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Opinion

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Concept of home care needs innovation

MALAYSIA is fast becoming an aged nation with over two-thirds of its population expected to turn 60 (the official United Nations term to be called elderly) by 2050.

It is commendable that the Government has taken heed of this, and is proposing a Bill to promote healthy living among the aged.

An editorial in a medical journal stated that 72% of aged Malaysians live with their families. Sadly, this was way back in 1984. The situation now is quite different due to a number of factors including the rising cost of living and the mindset of the current generation – Y (born post-1980) and Z (born post-1995) – of Malaysian youths.

Let’s face the hard facts: Gen Y and Z are characterised as indivi­dualists, creative, talented but perhaps selfish, not focused and loners (they tend to spend more time on social media and smartphones). Are they then the ones to be ­counted upon when folks reach 65 years and above?

Why 65? The common logic is that upon retirement at the official age of 60, most people would still remain productive. Most, especially those who have been active all the while, would find it difficult to accept their new life as retirees so give them the benefit of five years to settle in that sphere of life. From 65 onwards, they could then think of consolidating their finances and deciding to move to a more conducive housing environment. In such places, they could live active and productive lifestyles which results in greater wellbeing.

What the new Bill should incorporate is a section for professionally managed retirement homes.

Aged care homes would be a good option. In fact, in Finland, about 11.4% of people aged over 75 years are in long-term institutional care – or in simple terms, nursing homes. State-level geriatric policy guidelines state that all elders in institutional care should be guaranteed a high standard of care.

That said, research also indicates people who usually go to nursing homes have significant chronic impairments and are likely to become more impaired over time due to several reasons including lack of opportunity to exercise and socially interact within the set environment. Besides staffing, proper resources, and the philosophy of running a good nursing home, having the physical environment and infrastructure for residents (like parks, lakes) to live in are equally important.

What I am suggesting, though, is not purely a nursing home nor a sub-standard retirement home but a hybrid between a nursing home and a retirement home – a retirement village.

There are some retirement homes in Malaysia now but they are quite costly and most Malay­sians would not be able to afford them. For instance, some homes require residents to pay an upfront deposit of RM300,000 onwards for a lifetime lease.

This amount excludes the monthly general service charges, which start at RM371, and other operational costs. Fortunately, the lease deposit will be refunded if residents decide to leave.

The question is how to make this affordable as most retirement villages are self-funded without major government support. For instance, in England, to own a retirement home, the government provides up to 25% funding. There is also a ­similar help policy in Ontario, Canada. In Australia, retirement villages have shown to reduce the cost of publicly funded health services. This is achieved through a safe and supportive environment where the residents are part of a close-knit local community and receive a range of services.

Since we are not a high-income nation, one suggestion would be a system where one has to contribute a specific amount monthly via the monthly tax deduction. Since this would essentially be a “by the people, for the people” initiative, all it takes would be a RM1 deduction.

DR THANASEELEN RAJASAKRAN

Faculty of Creative Industries

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman

Kajang