PETALING JAYA: Senior citizens can contribute a lot to society, and the government should strive to eliminate ageism, says the Malaysia Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS).
Its advisor, Nathan Vytialingam, said the government must find ways to integrate the elderly into society and include them in policy-making decisions.
He said the government should look at providing accessible healthcare and employment opportunities for the elderly.
“When you withdraw people from working, it will lead them into having psychological issues like depression and loneliness,” he said to mark the coming International Day of Older Persons on Oct 1.
Nathan, who has nearly 40 years of experience in occupational therapy, also said that homecare for the elderly was lacking in Malaysia, adding that there were only about 2,000 occupational therapists compared with senior citizens that made up 15% of the total population.
According to him, having more daycare centres for the elderly could prevent them from going in and out of hospitals and their children would not have to constantly worry about the well-being of their parents.
Living with dignity and confidence
Former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said the government should encourage employment opportunities for the elderly to suit their age.
He said many older people did not have enough retirement funds to sustain them, adding that work could enhance physical health, mental alertness, and social interaction, as well as give them a sense of purpose in life.
“The income they earn will also boost their self-esteem and help financially sustain them. They should work so that they can live with dignity and confidence,” he said.
Subramaniam added that laws could be formulated to better protect the elderly while covering the United Nations Principles for Older Persons.
He called for the women, family and community development ministry to take charge of matters related to elderly people, adding that the issue had been recognised since the late 80s.
Recently, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president Mohideen Abdul Kader urged the government to draft a bill to safeguard the rights of senior citizens in Malaysia.
He cited the minimum salary of RM1,200 as one reason why people could not save enough for their old age, forcing them to take on multiple jobs to survive even after retirement.
“The average life expectancy of a Malaysian is 74.9 years and thus, even when a person retires at 60, he or she may hardly have time to enjoy quality life because age-related diseases would have started to manifest.
“The elderly need a caring government and society to engage them in community projects or the opportunity to work on a freelance or part-time basis. They have invaluable experience to contribute,” he said.