We urge the Government to review the policy (or the relative lack of it) on senior citizens such as financial allocation and quality of life, consistent with the ageing population

Press Statement
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Normally, youth and women are mentioned specially in various plans of the Government like the Eighth Malaysia Plan and the annual national budget. This is correct. But, the society is gradually aging. The Government refers to it occasionally. It has not gone one step further to have a systematic care of senior citizens. 

It is essential to formulate and enforce policy on senior citizens. We have to try our best to lighten the burden of young people towards them.


Now, the Unity and Social Development Ministry is mainly responsible for senior citizens. It has a budget of RM497 million, RM2 million of which is used for the construction of a day care centre for senior citizens. In the allocation of RM24.3 million for institutional care, only a small amount is set aside for 1,900 old folks. So, senior citizens take only just over one item.


Clearly, the Government must let us know the total allocation for senior citizens. Besides the above-stated ministry, state governments and other ministries may have their measures for them. Nevertheless, we need a systematic policy on senior citizens, catering for the gradually aging society.


Awareness of rights


Senior citizens have contributed to the society. In turn, the society should look after them. However, all must be ware of their basic rights. Hence, education is important. Not only should the Governemnt help to enlighten them, but also non-government organizations such as Senior Citizens' Associations must take up this challenge to make them more knowledgeable.


The life expectancy of Malaysians is similar to that of New Yorkers, just over 70 years, with women living longer. As more Malaysians live to a ripe old age, we have to change the retirement age. The retirement age of 55 that was fixed during the British colonial era is behind time. For instance, those who retire at 55, no longer go back to England with a few years for readaptation. The Government is finding it difficult to lengthen the retirement age; it only manages to increase to 56.  The long-term objective should be at least 65. This is one of the basic rights of senior citizens. 



* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong