically for senior citizens that can be bought or rented (or rent-to-own) as an investment (to retire) where typically each person or couple in the home has an apartment room or suite of rooms where additional amenities such as meals, gatherings, recreation activities, and some form of health or hospice care are provided within the building.

A spot in a retirement home can be paid for on a rental basis, like an apartment, or can be purchased in perpetuity on the same basis as a condominium.

Our government should also work with other countries and international organisations to better the lives of older people so that we would find a society for all ages where a multi- generational society devoted to creating the conditions of life equipped to match the great potential that older people still possess.

By doing this, the old are able to enjoy a more human or rather “humane” living conditions and concentrate on playing their indispensable role in a society that is undergoing rapid and continuous process of economic and cultural growth.

This is also the only way concerted action can be taken to exert influence on the social, economic and educational systems in such a way as to provide all citizens, without discrimination, with the necessary resources to satisfy old and new needs, to ensure

the effective protection of rights, and to restore grounds for trust and hope and a sense of belonging to all those excluded from active participation in the community.

After all, we must not forget that many of the older generation once fought to make the country a better place for us. Many gave their lives in order for us to enjoy our liberty and our freedom today. The sad truth is that a majority of our veterans are living on benefits and family support networks, while others are shoved into some overcrowded or substandard housing facilities only to await death to liberate them.

We need to make a generational shift in how our society views and treats older people because the one unifying experience most of us share is — ageing. And since we are getting really good at it, we can either bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it will never happen to us or stand up as a “developed” nation and do something to change it — while we are still able to.

  • Ace Emerson is the news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.