WE are fast losing our human touch. Just take the case of the semi-paralysed 80-year-old man in Kuantan, who was left in a house with no one to care for him. If not for his neighbour, who heard his cry for help, only God knows what would have happened to him. In the end, he had to be wheeled to the hospital. If our parents have to depend on our neighbours for food and support, then we have lost the touch with love. This is raw cruelty, the crudest form of neglect that children can display towards their parents, who toiled and sweated to provide a roof over their heads. If this is the trend — and it appears to be as the incident in Kuantan is not an isolated case — we are heading into a heartless world. And, what an evil world it will be. Some say that the abuse of the elderly is a new form of violence. It may very well be so, given the many cases reported about aged parents being abandoned at homes or hospitals. Welcome to the new millennium!
There is a reason to be really worried. Malaysia, like the rest of the world, is going to be home to an ageing population than it ever was. If we define the elderly, or aged if you like, as those who are 60 and above, then 15 per cent of Malaysia’s population will be those in their golden years just 13 years from now. And in 2030, Malaysia’s population is expected to be just over 36 million. Are we, as a nation, ready to deal with
this growing number of Malaysians who would require care and support?
Perhaps not. Malaysia does not seem to have the laws to bring these errant children to book. Maybe we should take a leaf from the statute book of our southern neighbour, Singapore. The island’s Maintenance of Parents Act allows parents to claim maintenance from their children, if they have to. Another of its law, Medical and Elderly Care Endowment Act, too, allows the elderly to seek financial support and other forms of care when the need arises. Our other Asean neighbours — Vietnam and Thailand — too have similar laws that enable the elderly to seek care and support from the government. Perhaps, there is yet another remedial route to take for the elderly, though this path is for those who are 60 and above but fit enough to work. This is the road taken by Australia and the United Kingdom, whose regimes have emplaced laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of age when it comes to employment or provision of goods and services. Where love fails, law has to step in.
Incentives may help, too. Now that we are in the Budget month, the government may want to consider giving children tax incentives for contributing towards their parents retirement fund. Sometimes, a nudge and a push through tax breaks may be needed. It is a sad thing to admit, but, perhaps, love has a price tag.