Right to dig­ni­fied age­ing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Senior -

IT’S about time – that’s the gen­eral sen­ti­ment of se­nior cit­i­zens on the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to en­act a spe­cific law for the el­derly to pro­tect their rights and safe­guard their wel­fare.

“If we can have laws and hu­man rights for women and chil­dren, why not for the el­dely too?” says re­tiree Ah­mad Kamil Mohd Yu­sof. “Age­ing is a de­gen­er­a­tive process that af­fects not only a per­son’s men­tal and phys­i­cal health but also their fi­nances and so­cio-eco­nomic stand­ing within their fam­ily and com­mu­nity.

“Many are un­able to cope ef­fec­tively with re­tire­ment mak­ing those over-60 a marginalised group, with lim­ited or no ac­cess to fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, post re­tire­ment jobs, af­ford­able med­i­cal care or even ac­co­mo­da­tion. Chil­dren some­times aban­don the el­derly and so­ci­ety in gen­eral has a neg­a­tive per­cep­tion to­wards the el­derly.

“To min­imise the neg­a­tive im­pact of age­ing so­ci­ety and the econ­omy, it is log­i­cal to af­ford se­niors with as much as­sis­tance as pos­si­ble,” said Ah­mad Kamil.

Last month, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Wan Az­izah Wan Is­mail an­nounced plans to legist­late an act for the el­derly to pro­tect their rights and pro­vide them a sup­port sys­tem.

The law, say se­niors, should first and fore­most up­hold the rights of se­nior cit­i­zens that in­clude the right to dig­nity and re­spect, the right to free­dom from all forms of abuse and right to free­dom from all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion, the right to ad­e­quate and af­ford­able health­care, the right to old age sup­port, the right to em­ploy­ment as well as the right to be heard.

“Our views mat­ter. Se­niors should be heard be­fore any pol­icy in­volv­ing them is passed,” says Lily Fu, 70, who is the founder of Se­niors Aloud, an on­line com­mu­nity of over 500 se­nior cit­i­zens.

“A spe­cific law would ac­knowl­edge se­niors as a sep­a­rate en­tity de­serv­ing of re­spect and as­sis­tance. As con­tribut­ing mem­bers of so­ci­ety dur­ing their prime years, the ser­vice of se­niors should be given due recog­ni­tion in terms of sup­port in their later years,” she said.

Fu hopes that the law will also make it manda­tory for em­ploy­ers to (re) hire el­i­gi­ble se­niors and make it eas­ier for se­niors to ob­tain loans, pur­chase prop­erty and pur­sue higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“It must also com­pel hous­ing de­vel­op­ers (pri­vate and pub­lic) to in­cor­po­rate age-friendly fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing an out­door gym for all ages, in their hous­ing projects,” she says.

The law should also re­quire adult chil­dren to pro­vide care for their el­derly par­ents, says Juliet Samy.

“It is the chil­dren’s re­spon­si­bil­ity al­though there should be a dis­tic­n­tion be­tween sup­port and con­trol. The el­derly should still be able to make de­ci­sions about their life and liv­ing for as long as they can,” says Juliet.

The ne­ces­sity for a law, adds Ah­mad Kamil, is a re­flec­tion of the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the nu­clear fam­ily in in­creas­ingly mod­ern so­ci­eties.

“Its an in­dict­ment of our so­ci­ety that such a laws have be­come nec­es­sary. Where are our Asian val­ues, our sense of fil­ial duty? We have be­come a dis­posal minded com­mu­nity that dis­re­gards the se­niors. A so­ci­ety that de­nies them the op­por­tu­nity to be pro­duc­tive and to re­tain their dig­nity,” he says.

Ah­mad Kamil (right), Mohd Khairud­din Zain­ud­din and Henry Fu may be re­tired but they, like many re­tirees, lead full and ac­tive lives.

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