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IT IS estimated that by 2020, 10% of the country’s population will be retirees. The World Health Organisation’s definition of the aged community is those above 60.

With 60% of its population aged above 45 years, Petaling Jaya is seeing more senior homes and nursing centres being set up.

Growing old does not have to be a depressing stage of life, instead, the city could cater to their needs and ensure the seniors enjoyed a quality life.

StarMetro spoke to Petaling Jaya city councillor and legal expert on town planning Derek Fernandez and Goldenage Welfare Association Malaysia (Usiamas) president Datuk Dr Abdullah Malim Baginda about possible plans to care for the aged in the city.

Fernandez said there were many homes for the elderly in Petaling Jaya but not all were well regulated.

He suggested that at the local council level, the zoning of land for the purpose of senior care could be done.

“We now have many homes for the elderly in Petaling Jaya.

“When you check these senior homes, they are in houses managed by non-governmental organisations or corporate organisations.

“It is high time the authorities provided incentives to those interested in venturing into the geriatric care sector.

2 Senior citizens taking part in an exercise session at PAWE in Komplex Penyayang Bakti.
Senior citizens taking part in an exercise session at PAWE in Komplex Penyayang Bakti.
“The authorities could encourage senior care in suitable locations and attract developers to invest in the needs of the growing market.

“Areas in the city are suitable as there are hospitals and recreational facilities.

“We should allow special land zoning – such as limited commercial with certain plot ratio and densities – to provide seniors with housing that have care facilities,” he said.

Fernandez said most senior homes were operating in bungalow units which lacked space for recreational purposes.

The seniors are usually cramped into small rooms and the homes are less appealing for the seniors as well as for their children who would have doubts sending their elderly parents there.

“Many of the homes run with inadequate facilities. It would be costly to fulfil the requirement set by the authorities in such limited space. This results in ad hoc renovations,” he said.

3 Activities at the PAWE centres include movie time.
Activities at the PAWE centres include movie time.
On the social aspect, children do not have the financial capacity to provide personal care and they also lack resources and knowledge on geriatric care.

“Some of the existing homes are not attractive for middle-class folk,” he said.

Fernandez suggested that areas such as Section 52, near Filem Negara Malaysia, could be considered for the plan as it was located in an institutional zoning land. There are also hospitals and geriatric care facilities nearby.

The lower- and middle-income group should also be able to enjoy such facilities.

Fernandez said the Selangor Housing Board could intervene and provide housing facilities dedicated for senior care.

“The board can take the lead. It can work with the Health Ministry to create an affordable housing scheme to handle the care for the aged,” he said.

Goldenage Welfare Association Malaysia president Datuk Dr Abdullah Malim Baginda
Currently, the senior citizens are hidden in their homes and the city planners do not see them. Hence, public facilities are not catered to them. – Datuk Dr Abdullah Malim Baginda
“In Japan, Australia and parts of Europe, the government has recognised that the senior population was growing and that it would have an impact on the countries’ economy and their social fabric in the long run,” he said.

Fernandez hoped that the Petaling Jaya City Council would spearhead the plan.

Currently, there is a Care Centres Act 1993 under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to provide for the senior citizens.

The Government is also drafting another Act under the Health Ministry to cater to the overall wellbeing of the elderly. It is expected to be tabled in Parliament at the end of the year.

Datuk Dr Abdullah Malim Baginda, 84, said senior citizens must step out of the comfort of their homes and be seen in public.

“Only then will the town and city planners realise their needs,” he said.

“Currently, the seniors are hidden in their homes and the city planners do not see them. Hence, public facilities are not catered to them.

“Older persons’ needs are pushed aside. In Kuala Lumpur, we see beautiful walkways at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Sultan Ismail. I would like to walk there but I can’t.

“The older ones cannot cross the road. There is a need for more to come out, be seen and voice their requirements. The problem is the same everywhere,” he said.

Dr Abdullah said the among the reasons for the increase in elderly population in Petaling Jaya was importation of the senior community to the city from neighbouring states.

“Gone are the days when people looked for welfare homes. The children now can afford to pay between RM800 and RM6,000 a month to retirement and nursing homes to take care of their elderly parents.

“I look at them and they seem miserable. They are fed well but they look miserable,” he said.

Dr Abdullah said those centres did not have trained people to look after the aged as there was lack of training courses offered for the field.

“We at Usiamas have modules and by early next year, we will be able to start the training. There is clearly a need for such training,” he said.

Pusat Aktiviti Warga Emas (PAWE)

The Government had formed about 45 centres for seniors called the Pusat Aktiviti Warga Emas (PAWE) for them to participate in activities. These centres are run by Usiamas.

Zaidah Ismail, 85, who has no children and lives in a government-run welfare home, goes to the PAWE at Komplex Penyayang Bakti Bandar Sri Damansara on a regular basis where she enjoys dancing and watching television.

She loves to have visitors such as university students who carry out fun activities there.

Seventy-year-old Malinah Abdullah, who used to work as a cleaner, said her former employer introduced her to the centre for recreational activities upon her retirement.

She now voluntarily sweeps and cleans the centre.

Usiamas chief administrator Noor Hasina Mohd Amin said some seniors who visited the centre were neglected by their children and decided to live on their own at welfare homes and participate in activities there.

Senior activity centres must be strategic and preferably in the city or near housing areas, she added.

“The one in Bandar Sri Damansara is remote and it is not easily accessible by the seniors.

“They need someone to send them here. It will be great to have such centres in the city centre where their children could send them or is accessible by public transportation,” she said.

The requirement to visit the centre is for the elderly to be independent, physically able and above 50 years old.

Those interested can call 03-4022 2201 or visit www.usiamas.org.my.
Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/07/13/a-city-for-the-elderly-advocates-call-for-authorities-and-lawmakers-to-incorporate-care-for-seniors/#0ARBeAfV9CW8SoGf.99

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