An enterprising property developer is already capitalising on Malaysia’s growing ageing population.
A news portal recently reported that a developer plans to turn Butterworth into a retirees’ haven.
The report’s subtitle read: “Jayamas Property Group to create niche location, as Malaysia heads towards an ageing population by 2030.” The report said Butterworth is already being targeted as a private housing development hub for the elderly, with medical and healthcare services.
Unfortunately, only wealthy senior citizens will be able to afford such services.
The Department of Statistics has predicted that the country may soon become an ageing nation, with 15% of the adult population above 60 by 2030.
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So, many more developers may take advantage of the growing need for retirement homes and services.
However, instead of these private developers, it is the government that should come up with a masterplan soon.
Leaving such care services for the elderly to market forces and businesses will worsen social problems: it will widen the gulf between the wealthy and the poor. The financial burden of having to provide for the care and safety of the elderly will also fall on their adult children.
If the needs of the elderly are left entirely to private housing developers and healthcare providers, the task of monitoring them for compliance with healthcare standards will fall on the government. This could get increasingly messy, given the questionable track record of property developers in the country.
The government should not leave planning for an ageing population to profit-making market forces. It should get involved in the development of retirement villages across the country and oversee healthcare staffing, including the training and appointment of caregivers and nursing services. It should address the care and medical needs of the elderly holistically.
The oversight of past governments in this area has not only led to a shortage of staff, but has also raised the price of caregiving services in the country. This has made such services unaffordable for the low-income group and even for the lower-middle-class category.
With barely a decade left before we reach this predicted 15% threshold, the country will grapple with many of these serious problems if we do not prioritise the needs of our increasing aging population now.
Hopefully, one day, Malaysia will be able to showcase to the world decent and affordable retirement villages that meet global standards. If Japan and several other nations can do it right, so can we.
We should not allow the care of our senior citizens to become the responsibility of profit-seeking private healthcare providers and housing developers.
If there is no action by the government now, the social consequences will be irreversible by 2030.