Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Our recent trip to Singapore for the 50plus Expo at Suntec left us more than a tad envious of Singaporean seniors. This year marks the silver jubilee of Singapore's independence in 1965. Singapore citizens, including permanent residents can look forward to receiving plenty of goodies from the government.

As a tribute to the pioneer generation for their contribution to nation-building, the government has put together a SG50 Senior Package that will benefit more than 700,000 older Singaporeans. From transport vouchers to discounts for dining, as well as free admission to some of the country's top tourist attractions, there is plenty in the package to put Singapore seniors in a celebratory mood.

The package comes with a 50-page booklet, with a complete list of the benefits. Most of the offers are valid from June to August this year.

And that's not all. In her speech at the launch of 50plus Expo on 16 May, Senior Minister Dr Amy Khor announced that Singapore seniors can sign up for 400 free courses ranging from literature and dance to business and culinary skills. The Ministry of Health aims to encourage lifelong learning with this generous perk. 

For seniors that surely must be the icing on the cake to top off the year-long silver jubilee celebrations. No wonder the Singapore cheer turned into a deafening Singapore roar at Dr Khor's announcement.

So, that begs the question, what can our government offer us older Malaysians to make us happy and looking forward to our retirement years? We have given 30-40 of our prime years in the service of the country. Surely that must merit some recognition and appreciation?

We want an outdoor gym for seniors in every housing estate and public park where we can exercise

We don't want awards and titles, for they benefit only a few selected individuals, not the community. (By the way, Singaporeans from the PM to the man-in-the-street are addressed as Mr, and for the ladies, a plain Ms/Mdm.)

We don't want cash handouts which offer only short-term benefits to the needy. We want senior discounts on groceries, health supplements, fuel and meals, and other essentials.

Above all, we want to be accorded respect and dignity, not ignored or seen as unproductive and a burden to society

We certainly don't want empty pre-election promises of what the government can do, will do for us. We also don't want general references to what it plans to do for seniors. We want details, specifics and deadlines. And if the government doesn't deliver, we have the right to protest, to hold it accountable if it reneges on its word, and to withhold our vote if any of our under-performing ministers should stand for re-election. That's not a threat or a warning, but a straightforward case of cause and result.

So, what do we want?

Here's a short checklist to begin with for the relevant ministeries to take note of. In no particular order.

An impossible dream, or a soon-to-be reality?
If you click on any of the links above, you will find that SeniorsAloud have been making these proposals as far back as 2009. We will continue to voice our concerns till we are heard.

To give credit where credit is due, we appreciate the government's efforts in making public healthcare accessible and affordable to seniors. We welcome the discounts for seniors travelling on trains and buses. We also acknowledge the financial assistance given for funeral expenses (!) under the Mesra Usia Emas Scheme and other schemes.

With seniors making up 8.8% of the population and growing steadily, Malaysia is on its way to becoming an ageing nation in the next 10-15 years. UN defines a country as ageing when 7% of its population is aged 65 and above.

But these provisions are either limited, too slow in implementation, or if already available are not efficiently maintained or managed.

Each year when the budget is announced, we scan the papers looking for some tiny morsels of good news for seniors, only to be disappointed yet again. Last week, the PM announced details of the 11th Malaysia Plan for 2016-20. To date, we still have no clue what 'supporting active ageing for the elderly' involves, or how 'the government will address the needs of...the elderly'. (The Star 22/5/15)

How long do seniors in Malaysia have to wait before they hear these words from our ministers? Words are cheap, unless they are backed by prompt and effective action.

Our ministers are seniors themselves. Like us, they have elderly parents. One day they too will be elderly. Isn't it time they gave more attention to what the seniors and the elderly want?

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