Experts call for policies to boost Malaysia's elderly care sector

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs to introduce favourable regulations and policies for the elderly in order to build a thriving silver industry, experts say.

Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing director Associate Professor Dr Rahimah Ibrahim said the government would have to create policies that would encourage the expansion of sectors that serve senior citizens.

She said the government could look into offering incentives to companies involved in the silver industry, and guarantee that laws foster innovation and market expansion.

"The viability of the sector will also depend on programmes that upskill and train workers to fulfil the demands of an ageing population," she told the New Straits Times.

In terms of the well-being and quality of life of the elderly, Rahimah said the government should make investments in programmes and services designed to improve their lives, particularly in healthcare services, social support programmes and housing and infrastructure.

She said investment in healthcare services could include funding for senior care facilities, home healthcare services, access to pharmaceuticals at affordable prices, preventive care programmes and specialised healthcare providers trained in geriatric care.

She said the government should also allocate funds for social support programmes, which could be an effective way of combating social isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

"Opportunities for older individuals to engage in social interaction, receive cerebral stimulation, and receive emotional support can be made available through investments in community centres, senior centres, food delivery services, transportation help, and social engagement programmes," Rahimah said.

Such programmes, she added, had the potential to assist senior citizens in maintaining their connections to their communities, which could alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

She also said investments should be made in housing and infrastructure tailored to the demands of the ageing population, such as providing financial support for housing options that are affordable, accessible, and designed for older inhabitants.

Rahimah said the government could also provide older persons with financial support and benefits which could help lessen financial stress and improve their economic security.

"Pensions, social security benefits, healthcare subsidies, tax relief programmes and other forms of financial assistance that are geared towards the aged population could fall under this category."

Additionally, Rahimah said it was essential to invest in programmes that would defend the rights of older adults and prevent elder abuse.

She said this could include financing elder abuse hotlines, legal help services, education and awareness campaigns, and measures to increase legal protections for older adults.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said there was a need to prioritise investments in the silver economy as the country faced a growing old-age population.

Speaking at the International Social Wellbeing Conference, he said these would include investments in critical sectors such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and infrastructure conducive to active ageing.

Malaysia is expected to be classified as an aged nation by 2043, with 14 per cent of its population being over the age of 65.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Coalition on Ageing chairman Cheah Tuck Wing said the government's action plan for the elderly should be centred around key themes of care, contribution and connectedness.

He said efforts should be made to enable seniors to continue contributing their knowledge and expertise, and to empower seniors to take charge of their physical and mental wellbeing through preventive health, active ageing programmes and care services.

"Support seniors to age in the community within an inclusive built environment and digital landscape while staying connected to society and loved ones," he said.

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