Treating an ageing population

February 28, 2014


February 28, 2014

Tan Choe Lam

Founder and managing director

Entrepreneur, industrial engineer and former member of the Queensland Seniors Council, Choe Lam Tan found his passion in aged care after his father suffered a stroke in 1981, sowing the seed that would later sprout into the development of the first culturally apt senior-living resorts in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, and shortly after in other Asia-Pacific countries.

As founder and managing director of two resorts in Australia and Malaysia, he is well equipped with hands-on experience in research, design, funding, construction, management and operation of resorts for seniors. He founded Jeta Gardens Group in Australia in 2002 and Jeta Care in Malaysia in 2011.

He is also a notable speaker on the topic of senior living and has in-depth knowledge on ageing issues of seniors, particularly those with Asian heritage. His success in creating the unique Jeta 4H model in senior-living resorts is highly regarded in the industry. The 4H concept comprises home, hotel, holiday resort and hospital.

There is a misconception that today’s population ageing crisis in a European phenomenon with little relevance to the Asia / Pacific Region. Nothing could be further from reality!

In fact even today, 54% of the world’s aged population reside in Asia. By 2025 this percentage will exceed 60%. 

Through the application of improved population health standards and clinical interventions; the population longevity in even the most under privileged communities is significantly increasing. Compounded by falling fertility levels; this ageing tsunami is reeking economic and clinical havoc throughout the region. 

With shrinking economic bases, Governments are facing a funding crisis to service a population demanding increased and better quality health and welfare services. 

In many Asian communities public acute hospital services are struggling to meet the basic health care needs. With a quickly ageing population demand for hospital services is rising exponentially placing even more demand on Government and NGO services.

Even in developed economies Governments look towards the private and NGO sectors to provide the capital and sustenance to meet age related acute and chronic care needs. Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements preserve scarce Government resources. 

While traditionally Government and NGO involvement has addressed the needs of lower socio economic groups, in some countries heavily subsidised private capital is being directed towards the underprivileged population. This is achieved both by taxation incentives and direct subsidies.

But key to the long term success of any policy directed towards the clinical and social needs rests with the formulation of creative and actuarially sound initiatives requiring people make contribution during their economically active life. This may take the form of a superannuation or annuity scheme designed to provide lifestyle and care benefits in later life.

Welfare has to be targeted towards the underprivileged with an expectation that the more affluent will be self reliant.

The regulatory role of Governments and Standard Compliance Agencies has to be tightened to lift the standards of care and lifestyle providers. Economic and social exploitation of the elderly must be eliminated.

Asian cultural values should be evident and preserved in retirement communities and aged care developments. The Western nuclear family model is not relevant in societies upholding the traditional values of filial piety, care and compassion for the elderly.

“Ageing place” models effectively create a new family structure which is frequently blended into the traditional social mix. Through “family continuum”, the ageing in place model ensures traditional lifestyle is sustainable in a community built on the core values of care and compassion.

To service the care and lifestyle needs of a quickly ageing population the support of an effective and expanding labour resource is essential.

Educators with care providers have the challenge to develop and maintain a well educated and capable workforce. Measures will have to be implemented to at least limit (preferably stop) the haemorrhage of qualified and capable health and aged care professionals to more advanced economies.

In summary; to sustain an ageing population, planners, public and private and providers have an  obligation to: - 

  • Plan;
  • Fund;
  • Develop;
  • Sustain;
  • Regulate; and,
  • Educate
    in an unprecedented economically and socially changing world while upholding the traditional values of compassion and care.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.

Receive forward-looking perspectives from our editors - Subscribe now for our Weekly Digest