MBKS, Curtin University to transform Kuching into age-friendly city

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Dr Sim delivers his speech at the MoU signing ceremony between MBKS and Curtin University Malaysia. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Aug 2): The entire ecosystem needs to be ready as Sarawak approaches an aging society in the near future, said Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian.

Dr Sim, who is Public Health, Housing and Local Government Minister, pointed out addressing an aging society does not only require the necessary changes in public policies but also a conducive home environment.

“For those aged 60 and above, it constitutes 73,800 senior citizens or about 12.1 per cent of Kuching population.

“This requires our city councils and Curtin University Malaysia to look into doing something proactive in developing age-friendly cities and communities,” he said.

Dr Sim was speaking at the signing ceremony of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Kuching South City Council (MBKS) and Curtin University Malaysia at the council headquarters here today.

One of the measures announced recently to look after the welfare of an aging society was the free medical checkup to be provided under the Kenyalang Gold Card and the details are still in the midst of being worked out, he added.

Many of the incentives rolled out by the Sarawak government, however, had failed to address the declining birth rate in the state, he said.

“About 40,000 newborns were recorded in a year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, before the figure fell to about 20,000 a year during the home quarantine period, with a slight rebound to 30,000 last year,” he said on the decreasing birth rate.

Due to the impacts of population decline, Dr Sim urged businesses and factories to adopt automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in their operations before resorting to employing non-Sarawakian workers.

This, he said, is to safeguard the interests of Sarawak and its people.

Dr Sim also highlighted that the public have placed great expectations on the services provided by the local councils despite the assessment rates not being adjusted since the 1960s.

Meanwhile, Kuching South mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the MoU with Curtin University Malaysia was aimed at transforming Kuching into an age-friendly city.

As Sarawak is expected to be an aging society by 2028, he said about 10.4 per cent of Kuching South’s population of 174,625 people are aged 65 and above in 2020.

“Our aspiration is to cultivate an environment and foster a community that caters to the needs of the elderly and enhances the quality of life for all,” he said.

Also present were Deputy Minister of Public Health, Housing and Local Government Michael Tiang; MBKS deputy mayor Hilmy Othman; Curtin University Malaysia pro-chancellor Tan Sri Dr George Chan; and pro vice-chancellor Professor Simon Leunig.