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Twenty-three per cent of senior citizens apparently suffer from empty nest syndrome according to a local survey. — Bigstock pic
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AGEING is an inevitable process. As a society ages and the number of its senior citizens increase, the nation has to be prepared for a new set of challenges that will affect its economic and social environment.
In the West, the greying population has sparked concerns on increased public expenditures as a rise in the number of unemployed senior citizens means more allocations for pension and health costs.
The National Senior Citizens Policy stipulates that a senior citizen is an individual aged 60 and above.
A country is considered an ageing nation when 15% of its population is made up of senior citizens and Malaysia is projected to become an ageing nation by 2030.
Universiti Malaya Faculty of Economics and Administration lecturer Professor Dr Noor Azina Ismail says socio-economic development has caused fertility to decline rapidly since the 1980s.
“The decline in fertility rates has caused population growth to drop each year, while the number of people aged 60 and above continue to rise.
LOOKING INTO THE AGEING PROBLEM
In a speech at the IKIM Roundtable Conference titled “The Reality of the Aging Society: Causes and Challenges in Malaysia”, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia’s (IKIM) Director-General Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan says ageing does not only concern the government and policy makers.
“It matters to those who make this age group as they will face challenges that will affect them financially, socially, physically and psychologically.
In Malaysia, insufficient retirement savings is a cause for concern.
Individuals with no savings or insufficient pension funds will find it financially challenging to get through their old age, especially with the burgeoning cost of accommodation, food, medical expenses and other basic items.
Having to deal with financial problems at old age will also increase stress level and prevent the seniors from enjoying their retirement.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF AGEING
Challenges that arise as a result of ageing is not limited to senior citizens alone but also those surrounding them.
A report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states that 90% of retirement fund contributors do not have sufficient funds to sustain a simple lifestyle for five years after retiring.
Nik Mustapha says the rest of the community would not be exempted from the effects of living in an ageing society.
“Those who live and care for senior citizens with dementia or other memory impairment will be affected too.”
Besides suffering from visual and auditory problems, some senior citizens also experience ‘empty nest syndrome’ — a feeling of loss and sadness when their children leave home.
The National Population and Family Development Board’s (LPPKN) Fourth Population and Family Survey when compared with the 2010 population and housing census shows 23% or 538,000 out of 2.4 million senior citizens in Malaysia face empty nest syndrome.
LPPKN Family Development Division director Hairil Fadzly Md Akir urges for initiatives to overcome such challenges by strengthening religious and civic values so that family members do not forget to care for their ageing parents.
Senior citizens are also urged to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as encouraged to save up and take up health insurance as measures of protection at old age.