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IT’S CRUMBS AGAIN FOR SENIORS, LAMENTS ADVOCATE

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KUALA LUMPUR: Gerontologist and advocate for seniors, Lily Fu (pic), wishes there are more funds for the elderly.

“Well, a bit of good news for some sectors but, generally, crumbs again for seniors. Not much to cheer about.

“If only we had a minister or an agency on aging to speak out for older people.

“All of us will age, and we also have elderly parents and grandparents. Most of the MPs are not spring chickens either.

“Why are the needs of the elderly often ignored or overlooked?” she lamented after the revised Budget 2023 was tabled at Parliament on Friday.

Fu is disappointed that there was no mention of age-friendly facilities and infrastructure or tax incentives for companies to employ older persons.

“There was no mention of special digital literacy programmes to help seniors grapple with technology.

“There was no tax allocation for families looking after the elderly who need long-term care or those with comorbidities.

“I feel that most of the allocations are catered for the B40 group,” said the 75-year-old, who is also the founder of Seniors Aloud, an online network of senior citizens.

Malaysia entered an ageing society in 2020.

With the population of its senior citizens (age 65 and above) standing at 7.3% now, the country is expected to enter an aged society about 21 years from now and eventually turn into a super-aged society in 2056.

The process is faster than previously projected due to a declining fertility rate and low birth rate.

According to the Statistics Department, a total of 439,744 babies were born in 2021, a 6.7% (31,760 births) drop from the previous year.

The Total Fertility Rate has also shown a declining trend from 4.9 children per woman of childbearing age (15 to 49 years) in 1970 to 1.7 in 2021.

Despite the Budget 2023 not targeting many goodies for senior citizens, retired teacher Josephine Odela Soosay Raj, 82, said she is still glad that overall, the budget benefits most Malaysians.

“From what I see, the budget will enable our country to move into a new phase that will see more foreign investors coming in.

“I’m also pleased that our Prime Minister is looking at the needs of the younger generation. He spoke about the problem of pornography and upgrading schools in rural areas.

“So for me, I feel that our country will have a new image,” said the former teacher of SK St Theresa 1 here.

The grandmother of five is happy about the government’s focus on the welfare of padi farmers and rubber tappers.

“A lot of money will be spent to upgrade clinics and hospitals and repair roads in flood-prone areas.

“I don’t mind that the senior citizens’ interests are left aside for now.

“Let our leader see to the needs of others. Once that’s in place, he should see to our needs,” she added.

(The above article was first published in The Star on Sunday 26 Feb 2023. The comments were made in response to the PM’s Budget Speech delivered in Parliament on Fri 24 Feb.)

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