KUCHING (March 18): Many members of the public are generally in favour of a proposed national law that will protect the welfare and rights of senior citizens but remain cautious about its yet-to-be-announced details.
On Wednesday, federal Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Raj Munni Sabu said the government aimed to introduce a Senior Citizens Bill in Parliament next year, including possible penalties for irresponsible adult children.
The proposed legislation will include protecting the welfare of senior citizens; protecting the basic rights of senior citizens; empowering senior citizens; empowering family members and the community; creating a strong support system for senior citizens; and creating a strong support system for carers.
Retiree Johnnes Leong said being a senior citizen himself, he certainly welcomes such laws.
“I’m 66 already. Of course, I want to be protected by the law. But this is just a proposal, isn’t it? We have to see what it encompasses.
“I’m divided about the part on penalising adult children who leave their parents in old folks’ homes. Not everyone is capable of taking care of their parents, especially if the old folks are bed-ridden or needing professional health care. I don’t think we can comment much when the details are not there, so for now it’s only based on personal opinion,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Leong, who is the father of two sons in their 30s, pointed out that there are also day care facilities for senior citizens where they can mingle with healthy people in their age groups.
“Being sent to an old folks’ home is not totally a bad thing. It depends on what kind of centre it is. Some are recreational ones, which is good for our social well-being.
“It also boils down to consent. Did the old folks agree to be sent there?” he said.
Housewife Gisela Ann Malcolm, 57, is also having mixed feelings about the proposed salary deductions for children who send their parents to care centres or nursing homes when the children are capable of taking care of their own parents.
The mother of three adult children suggested that before penalising ‘irresponsible’ children, the authorities concerned need to interview or take into account what is going on in a particular family.
“There are many reasons why people would send their parents to care centres. It’s not about abandoning them. They may have burdens that outsiders don’t know about.
“Sometimes they could be overwhelmed by work and home matters, sometimes family members don’t get along, sometimes the parents may have illness that requires 24-hour attention,” she said.
Gisela is of the opinion that families should also be educated on how or where to get assistance if they have a problem with elderly care.
“People who abandon their parents at hospitals or homes are probably desperate with no idea what to do. Maybe more awareness of what to do is needed, besides providing a law that protects the senior citizens.
“Ultimately, people should nurture their family ties between the young and old. If the law penalises them for something that they have no control over, it will cause a deeper strain in their relationship,” she said.
Meanwhile, web administrator Judith Goh, 43, hopes that the proposed law will provide senior citizens with the choice of checking themselves into old folks’ homes at a subsidised or affordable rate.
She said to be ready for an aging society means providing senior citizens with more options of where they want to spend their sunset years, regardless whether they have children or not.
“That means the government needs to consider building more facilities for the elderly that do not feel like a hospital or prison. It could be a fun housing for senior citizens, equipped with the necessary medical and care-giving facilities. Right now, such a concept sounds very expensive and exclusive, but I hope that in the future, such homes would be plentiful and affordable.
“As a childless couple, my husband and I are prepared to check ourselves into such a facility in the future if mobility becomes an issue for us,” she shared.
Goh also thinks that the government should conduct surveys among the people first before enacting the actual law on the matter.
“Details are sketchy right now, but I do hope there will be surveys done to get the people’s feedback. Only then it would be relevant and practical in the years to come,” she said.