The world is experiencing an ageing phenomenon where the population of the elderly continues to escalate at an increasing rate. Malaysia is no exception. Of the country’s estimated population of 33 million citizens, 2.26 million are 65 years old and above. Statistics have shown that these numbers will rise to 6.3 million by 2040, which covers approximately 20 per cent of the population.
The reason for the increase in our ageing population is because over the last six decades, Malaysia’s life expectancy has risen by 20 years, from 54.3 years in 1957 to 74.75 years in 2016. This can be attributed to the country’s well-developed healthcare system that built with policies that focuses on improving the health and well being of the people. However this system is still largely reliant on the two tier branches of healthcare which are the public and private sectors that caters heavily on patient’s expenditure for either sector’s services. In this case, the government still needs to implement a proper strategic vision for national health financing to provide more equitable services of healthcare for EVERY citizen of Malaysia.
Given this situation, there is also an urgent need for the country to step-up public awareness on the needs of the elderly i.e. in terms of proper planning to develop the right infrastructure for the ageing populace. In addition to infrastructure there is also a need to look in social reforms when dealing with the elderly. While the Malaysian government has already taken certain measures to ensure the well-being of the elderly in Malaysia, these reforms are still needed to improve overall welfare. This would involve interaction or engagement with the elderly and their physical and psychological dependencies in order to properly ascertain how these reforms work best for their benefit.
Additionally, there is also a need to change mindsets of the stigmas relating to an ageing society, which unfortunately still exists in this day. Whilst families still have the responsibility of providing care for their elders, it is also crucial for the government to deliver more geriatric services and facilities that meet today’s demands. This includes, amongst others, providing more social activities, improving accessibility of home healthcare, and better funding for the needs of the elderly.
Moving forward and as a caring nation, we need to work with health professionals, government and policymakers to commit to holistic care of our elderly to enable them to enjoy an improved and better quality of life that they deserve.