KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON AGEING (ICA) 2019
7 MARCH 2019 (10.30 AM)
EASTIN HOTEL, PENANG
THE FUTURE IS NOW: FOSTERING SOCIAL COMMITMENT FOR THE ACTIVE AGEING COMMUNITY
Professor Datuk Dr. Asma binti Ismail
Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
Professor Dr. Motoko Kotani
Executive Director of RIKEN
Professor Ir. Dr. Abdul Rahman Mohamed
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation, USM
Professor Dr. Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic & International, USM
Prof. Dr. Shaharum Shamsuddin & Professor Dr. Hiroshi Ohno
Coordinators of URICAS
Associate Professor Dr. Badrul Hisham Yahaya
Principal Officers and Head of Departments of the University
Keynote and Invited Speakers, Conference Delegates, Organising Committees
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
First and foremost, I would like to particularly thank Professor Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia and the organising committee of the International Conference on Ageing (ICA) 2019 for inviting me to deliver the keynote address this morning.
The face of Malaysian society is changing with people living longer than ever before. Our country will have 6.3 million people above the age of 60 by 2040, making up 20 per cent of the population. The dramatic increase in average life expectancy was not anticipated by demographers, and it raises questions about how high the average life expectancy can realistically rise and about the potential length of the human lifespan. While some experts assume that life expectancy must be approaching an upper limit, data on life expectancies between 1840 and 2007 have shown a steady increase, averaging about three months of life per year.
Statistics show that although longevity today can extend well beyond the life expectancies of the past, quality of life is increasingly compromised with age, posing challenges for the elderly, their children and the community as a whole. Ageing is taking place alongside other broad social trends that will affect the lives of older people. Economies are globalizing, people are more likely to live in cities, and technology is evolving rapidly. Demographic and family changes mean there will be fewer older people with families to care for them. With declining support from families, society will need better information and tools to ensure the well-being of the world’s growing number of older citizens.
Malaysia has a few national policies in place to protect and safeguard the wellbeing of the elderly. Among them are the 1995 National Policy for Older Persons, the 1998 Plan of Action for Older Persons, National Health Policy on Ageing and National Family Policy. The goals of these policies are to empower not only individuals, but also families and communities to provide friendly services to older persons effectively and efficiently and to ensure that the environment for the elderly and surrounding are supportive enough to enhance the wellbeing of the elderly. Most importantly, under the National Family Policy, we emphasize on ‘Family Well-Being’ that is based on family values such as love, caring, honesty, justice and equity
As such, Malaysia has taken the initiatives to ensure that the elderly continues participating and contributing in the community. We have set up more than 45 centres in the country known as Pusat Aktiviti Warga Emas (PAWE), or Elderly Activity Centres to organise activities for the elderly and as avenues for the elderly to socialise with the community. Together with the Central Welfare Council of Peninsular Malaysia, we have established Mobile Care Services to care and attend to the elderly’s needs.
However, these uncertain times bring about a genuine opportunity to build a more efficient and cost-effective system of care, with the needs and desires of people as the centre of the decision-making process. As this important work continues, it will be critical to have an accurate understanding of the older population and their pending needs. The first fact sheets should describe the demographic and economic characteristics of the ageing population. Additionally, while older adults are more educated and may have more resources than previous generations, many will not have the income to make ends meet. About 39 percent of all Malaysians age 65 and older had incomes that were above the national poverty level, but less than what they needed to meet basic needs, including housing, food, transportation, and health care. This means that they are most likely struggling to get by. If these individuals are barely able to survive, how will they fare in the event that they require supportive services, such as care in a nursing facility or home health services, which are quite expensive? Many will be unable to pay for this care on their own for the duration that it is needed and may have to impoverish themselves and need to receive financial support.
In the midst of these demographic and economic shifts, the challenge in going forward will be to ensure that older adults can age where they choose to with the greatest degree possible. The information on the basic needs of our ageing population is a starting point in meeting that challenge. By raising public awareness of the pressing reality of these important issues, policy-makers can be mobilised to think about and plan for fulfilling potential future needs of the aged. This highlights the importance of working towards a more efficient and effective system of long-term services and supports which are poised to take on the increasing number of older adults who may draw on it, offering them the choices that would meet their needs and preferences.
On this note, it is with great pleasure that I declare open the International Conference on Ageing (ICA) 2019.