KUCHING: The state government will soon embark on research and development to address issues concerning the ageing population.
As the proportion of the older population throughout the country is rising, measures need to be taken in a holistic manner to tackle related matters, said Women, Early Childhood and Community Well-being Development Minister Datuk Sri Fatimah Abdullah.
The research, she said, will map out the distribution of old folk throughout the state for resource planning to support the ageing population.
“We have to know in which aspects we need to look more into to help decrease the wide gap of vulnerable and frail groups.
“We also want to know what services are available in each area in Sarawak to help us analyse their effectiveness and the need for them.
“Although we (her ministry) are providing welfare for our elderly and their social support system, we would also like to see that our elders, in terms of other needs such as health needs, are also catered for.
“As such, we need to engage various ministries to come up with plans for the short and long term,” she said in a press conference after chairing a discussion on the ageing nation at her office today.
The discussion highlighted the future direction of geriatric community services or GeKo (Geriatrik Komuniti) which was founded by Dr Sally Suriani Ahip of Kota Samarahan Health Clinic and her team in 2019.
GeKo is the first national initiative in providing specialised geriatric care in the community that aims at vulnerable or frailty reversibility through early and targeted intervention.
Dr Sally pointed out that the services provided are to bridge the gap in existing care for older individuals to support vulnerable stages of ageing.
“GeKo optimises the older person’s capacity and to maintain a reasonable degree of independence.
“Our unit comprises a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals of varying skills including doctors and allied healthcare professionals to provide holistic and comprehensive care to meet the complex needs of an older person.
“At this present moment, providing comprehensive care for elders remains a challenge as the services are fragmented. We hope to expand GeKo through integration with other agencies under one roof to improve service delivery efficiencies.
“After all, we are all puzzle pieces that need to find each other in the form of a bigger picture to support Sarawak’s ageing society,” she said.
According to Dr Sally, Sarawakians have the third highest life expectancy after Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, with the average life expectancy of a Sarawakian being 76.5 years.
In 2020, Sarawak reported 11.4 per cent of old folk in its population and it is projected that the number will keep rising by 2030.
Thus, adequate health services and support for seniors need to be provided through increased awareness, knowledge as well as skills.
Collaboration between agencies and communities need to be emphasised in the planning and implementation of comprehensive health services to older individuals.