SENIOR LIVING AND ASSISTED CARE IN MALAYSIA
Since the beginning of recorded history in mankind, children and adolescents have always outnumbered the elderly population. An aging population is defined by the United Nation as those who are of aged 65 years and above makes up 15% of the country’s total population. This new era has brought about many change and the world is now in the brinks of achieving a whole new level of demographic milestone. According to the United Nations World Population Prospect, by the end of 2050, the number of population that falls over the age of 65 are projected to outnumber those who are of age 5 years and below by 20%. The United States National Institute of Aging also proposed that between the years 2020 to 2050, the number of older people in less developed countries is projected to increase 250%, compared to 71% increase in developed country.
It is widely believed that the aging population within Malaysia is a major driver for the annual growth in demand for healthcare, increased health policies and national health spending. This trend of increased aged population is seen as a huge potential for private healthcare organizations and private aged centres to formalized aged care services, however the barrier that threatened this reality falls not only within the cultural taboo of aged care perception within Malaysian society, but also the high cost of aged care services.
During the launch of World Bank reports “A silver Lining: Productive and Inclusive Ageing for Malaysia” back in November 2020, Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamad, Minister of the Prime Minister Office of Economic Affairs highlighted that the aged care service sector could potentially become a new economic driver for Malaysia. However, the concern of aged care affordability has prompted Mustapa to urge private healthcare organizations to create an enabling market and regulatory environment for private aged care services. According to the Malaysia Statistics Department, the number of Malaysians aged 65 years old and above in year 2000 has recorded an estimated 1.4 million and by the end of 2020, it is projected to further increase by 3.4 million. Citizens aged 60 and above has increased throughout the years, with 6.3% in 2000, 9.8% in 2020, a projected 14% by 2044 and 20% by 2056.
In addition, economist Dr Kuperan Viswanathan noted that the affordability of senior care in Malaysia is increasingly costly, while 40% of the population within the B40 category (estimated 7.3million household) or lower income group could not afford luxury senior care services. The culture values of Malaysian society also plays a prominent part within this evolving business model. “We simple do not send our seniors to an old folk’s home / nursing home unless it is absolutely necessary because despite the growth of business opportunity, it is seen as an act against our cultural values” added Dr Kuperan.
The concept of senior living and aged care has been identified as one of the two longer term business opportunities in Malaysia, which could render significant economic benefit. The concept of senior living promote active aging, productive living and integration of community for healthy elderly citizens, unlike those of nursing homes which mainly focuses on the final stages of aged care. The key aspect of a senior and assisted living care will focus on integrated personal assistance within the domain of medical care and community engagement.
While researching about the benefits of senior living care, it is essential that elderly adults should be provided quality residential space, medical services, quality personal care and affordable cost, clinical psychologies have also emphasis on the importance of social interaction as a crucial aspect of senior living residences. Listed are the benefits of senior living care that could render better opportunity for Malaysian elderly citizens to lead an abundant aged living.
1. Cognitive Stimulation – Social interaction amongst elderly residence through social activities planned by physical and occupational therapist could provide cognitive stimulation which promoted healthy brain function and sensory stimulation. Research shows that these activities could reduce the prevalence of dementia, depression, and decline of mental alertness.
2. Improved physical function – Social interaction and health activities can help strengthen their physical function, maintain muscle strength and joint range of motion. Group exercise can also improve their balance, reducing the risk of common falls and osteoporosis related fractures and dislocation.
3. Mood booster – Socialization and physical exercise can increase the brains release of dopamine, thus enabling elderly citizens to feel engaged. Light gardening, dancing and evening walks can prevent depression and boost confidence.
4. Strengthen relationship – Diverse social circle within the Malaysian society and embracing various activities and cultural celebration can strengthen relationships, keeping elderly family members busy and enjoying life.
As the aging population in Malaysia continues to grow, average life expectancy for senior Malaysians are increased and senior living long term care alternative is effective in providing better quality of healthcare. Numerous healthcare professionals have also argued that assisted living can provide cost-effective alternative for a subset of elderly requiring long-term care due to illnesses. Therefore it is important for policy makers to enhance senior living retention policies and consider the implication of these policies for older adults and their families.