Mahathir: Study practices of other countries in caring for ageing

Mahathir, the world’s oldest prime minister, urges the elderly to exercise their minds by participating in group discussions.

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia needs to study the practices in other countries, particularly developed nations, with regard to how to care for the ageing population, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We are going into that area where there is an ageing population. So how do you look after them? It is not just a question of giving accommodation but to keep them active because if they’re not active they sort of fade away,” he added.

“Most developed societies also have some funds to help the old, people who are unable to earn a living, and who need to be taken care of.

“That can be done by way of insurance contributions while they are still working … it’s almost like the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF).

“However, the EPF amount is barely sufficient to cover the long-term as old people now have longer life expectancy,” he said in an interview with The Third Age Media Association and Bernama News Channel (BNC) recently.

The full interview will be aired over BNC today at 11.30pm and will be repeated at 11.30pm on Sunday, 5pm on Monday, noon and 5pm on Sept 22, 5pm on Sept 23, 9am on Sept 29 and 5pm on Sept 30.

BNC airs over Astro 502, Unifi TV 631 and MYTV 121, and can be viewed around the world on the website,, Facebook and on YouTube.

The life expectancy of Malaysians is on average 75 years. Therefore, a person needs savings to last 15 to 20 years after retirement.

A study earlier this year, conducted by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), revealed less than 25% of working people interviewed believe they will have enough money to support themselves through their retirement years.

The majority said they cannot afford to retire.

According to the EPF, for a retiree to be able to spend at least RM800 a month for the next two decades (until he reaches 75), he or she must have RM196,800 to RM200,000.

Mahathir said a study must be carried out to determine how long life savings could last, just as other nations do, particularly developed nations.

He advised parents of this new generation to look after themselves by keeping busy and active as the Asian tradition of older people depending on their children to support them in their golden years seemed to be fading.

In order to be active, older people should participate in talks or group discussions he said, as this would exercise their minds when they talked about certain subjects or expressed their observations.

Mahathir, who has the distinction of being the oldest prime minister in the world, explained that muscles would deteriorate if not used.

“The tendency for them to do nothing is bad because when you do nothing, you don’t exercise your muscles, your body, and you don’t exercise your mind too.

“When the mind is not exercised, it behaves in the same way as the muscles. The muscles regress, the mind also regresses and becomes quite useless,” he added.

“When you sleep, of course the muscles will not function, and they begin to become very weak. As you become very weak, you will have the tendency to sleep more, so you will regress, both in mind and body.

“So that is my belief. It is not backed by any scientific studies. My observation, since I was a practising doctor many years ago, is that it is important to be active,” he added.

Mahathir said society must create the means for the elderly to continue participating in certain activities and do charity work.