What we do about elderly abuse will define our legacy

As a community, we must take action to change behaviours and attitudes across the full spectrum of fields affected by elderly abuse

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By Cecilia Chan

A recent abuse case in an elderly care facility in Kedah has shone a spotlight on the treatment of older people in Malaysian society.

It sparked reflection on how and where older people age, how they live their advanced years and how they die.

Videos of the incident in the care facility in Kedah went viral. It was heartbreaking and disturbing to watch.

Many sighed with relief upon learning that the operator and the staff member were detained.

As a society, we need to reflect on what this means, given that Malaysia has an ageing population. Will we forget this incident, as we have done in the past? This is not the first time such abuse has been highlighted in the media.

Research published in 2020 found that about 9.0% of older people in Malaysia have experienced abuse in the past 12 months. Think about it! Elderly abuse in Malaysia is more common than we wish to admit. 

It so happened that the latest incident in Kedah was captured on video and reported. But how many similar incidents are happening daily and not reported or even recognised? Is it enough just to detain the operator or close the home?

We need to look at the bigger picture and identify and examine the underlying issues that led to the abuse.

Elderly abuse results from many factors. It is an issue that involves human rights, justice, the law, the economy, social environment and even who we are as human beings.

Elderly abuse merits special and immediate attention, especially from policymakers and government leaders. If we are to make any progress in eliminating this problem, we need to look at the problem comprehensively.

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As a community, we must take action to change behaviours and attitudes across the full spectrum of fields affected by elderly abuse.

If no action is taken, one in six people will be affected by elderly abuse when they reach 60.

Let’s reflect on the late Mahatma Gandhi’s reminder: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

Dr Cecilia Chan, a gerontologist, is an activist who advocates for a new, more compassionate approach to people with dementia.  

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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