I came across the above in the New Straits Times a while back. It got me thinking. If it costs RM317,000 to raise a child from the day he was born to the day he celebrates his 17th birthday, how much would it cost to care for an elderly parent, say, from the age of 70 to 87?
I doubt any study has been done on this here. From what I've heard, most financial planners don't even advise their clients to allocate a certain sum to cover the cost of looking after their elderly parents, or paying for their healthcare and medical expenses. Bear in mind the aged have no health or medical insurance.
The bookend generations - the very young and the very old - have much in common. Both are dependent on others to help them, so their needs are quite similar. Except for a few items, the above list of costs incurred in raising a child applies to caring for an aged parent too. At least we now have an idea of how much it will cost us to look after our parents.
The cost can easily double or triple if our parents require special nursing care. What happens when adult children can no longer afford to care for their parents?
According to a recent report in The Star, up to June this year, 157 patients above 60 were abandoned by their families at hospital. A total of 205 senior citizens were abandoned last year. 95% of those abandoned came from poor families. Statistics from the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey conducted in 2004 by the National Population and Family Development Board show that about 675,000 elderly parents did not receive financial support from their children.
Isn't this shocking? But that's the reality of life. The family institution of past generations has disintegrated, no thanks to changing family dynamics and to an erosion of family values. While there are kind people who would adopt abandoned babies, who would want to 'adopt' abandoned old people? Babies are so much cuter and have their whole lives ahead of them. Old people are all wrinkled and nearing the end of their lives.
I visited the Tong Sim Senior Citizens Home yesterday. I was there to deliver provisions purchased with proceeds from past seminars organized by Seniorsaloud. It is heart-breaking to see so many elderly folks who are there because they have nowhere else to go. It is through the kindness of Mr Cheong Loy that they have a roof over their head, albeit on the upper floor of Mr Cheong's funeral parlour.
As parents we don't want to be a burden to our adult children. The latter have their own young family to take care of. Unless we are blessed with good fortune, we need to continue working as long as we can, save as much as we can, and look after our health. That's our responsibility.
Time to take stock of our future, so as to be better prepared for a smooth and pleasant journey into the sunset years.