GEORGE TOWN: A consumer group has called on the government to stop pushing the construction of private care centres for senior citizens as they are expensive.
Instead, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) said, the government should assist NGO-supported aged care centres.
In a statement, CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said the government appeared to be encouraging more retirement villages to be built, but added that this would only benefit a small segment of the society.
He said such private retirement villages were expensive, and beyond the reach of those nearing retirement age, who have little savings, especially in their Employees’ Provident Fund accounts.
In addition to many being considered unemployable, Mohideen said they also had to contend with health problems and living expenses.
He said the government should encourage NGOs to work with the Welfare Department as they were already operating day care and old folks homes.
“As long as the elderly person is relatively healthy and physically independent, it is advisable for that person to remain integrated with the community.
“The elderly folk must have facilities to accommodate their needs such as unobstructed passage and ramps,” he said.
Mohideen said the government should formulate a universal design policy so that all development projects are “senior-friendly”.
Giving the example of Singapore, he said its Housing and Development Board (HDB) had been proactive in ensuring that all housing estates are designed with children and the elderly in mind.
He said fitness facilities for every age group are made available at all HDB projects and lift buttons are designed for the visually impaired.
“Malaysia appears to be unprepared for an ageing society. We will not be able to address the problems caused by a declining birth rate and a growing ageing population if it does not start now.
“We only had 35 geriatricians in 2018 when about 650 were needed. Can the country produce enough geriatricians in another decade?” he said.
According to the Statistics Department, the number of those aged above 65 will exceed those below 15 by 2040.
The country has about 3,000 private nursing homes, with 17 centres under the government, a private retirement village operator said in September.