PETALING JAYA: An economist has urged the public and private sectors in Malaysia to make early preparations to cater for an expected increase in the proportion of senior citizens in the country in the next 13 years.
Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there was a need for policies to focus on aspects such as a safer living community, preserving human capital asset, social welfare, healthcare services, as well as a sustainable retirement income and pension scheme.
“Early and swift actions must be set in motion as we have only 13 years from now to plan and implement the necessary initiatives to better meet and serve our older people,” he said in a commentary published in Focus Malaysia.
He was quoted as saying that senior citizens would account for about 15% of the total population in 2030, compared to 9.3%, or 3 million people, last year and 6.17% in 2000.
Malaysians were living longer and getting healthier, with statistics showing that they were expected to live up to 74.8 years in 2017, an increase from 74.3 years in 2011, he added.
Lee said the country should utilise resources efficiently and adopt new technologies to build aged-friendly and safe community service centres.
He was quoted as saying that the welfare department and private sector-run elderly-care homes and rehabilitation centres should think about designing and building inclusive and pleasant environments for the ageing society.
Cities and smart homes that operate on a remote monitoring and with devices to help older people live comfortably and have their needs managed with ease were also needed, he said.
“With regards to workplace and labour market policies, there ought to be a radical change in the institutions and organisations’ behavioural approach in the handling of the ageing workforce,” he said.
“This means rethinking public policies and business practices to develop aged-friendly human resource systems to facilitate participation of older workers,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that some form of financial incentives and tax relief should also be provided to households that bear nursing homes and aged-care expenses for the elderly.
Lee said the unprecedented demographic shift towards a higher proportion of the ageing population raised concerns about the impact on productivity, output and GDP growth, risks of spiralling healthcare costs and adequacy of public and private pension programmes.
He added that it also presented business value propositions.
“It is estimated that the global spending power of senior citizens will reach US$15 trillion (RM63.45 trillion) annually by 2020,” he was quoted as saying.
“Elderly consumers will spur demand for aged-friendly products and services in healthcare services, medical devices, pharmaceutical, housing, transportation, entertainment and leisure,” he said.