Cheah Tuck Wing
By Thivyamalini Ramalu
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 -- An NGO today proposed a separate division or agency to handle senior citizen affairs, saying their number is growing significantly.
Third Age Media Association Kuala Lumpur and Selangor said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has too much on its plate having to manage the affairs of children, women, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
“We see there is a need to separate the senior citizens from the ministry. For one person (ministry) to manage so many (portfolios) - children, women, persons with disabilities and senior citizens - is too much.
“… and the seniors’ needs cut across many ministries - education, transport and health. I think it is better to place senior citizens under a dedicated agency that reports directly to the prime minister like in Australia and Singapore,” its president, Cheah Tuck Wing, told Bernama in an interview here.
Cheah, an ex-lecturer, said that by reporting directly, at least action can be taken promptly to address their problems.
According to data from the Department of Statistics, Malaysia will reach the status of an aged nation by 2030 when citizens aged 60 and above will make up some 15 per cent of the total population.
At that time, the country's population is expected to reach 38.1 million people, and 5.8 million will be senior citizens.
Cheah urged the government to engage more with the relevant stakeholders to get their feedback before embarking on any implementation.
“Dialogues should be done with seniors and (the government) should not come out with policies in a silo kind of mentality. We have many intellectual senior citizens but the resources are being wasted. As such, we suggest more community centres for this group in each residential area so that they will keep themselves active mentally and physically.
“It is very important that seniors get engaged with their peers and constantly learn anything that benefits them so that loneliness does not affect their days,” he said.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government plans to set up a senior citizen activity centre, known as Pusat Aktiviti Warga Emas (PAWE), in every parliamentary constituency in the country in order to encourage active ageing among Malaysians.
Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said that as of now, 88 such centres have been set up, benefiting 36,931 registered senior citizens.
As a wake-up call on this issue, a one-day conference themed Life to Years: Longevity, Health and Wellness 2019 will be held on Oct 5 at Sunway Medical Centre, Petaling Jaya.
Organised by the Third Age Media Association Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, with the partnership of the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama), Universiti Putra Malaysia and National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations, Malaysia (NACSOM), the conference will feature talks by experts and networking sessions.
Cheah said the conference will have both educational and fun sessions. It will feature popular comedian Harith Iskander on the topic of Laughter is the Best Medicine, as well as health-related topics by doctors from Sunway Medical Centre and Universiti Malaya Medical Centre on urology, music therapy, animal therapy and spinal problems.
Set up in 2016, the association also publishes The Senior magazine quarterly with the desire to bring beneficial information to senior citizens so that they remain active and in good health.