Press Statement by Research For Social Advancement (REFSA) on 20 January 2015:
Compared to Japan, Malaysia is a relatively young country in terms of average citizen age, but the situation will change in the next few decades.
According to the National Registration Department, by 2040, the percentage of population aged 65 and over is projected to increase more than three-fold that of in the 2010 population, and Malaysia is projected to become an aging population by 2021. By percentage, senior citizens (65 years and above) in 2040 are expected to comprise 11.4% of the population, or 4.4 million people – three million more than in 2010.
In collaboration with Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society, Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) organised a Roundtable Discussion on Aged-friendly Cities at Subang Jaya as a humble attempt to give ageing a more prominent place in public policy discourse in Malaysia
In an attempt to look into the issue profoundly, the roundtable discussion on aged-friendly cities held on 15 January involved several NGOs, scholars and lawmakers.
REFSA Chairman Liew Chin Tong said that making sure our cities are aged-friendly is an increasingly salient public policy area in Malaysia that should be given due attention by federal, state and local governments.
“The issues surrounding socially-conscious architectural policy are myriad, ranging from healthcare expenditure in the national budget to universally accessible walkways in our urban centres and countless other themes.” He added that it is time to make fostering aged-friendly cities an agenda for the urban planners in Malaysia.
Malaysian Health Ageing Society Advisor Professor Nathan Vytialingam said there were currently 55 Age-Friendly Cities where Asia has two Aged-Friendly Cities – Udaipur and New Delhi, both in India, but none in Southeast Asia.
He said there are eight areas which indicate a city is age friendly or not, namely transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community support and health services, and outdoor spaces and buildings, according to World Health Organization.
The professor who teaches at Perdana University said Penang has the potential to be upgraded into an aged-friendly city which offers clean and pleasant outdoor spaces, aged-friendly public transport, safe and affordable houses, and sufficient and conveniently accessible health and social services.
Meanwhile, Carol Yip who is a Chief Executive Officer of an aged-care industry operator, told the discussion group that currently there are 244 registered care centers and 16 nursing homes in Malaysia which are governed by the Care Centre Act 1993 and Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.
She added the Ministry of Health had drafted an aged healthcare bill in last year and might table it in this year’s parliamentary sitting.
Chow Kon Yeow, Penang State Exco for Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation, who chaired the Roundtable Discussion, said that the Penang government was prepared to engage with relevant parties to make Penang a more aged-friendly city.
To consolidate the outcome of roundtable discussion, REFSA will embark on a research program and produce a paper for consumption of lawmakers, policy makers and relevant parties.
Wong Shu Qi
REFSA Deputy Executive Director cum State Assemblywoman for Senai, Johor