When I’m 64…

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When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now…

Paul McCartney’s song was a tongue-in-cheek look at the more light-hearted issues associated with ageing. The reality is, regardless of whether you’re eight or 38, you don’t think about growing old. Even less attention is paid about planning our lives for those twilight years.

The number of Malaysians aged 60 years and older is projected to increase to 3.4 million by 2020 or 9.9 percent of the total population. This growing segment of consumers is likely to create a need for outpatient care such as living facilities for senior citizens, which at the present time, is woefully lacking.

The Twilight Years?

The key question that needs to be addressed by regulatory authorities and investors is: How do we take the current model of the Malaysian ‘old folks home’ and elevate its status to a regulated industry that meets assisted living standards while being profitable?

A cultural shift is imminent and needs to be managed. A time will soon come when Malaysians will outsource care for their elderly to third parties. By monitoring trends, costs, financing and benefits Malaysia should be able to ease itself into the seniors living programme.

An Aged Care workshop organised this month by the Australian Trade Commission focused the spotlight on a number of key areas necessary for elevating the current cottage industry state-of-affairs to that of a regulated industry. These included:

  • Infrastructure and operations – Current designs and operational systems need to change in order to elevate the status of assisted living in Malaysia.
  • Training and HR capacity building – Structured training programmes will up-skill vital healthcare personnel and will put in place a clear career path and for people working in aged care.
  • Policy, regulation and service models – Policies that cover compliance, enforcement and penalties need to be developed to ensure that individuals and other stakeholders are not abused in any way shape or form.

The long-term goals are not only to create industry-certified nursing homes – that focus on the final stages of care – but also centres offering assistance to people who need help with activities of daily living, but wish to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible.

Resident Napping Next To Aviary

As one workshop speaker put it, this is not a property play. With all the potential this emerging sector has to offer, private sector investors and developers need to see assisted living projects on a build-operate-transfer model as an attractive value proposition instead of the current build-and-sell model. Would-be players have to adopt a holistic approach to the business of aged care and everything about the way it is executed beyond just the buildings.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?”

Watching Others Live

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

View Part 2 of this series here.

Photo credit: Flickr users @notnixon, Martin Thum and Ian Brumpton.

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