Tender, loving care for the elderly

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Malaysia’s aged care industry is still in its infancy but interest in the industry is increasing.Malaysia’s aged care industry is still in its infancy but interest in the industry is increasing.

The life expectancy of Malaysians has increased by almost two decades since the nation’s independence. The elderly population is increasing and by 2020, just as the country reaches its goal of becoming a developed and high-income nation, it will also be at the cusp of becoming an aging nation. Meanwhile, quality healthcare and lifestyle facilities and services for the aged are still sorely lacking, presenting vast business opportunities.

Malaysia’s aged care industry is still in its infancy with a fledgling ecosystem. But with the awareness raised in recent years, interest in the industry is raising.

Various parties – including hospitals, property developers, insurers and trade groups – have indicated strong interest in this field, said Dr Chua Hong Teck, PEMANDU director of healthcare and low-income households (pic).

Dr Chua

“This is my 10th seminar on retirement and aged care since mid last year,” he said at Malaysia Property Inc’s “Invest and Succeed in Mixed Use Development” seminar held recently.

“Malaysians are living much longer, non-communicable diseases are on the rise, and the number of disabled people in this country is higher than countries such as Australia. The need for quality facilities and services for the aged is unmet. All these bring vast business opportunities for the aged care industry,” he said.

“Many senior citizens today are actually financially well-off but lack access to services and facilities that can enable them to live independently. There is money to be made and people are willing to pay for the right quality services and facilities,” he said.

The property development industry, for example, could team up with healthcare service providers to develop integrated retirement villages, projects that combine housing with healthcare.

Chua acknowledged that financing is a major challenge for aged care developments and developers are also not accorded tax incentives. “If you want to make money instantly, this is not something to go into; else all the big developers would have jumped onto it. You have to have the passion and expertise to do this for the long-haul. Big developers aren’t really interested. Only the small passionate developers,” he said.

He said that while the government is not able to assist the developers in terms of financing, for now, it is working on coming up with specific incentives for this sub-sector, “it’s not here yet, but it’s coming. But the passionate ones, they aren’t waiting.”

The ecosystem

To prepare for the growth of this industry, the ecosystem must be put in place. In June 2012, PEMANDU ran a lab that brought together 50 representatives from both public and private entities to create transformation plan for the sector. Three new Healthcare Entry Point Projects (EPPs) arose from that:

  • EPP 15: Mobile Healthcare Services – Providing clinical care at the comfort of the seniors’ own existing home (termed aging in place). Current project: Love On Wheels Healthcare Services Sdn Bhd’s K.A.S.I.H. (Kasih Atas Sumbangan Ikhlas & Hemat) project.
  • EPP 16: Institutional Aged Care – Transformation of nursing and old folks’ homes. Current project (announced on 26 June 2014): Singapore-based Econ Healthcare Group to build a retirement village cum nursing home (200 beds) in Cheras.
  • EPP 17: Retirement Villages (Elder Villages) – Development of communities with active aging in place. Current project (announced on 26 June 2014): Eden-On-The-Park is building the first integrated senior active lifestyle and care residence resort in Kuching, Sarawak. This retirement village will serve as a prototype for other “Eden On The Park” developments across Malaysia.

The current policies and laws on aged care are:

  • Under the Ministry of Health (MoH): National Health Policy for Older Persons 2008, and Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (Act 586) + Regulations 2006
  • Under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development / Welfare Department: National Policy and Plan of Action for Older Persons 2011 and Care Centre Act 1993 (Act 506) + Regulations 1994.

An Aged Healthcare Act to regulate the facilities and services on aged care in a holistic manner is expected to be tabled in Parliament and passed by the end of the year. The new Act will regulate the facilities and services on aged care to ensure a minimum standard.

The Department of Town and Country Planning is also expected to complete its Physical Planning Guidelines for the Elderly by the end of year. The main purpose of the guideline is to plan for the types of settlements for senior citizens to age actively, such as retirement villages and care centres (day care and residential), the relevant supporting facilities and social programmes. The guidelines include planning principles, design standards, minimum requirement for elderly-friendly facilities, and also related social activities such as communal farming and lifelong learning.

Chua acknowledged that ultimately, the state governments and local authorities are the ones that decide “a lot of thing”, such as the plot ratio, accessibility etc.

“We are also working with the insurance industry to regulate the mobile healthcare industry so that mobile and home care costs can be borne by insurance. This will make the mobile-healthcare industry more attractive to both the elderly who have insurance and to businesses,” he shared.

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