LAST_UPDATEMon, 23 Jul 2018 8pm

I Weep For These Neglected Senior Citizens. Do You?

IN today’s fast-paced society, wealth and scaling the career ladder have been the yardstick of success. This preoccupation with chasing wealth and status can often impact negatively on the strength of the extended family unit which gets weakened.

Instead of being rational and caring about the society around them, people nowadays have become more and more insensitive, egocentric and oblivious to things around them, to say the least.

In recent years, the growing population of old and forsaken senior citizens in Malaysia has been brought to our attention time and again in the media. The number of senior citizens being sent to old folks homes increase year after year despite the fact that Malaysians, in general, still uphold traditional family values.

Hard Truth: The Growing Population Of Abandoned Senior Citizens

What do the statistics say?  According to an earlier news report by Agencies, 1 in every 3 elderly Malaysian risk being neglected and this includes those staying in welfare homes and abandoned in hospitals. This is a shocking figure, isn’t it? 1 in every 3 elderly Malaysian risk being neglected1 in every 3 elderly Malaysian risk being neglected

According to the official portal of Public Service Department of Malaysia, senior citizens are those above the age of 60 years. Last year, the Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said a report released by the Statistics Department showed senior citizens formed about 7.9 per cent of the country’s population in 2010. That percentage is projected to increase up to 9.9 percent by 2020 and Malaysia is projected to have a senior citizen population of 15 percent by 2030.

The most unbelievable part is there are about 675,000 elderly parents in the country who did not receive financial support from their children, according to a survey conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board in 2004.

On a same note, according to the Social Welfare Department, the number of abandoned old folk had risen progressively by 1 per cent each year between 2008 and 2011, based on the number of admission to the nine Rumah Seri Kenanagan homes, the welfare homes run by the Ministry for abandoned senior citizens.

What Actually Unravel The Ties That Bind?

Malaysian Digest went to the ground to have a firsthand look at senior citizens who are fending for themselves in the city and to find out what is the real situation. Why are the elderly generation who should be looked after by their children in their golden years having to eke out a living by selling wares, food or just begging on the streets?

Are they out there on the streets day after day because they don’t have a choice? Or do some prefer to keep some semblance of independence even as their age makes the daily toil on the streets harder to keep up each day?

Here are some of their stories:

Mr. Maniam, 74, and Ms. Tanaletchumi, 64 have been coming to the same spot at Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur to sell homemade delicacies for the last 25 years. The couple, who has two daughters, say they do this everyday to help support their family's high living costs in the city. 

Mr. Maniam, 74, and Ms. Tanaletchumi, 64Mr. Maniam, 74, and Ms. Tanaletchumi, 64

Scores of senior citizens were also seen begging for public donations in some of the 'hotspots' in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. An old lady, 69, who only want to be known as Zhang, was seen begging for money at Pasar Seni City Bus Hub. When asked why she is begging on the streets, she said that she is single and has been homeless for a few years. She has been depending on the generosity of the general public to help her survive day to day.

Scores of elderly beggars can be seen around the cityScores of elderly beggars can be seen around the city

Can We Depend On Our Society’s Filial Piety Or Are Punitive Laws Needed?

Datuk Dr. Soon Ting Kueh, the president of National Council of Senior Citizens Organizations Malaysia (NASCOM) had stated in a recent news report his disappointment with the increasing numbers of abandoned old folk and added that NASCOM had proposed a law which allows the abandoned senior citizens to take legal action against their offspring in the hope to inculcate a sense of responsibility among their children.

On this subject, Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil, Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development had noted that filial piety is “inherent in our culture” and only needs to be nurtured by means other than fines, according to a news report by Agencies earlier. She believes engagement via advocacy is more practical, rather than a law to punish children who neglect, abandon and abuse their parents.

Suri Kempe, a legal, advocacy and public education manager for women’s rights group (Sisters in Islam) was quoted as saying that a punitive parent maintenance act will not prevent the unfilial from dumping their parents in welfare homes or hospitals. She added that more research needs to be carried out to identify the crux of the problem.

Associate Professor Jesjeet Singh Gill, a consultant psychiatrist of University of Malaya Medical Center had observed in a statement that unhealthy relationship, resentment from a parent’s divorce or remarrying process could also cause abandonment of the aged parents.

Where Can The Elderly And Destitute Turn To For Help?

In looking into the matter of abandoned elderly folks, Malaysian Digest spoke to Foong Peng Lam, the operations manager of Rumah Kasih Charity Home, a well-known welfare home set up for abandoned senior citizens especially for those who are neglected in the hospitals. Official opening of Rumah Kasih Hospital Kuala Lumpur on the 13rd. March 2002 (From right) Patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye Chairman of Board of Visitors  HKL Organising Chairman Dr. Ng Thiew Kim Senior Assistant Director Hospital  HKL Advisor Datuk Dr. Hj. Ramlee Director hospital  HKL. Pic: rumahkasih.orgOfficial opening of Rumah Kasih Hospital Kuala Lumpur on the 13rd. March 2002 (From right) Patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye Chairman of Board of Visitors HKL Organising Chairman Dr. Ng Thiew Kim Senior Assistant Director Hospital HKL Advisor Datuk Dr. Hj. Ramlee Director hospital HKL. Pic:

When contacted, the operations manager said the abandonment of senior citizens in the country has become prevalent in recent years.

“In order to alleviate the problem, we help to provide free accommodation, food to the abandoned old folks. Sometimes, we also provide them with stipend during festive seasons,” said Foong.

He said Rumah Kasih (since its inception in 2002) had helped more than 500 abandoned patients from Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), Hospital Selayang, Hospital Ampang, the Institute of Respiratory Medicine (IPR), among others by providing them with sanctuaries and food.

“Providing shelters and long-term care to abandoned senior citizens is not only what we do, we also set a good example to the younger generation. We instill positive values in them; we want to be a role model to them,” he told Malaysian Digest.

Another beacon of hope is Anjung Singgah, especially in providing free temporary shelter to the homeless. It was established by Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

At the moment, the centre is managed by the National Welfare Foundation Malaysia (NWF). According to NWF chief executive officer Datuk Sayed A. Rahman Sayed Mohd said Anjung Singgah offered some respite for the homeless, he had stated in a daily news report in April 2013. In the meantime, NWF work closely with other non-governmental organisations to offer holistic support for the homeless especially senior citizens and unemployed.

Our Responsibility: Setting A Good Example For The Next Generation To Follow

While some young families want their own space and prefer to stay away from their parents, it is unacceptable to shirk their moral responsibility and neglect their aged parents regardless of reason.

In the final analysis, all parties have a role to play to ensure our older generation who has contributed so much to the country’s early development through sheer hard work and sacrifice are not neglected.

From the personal family unit to the federal authorities, state governmental organizations and the NGOS and welfare homes, all parties have to make the effort to strive to provide for the elderly even as society becomes more materialistic and the pursuit of individual goals become more important than family and community well-being.

We should bear in mind that the quality of care given to our parents and the elderly will be the reflection of how advanced we are as an individual, society and nation as a whole.

Remember, we too will be our parents’ age one day. And who do you expect to look after you in the not too distant future?