Caring For Penang’s Ageing Population

As of 2020, 7.1% (2.32 million) of Malaysia’s population are aged 65 and above1. The United Nations Population Project predicts that in less than twenty years (2045), Malaysia will be an aged nation, with 20% of its population over 60 years old, 15% over 65 years old and 17% over 80 years old2. Currently, Perak has the largest aged population with 15.3% above 60 years old. Followed by Penang at 14.9%, Melaka at 13.9%, Perlis at 13.1% and Kedah at 12.8%. By 2040, Penang will be in first place at 26.2% followed by Kuala Lumpur at 24.5% and Selangor at 22.4%3. George Town and Butterworth has the highest population of elderly citizens in the state4. Penang has an abundance of services to cater to the elderly population, from nursing homes, volunteer programmes, to government initiatives – however, challenges faced by the elderly population are equally plentiful.
 

Key Issues Affecting Penang's Ageing Population

Greater Financial Security For The Elderly

The World Bank states that only 60.8% of the Malaysian labour force contributes to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) which is considerably low compared to other high income countries. About 7 out of 10 EPF members had less than RM250,000 in their savings at the age of 54 (a year before retirement)5. According to simulations, this group of people would have less than RM1,050 monthly during their retirement years.

  1. To counteract poverty, the elderly population wish to continue working beyond the age of 60. Majority of which choose self employment, with 43.1% of men and 50% of women aged 60-64 years old classified as business owners or freelancers5. A 2010 study in Penang however stated that those with low educational background, had low paying jobs and low pensions still did not consider working past retirement due to poor health6. These groups of people are slightly better off as many of them receive income from the state’s welfare department, donations from visitors, and are supported by their family aside from their EPF savings. 
  2. University Malaya identified that 6 out of 10 elderly receive financial support from children, 9 out of 10 receive RM150 monthly2. The Penang government provides an initiative to assist eligible elderly with a contribution of RM150 a year, among other aids for the elderly7. For a couple without any support from their children, the senior citizen receives RM260 per person from the state government, while single senior citizens receive RM35011. 

The Unplanned Costs Of Growing Older

With Penang’s high migration of young adults moving to Kuala Lumpur or overseas, many senior citizens are left behind alone or with their spouse. Those with health problems and less able-bodied are forced to live independently, employ personal caregivers or live in an old folks home. Either of these options have risks and costs involved. The elderly are susceptible to illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s among other chronic diseases. Mobile clinics & housecalls are costly. With the dependency ratio in Malaysia rising, it is estimated that it takes approximately 10 workers to support one elderly person8.

  1. Malaysia Financial Planning Council (MFPC) estimates a healthy senior citizen living independently with no loans or debts would need roughly RM36,000 a year to live decently9. When there is additional help needed or medical care required, the cost increases significantly. For example the cost to hire a full-time helper is estimated to be around RM37,200  a year, for semi-private care in a private old folks homes, it can cost between RM1,500 – RM5,000 a month. This includes physiotherapy, qualified nurses, palliative care, flexible daycare, as well as cater to special needs cases. The assisted living cost immediately jumps to an additional RM40,400 a year9.

Some Elderly Dependent On Charity And Aid

Senior citizens who are not financially stable are forced to rely on charity and government aid to get by in their golden years. Reports show that there is a strong community around the Komtar, George Town area where they gather, socialise and receive handouts and food aid from various charities. Unfortunately these handouts are not coordinated and often result in food wastage10.

  1. Housing-wise, residential care centres run by charities are the only hope for those that cannot afford private care and are not able to live independently. However, tenants in these care centres have to pass a strict application process prior to admission10.

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Caring For Penang Ageing’s Population

Affordable Housing For Penangnites (coming soon)

Greater Inclusivity For The Migrant Population (coming soon)

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