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KUALA LUMPUR: Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor wants policy makers to take the issue of healthy ageing among the elderly into the mainstream and consider them when developing key policies.
The prime minister's wife said this was to ensure they could be active members in society and live with dignity.
She said Malaysia was predicted to attain Ageing Nation Status by 2035 on the back of an increase in life expectancy arising from better healthcare and improved standard of living.
"The growth of global ageing is a new and evolving phenomenon representing a significant challenge for us. Hence, we must be prepared with the right policies and practices to address them," said Rosmah when opening the First World Congress on Healthy Ageing 2012 here today.
In her keynote address, she noted that in the case of Malaysia, it was forecast that it would have more middle-aged adults and elderly people among its population in the next 20 years.
"We need to start formulating their future, not least their role in our society before they turn 60," she said at the event which was attended by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin and Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society president and congress organising chairman, Associate Professor Nathan Vytialingam.
Against the backdrop of the current modern society and lifestyle, Rosmah said that growing old was much more challenging if it was not complemented with good health, especially at an early age.
She pointed out that many young people nowadays were involved in non- beneficial activities such as risky road races, excessive drinking and drug use which not only harmed society but also deteriorated their own health.
"These individual behaviours and environmental factors can be modified, and the responsibility lies with all of us...we need to collectively do our part to foster the discipline and lifestyle that promote good health to ensure that we age gracefully."
Rosmah stressed that healthy individuals did not just appear as "they observe a disciplined lifestyle from an early age consistently".
"We need to think of healthy ageing from childhood," she said, adding that parents, family members and leaders had the task of influencing people closest to them to observe a healthy lifestyle from an earlier age.
Rosmah also spoke on the Permata Negara programme focusing on Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) that provides special opportunities for children below the age of five, from rural and urban families in the lower socio-economic group, to experience a holistic learning environment.
She said there were currently more than 600 ECEC centres nationwide rolled out within a span of five years, with the programme's premises having been validated in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and New Zealand.
The four-day congress attended by nearly 1,000 participants from 39 countries will discuss the importance of promoting healthy and active ageing at all stages of life as a basis for enhanced productivity in the Asia Pacific. -- BERNAMA