Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HOW AGE-FRIENDLY IS OUR CITY?

Sometimes one can't help but wonder whether our city fathers and policy-makers consider the special needs of older people when they make decisions on improving the city's infrastructure and public facilities. Do they study the demographics when they brainstorm at meetings?

Admittedly there have been some improvement over the past few years, but there is still much more that City Hall can do to make Kuala Lumpur an age-friendly city.

Here are some suggestions on how City Hall as well as the private sector (and also city dwellers in general) can make it easier for older people to move around in the city, and enjoy a day out on their own or with friends.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Thank goodness the days of the pink mini-buses and their wannabe F1 drivers are gone. It took years but public transport has improved tremendously with the introduction of air-conditioned buses and trains that run on schedule most of the time. There are now free shuttle buses serving Kuala Lumpur city centre and Petaling Jaya township. Senior citizens aged 60 and above enjoy 50% off all fares. Kudos to SPAD for these improvements. When we make enough noise, they listen. (Click here to read some of our previous complaints).

Not a single piece of information on bus routes and bus schedules at these bus-stops. 
All kinds of notices and advertisements, but no information on bus routes

However, information about bus routes is not easily available. Many senior commuters have no clue what buses to take to reach their destinations. They are not internet-savvy, so we can't expect them to go online to check for information. The design of buses leave much to be desired for the elderly who find the steps too high for them to board easily. Only a handful of buses offer wheelchair access. No wonder we hardly see any OKU out on their own in the city.

Facilities at LRT and monorail stations have improved, but stairs like the above can be challenging for the elderly. Not all stations have escalators and lifts, and not all are always in working condition.

PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS

A challenge for the elderly to cross busy Jalan Ampang at KLCC. KL drivers are not known for their patience.
The timing device at pedestrian crossings covering more than three lanes should be calibrated to give enough time for the elderly to make it safely across. An example is the Jalan Ampang crossing for KLCC/AvenueK. There used to be a 23-second time gap for pedestrians to make it across the road. The elderly and parents with young children would barely have enough time to reach the opposite side safely. Now that the timed crossing has been replaced with ordinary lights, there is no knowing when the green light will turn amber then red. The elderly will have to cross busy roads at their own risk.

PUBLIC RESTROOMS 


Only squat toilets at this premier department store, and no grab bars. A challenge for older women with knee problems to use these restrooms.

Incontinence is a common problem for most senior citizens. Is it any wonder that they prefer to stay at home than go out to crowded places where the public toilets are either in short supply or in a filthy state? There is also the problem of long lines at the ladies restrooms. There is no priority queuing for elderly ladies. And while on the subject of public loos, how is it possible that one of the biggest departmental stores in the country does NOT have seated toilets in their restrooms? Don't they know that the elderly can't squat because of knee problems?

SHOPPING MALLS


Taking mom out to the mall can be a daunting experience for both of us. Not a single bench to rest weary feet.

Seniors enjoy walking around in shopping malls. The sights and sounds are a source of wonder and amazement to them, especially if they are visiting from the smaller towns. Unfortunately, the lack of facilities for wheelchair access, long lines at washrooms, and few rest areas make an outing to the mall an ordeal for the less abled elderly.

For those interested in knowing what constitutes an age-friendly city, here is WHO's checklist of what an age-friendly city should be and should have. How does Kuala Lumpur fare? To download the checklist, go to
http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Age_friendly_cities_checklist.pdf