On 26 March, the Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS) in partnership with Bayer Co. (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd conducted the ‘Malaysia’s Ageing Population and the Value of Health Innovation’ forum.

Officiated by YB Datuk Seri Dr Jeyaindran Tan Sri Sinnadurai, Deputy Director-General of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia, the forum addressed the social and economic challenges facing the region’s ageing population.

As of 2017, Malaysia’s ageing citizens (aged 65 and above) comprise up to 6.2% of the total population of 32.3 million and is expected to hit 13.6% by 2030.

“The statistics have doubled in proportion, but more than tripled in number. Rapid population ageing in Malaysia can be attributed to the dramatic decline in fertility and mortality rates associated with longer life expectancy,” said Professor Dr Philip George, President of MHAS.

Rise of NCDs poses a challenge for healthy ageing

Dr Jeyaindran said in his speech that while Malaysians record better life expectancy rates, there is a notable rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancer.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 revealed that 17.5% of Malaysians aged 18 and above have diabetes (11.6% in 2006, 15.2% in 2011), 30.3% have hypertension (32.2% in 2006, 32.7% in 2011) and 17.7% of the population are obese (4.4% in 1996, and rose to 14% in 2006). It is estimated that one in four Malaysians (1:4) will develop cancer by 75 years old, according to the National Cancer Registry of Malaysia (NCR).

With the rising incidence of NCDs, more ageing citizens will occupy the hospitals due to the complications or just simple become more fragile due to old age. There will be citizens with conditions that require more care such as those that become bedridden and need assistance in their daily activities.

Nathan Vytialingam, PhD and MHAS advisor, said that there are many challenges that need to be addressed, including providing homes for the elderly, professional manpower and creating an elderly citizens-friendly community. To combat these challenges, more effort must be put into the area of geriatrics.

“Carers must be properly trained, along with their family. It’s not just the professionals that need it, otherwise I’ve seen so many families suffer from ‘caregiver stress’. Public forums like this must be held to educate people.”

In terms of law, Dr Jeyaindran said that the ministry is currently drafting the Aged Health Care Act for Parliament.
“This will address caregivers, hospitals and elderly residences. Right now, the current laws are the Care Centres Act 1993 and the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998, but nothing in regards to the elderly. We are working very hard on it,” said Dr Jeyaindran.

“These and many more are challenges that require a paradigm of thought and innovation utilising a collaboration of government agencies such as the Ministry of Health, NGO’s such as MHAS and private corporations. We encourage the coming together of these entities to help tackle the ever-increasing needs of our ageing population,” said Dr George. MIMS

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Read more:
Ageing Asia and its healthcare workforce: An impending public health crisis?
Elderly will outnumber those below 15 in Malaysia after 2045
Super-agers: The secrets to thriving cognitive capabilities

Sources:
Press release by Pat-Lin Communications on behalf of Bayer Co. (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and The Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS)
https://themalaysianreserve.com/2018/03/27/malaysia-needs-to-address-challenges-on-ageing-population/ 
https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/09/19/new-business-opportunities-from-aging/