KUALA LUMPUR - More day-care centres for the elderly should be set up to enable them to continue living in their own homes.
Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society adviser Prof Nathan Vytialingam said the World Health Organisation was encouraging "ageing in place", a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they were able, as they aged.
Setting up day-care centres was one factor that could enable the elderly to age better, he said.
"This is something that insurance companies could look into, to assist the elderly who want to age in place," he said after the 8th Malaysian Conference on Healthy Ageing - Making Mental Health a Priority for Healthy Ageing opening ceremony yesterday.
Nathan said day-care centres helped ease the burden of adult children while the elderly could socialise, which was important for their well-being. He said that in Singapore, day-care centres were set up in each HDB flat area.
A policy for developers to set up day-care centres and a good park, for instance, could encourage society to live healthily, he said.
Consultant psychiatrist Prof Dr Philip George said many children felt that there was not enough support for them to care for their aged parents.
"The government and NGOs need to come together - occupational therapy units in all hospitals can combine with NGOs to provide aged care support and people can send their parents to these centres," said Dr Philip, who is also the conference organising chairman.
Some might have difficulties coping with parents who have behavioural problems and other issues and need professional help.
He said for these cases, well-trained people in a proper nursing home played a big role but children still needed to play their part by taking their parents home for the weekends or festive seasons.
"We have higher rates of medical and psychological problems in nursing homes compared with those living in their own homes.
"Mental health problems among the elderly increase by two to three times once they are put in the homes," he added.
To prepare for the ageing population, he said education for healthcare professionals must be emphasised as not many were in tune with handling ageing problems.
Dr Philip also said mental health issues were not provided for by insurance companies despite a third of Malaysians suffering from mental health issues.