After 2045, Malaysia will be facing an ageing population where those aged 60 and above will outnumber those aged 15 and below.

Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister, Chew Mei Fun said by 2045, the two groups will be equal in number, with each group making up 20% of the country's total population.

"The old will outnumber the young from then on," she said.

Chew said the proportion of the elderly had increased from 587,000 or 5.4% in 1970 to 2.25 million or 9.0% in 2010, and was projected to increase to 4.9 million or 15.3% in 2030 and 9.6 million or 23.6% in 2050.

While she said an ageing population was not necessarily a bad thing - phrasing it as a by-product of advanced developments and improved health structures and systems that led to reduced mortality and increased longevity -previously, Health Minister Dr S. Subramaniam has said that the ageing population needed to be addressed as the health spending per capita has more than doubled in 17 years.

He stressed the importance of keeping the elderly functional, healthy and economically active to ease the burden on the government.

No current comprehensive policy to address issue of ageing

Apart from that, Malaysia's aspiration to become a top 20 country in the world by 2050, will be affected if latest findings from the Malaysian Population and Family Survey 2014 that showed that 9.0% of elderly were living alone while 20.9% were living with their spouse only, are not addressed.

“These older people may be experiencing the empty nest syndrome and this kind of situation must be given special attention as it may affect the emotional, health and economic stability of the elderly,” Chew said.

“As it stands, there is more of us from 6 million in 1957 to 30 million now and is going to be 40 million. But we are going to be an old society. Old, poor, sick, have to work and without children or grandchildren (by 2050),” said DM Analytics Malaysia chief economist Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid.

He stressed that Malaysia at present does not have a comprehensive policy to address the issue of ageing. Chew on the other hand said the government is preparing to support an aged population, but the public should also share the burden and prepare for old age as well.

"We must start from home to educate our younger generation about valuing and honouring the elderly, and strengthen this education in our schools," she added.

Elderly lack sufficient savings for retirement

Dr Subramaniam also mentioned that elderly people needed more medical care but many lacked sufficient savings for their retirement.

Chew highlighted that the importance of planning for their retirement needed to be made aware of. Findings by the Employees' Provident Fund showed that the average savings for members aged 54 were RM214,923 for men and RM162,296 for women.

Yet hospital admission for the elderly is 157 per 1,000 compared to 86 per 1,000 for the general population currently, according to Dr Subramaniam, posing a huge challenge to the government and healthcare system.

He previously suggested increasing the quota for hiring of employees over the age of 60, of which the employer would be paid a certain amount that was supplemented by the government.

"Indeed, we aspire to see older people age with dignity and respect, lead an independent and fulfilling life, as well as be integrated into their families and the community and country in general," Chew said. MIMS

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