Friday, November 4, 2016

SETTING THE STANDARD FOR OLD FOLKS HOMES

Coming up the driveway to Little Sisters of the Poor / St Francis Xavier Home for the Elderly in Cheras, KL

It was back in the 1970s that I first heard of Little Sisters of the Poor (LSP). I had imagined it to be a place where the elderly poor would spend their final years looked after by caring nuns who had dedicated their lives to God and to charity work. Being young then, I had little interest and absolutely no reason at all to visit the place.

Near impossible to find an aged care facility in the city centre with so much greenery and open spaces.

Decades later and now the founder of a seniors community, I had good reasons to pay a visit. Over the years LSP had gained a solid reputation as the 'gold standard' for aged care facilities. It has become the yardstick to measure other similar facilities.

So when the opportunity came last August to visit LSP with a group of academicians from UPM, I grabbed it. The visit was certainly an eye-opener. To say I was impressed by what I saw is putting it mildly. I was awestruck!

Let me take you on a virtual tour of LSP.

The dining hall. Great idea to use cut-out tennis balls to protect against scratching the floor.
The reading room.
The hair salon. Notice the gleaming floors at LSP. Unbelievable!

The physiotherapy room.
The sewing room. Note also the natural lighting in all the rooms.
The shop where items made by the residents and volunteers are sold.
Lounges are everywhere for residents and visitors to rest their tired feet or simply to sit down and relax.
The tea room.
The kitchen - spick and span and spotlessly clean.
The laundry room. Adjacent to it is where clothes are sorted and folded.
There are hand rails all along the corridors, and in the lifts. Note too the wall phones on every level.
A peek into one of the rooms with attached bathroom and toilet.
Benches on every level. Facilities at LSP are without doubt elderly-centred.
At the cafeteria listening to Sister share about LSP.
The main hall where the residents were enjoying some performances when we dropped in.
Colour drawings by the residents.
Fun activities to keep the residents happily occupied.
Daily programme of activities for the month.
Group photo in the garden at the end of our visit.
It would be a challenge for most existing aged care centres to come close to LSP in terms of size, facilities and dedicated staff. Throw in cleanliness, efficiency and integrity, and you can understand why there is a long waiting list for admission to LSP.

Little Sisters of the Poor celebrated its golden anniversary last Deccember 2015. What a remarkable achievement! Pope Francis sent a special apostolic blessing to mark the auspicious occasion.

With the proposed Aged Healthcare Act to be introduced next year, the elderly in old folks home and nursing homes in Malaysia can look forward to better care and better facilities. Aged care centres that fail to meet the stipulated standards will face stiff penalties. They will also have to be licensed and registered.

I can almost see the elderly clapping their hands with glee and jumping for joy! It's been a long time coming.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TAKE A STAND AGAINST AGEISM

Negative stereotyping of older adults often leads to discrimination against them. 
If you are 60 and above, you are likely to have encountered instances of ageism at one time or another. Not only are older people discriminated against by banks and other financial institutions, but also at the work-place and in the job market. Indeed, older people face age discrimination on a daily basis. Bus drivers yell at them, shop assistants ignore them, medical professionals don't take their pains and aches seriously, EPF stops giving you interest on your retirement funds when you reach 75, ...the list goes on. Even at home, elderly parents find that no one listens to them. Their advice is often not sought for family decisions. They are head of the family only in name.

All this is based on negative perceptions and stereotyping of older people as frail, senile and unproductive, and a drain on the nation's welfare resources.

The New 80s - still active and certainly still able to contribute to society. What more those in their 60s and 70s?! Don't write off older adults as useless and past their productive shelf life.

And this is despite the fact that people are now living longer and healthier, thanks to advances made in medicine, science and technology. 60 is the new 40, and 80 is the new 60. They may have reached retirement age, but are still capable of contributing to society if given the opportunity to work or serve.

POWER and MONEY speak louder than age. Older people in positions of influence and authority, and have vast financial resources at their disposal can still command respect everywhere they go. These are the blessed ones. They can take care of themselves in their old age. It's the rest of the ageing populace that we should make a stand for. They are the voiceless ones, the silent majority who feel disadvantaged and powerless to fight against ageism.

But change is inevitable. The number of older persons is growing and this silver wave can't be stopped. (I am loath to use the word 'tsunami' as it gives a negative connotation to the rise in the elderly population.)


By 2035, the number of people aged 60 and above will have accounted for 15% of the total population in Malaysia. The country is heading towards ageing country status. The government is aware of what needs to be done to meet the demands and challenges of an ageing population, but implementation is painfully slow. The private sector has yet to fully acknowledge the impact this shift in demographics will have on the work force and on the economy.

The time will come when all of us will have to wake up to the reality that global ageing is here to stay. It is in the interest of everyone, especially the younger generation, to ensure that discriminatory practices against older people be removed. Any policies that uphold the rights of older people will ultimately benefit the young of today as they too will grow old one day. To take this one step further, when a country takes good care of its elderly population, everyone benefits.


The government wants to encourage active, independent and healthy ageing. So do all older people. For this to be successful, any form of discrimination against older people must be removed, and every bit of help be given to enable them to continue working and supporting themselves for as long as possible.

So kudos to the United Nations for taking a stand against ageism and making it the theme for International Day of Older Persons 2016.

For more voices against ageism, go to HelpAge International