ASEAN and Australia’s Ageing Populations

AAYLF delegate from Brunei Hana Som advocates for sustainable and accessible infrastructure to support entire communities across ASEAN and Australia. 

The issue of ageing society has slowly been looming into many countries – ASEAN and Australia included. With advancement in technology and significant improvement in the realm of medicine, it is only logical that the result is directly translated into an increase in life expectancy and ageing populations as a whole. By 2035, ASEAN is expected to have a total population of 127 million of senior citizens [1] with Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam leading these ranks [4]. All the ASEAN member states will be categorized as ageing nation; as all ASEAN countries will by then surpasses the 7 percent threshold of what is considered by the UN for a country to be identified as ageing. This presents an immense pressure on government officials to start preparing. While there have been many initiatives implemented, the issue of abandonment and loneliness amongst the elderly is rampantly affecting their emotional wellbeing – subsequently triggering senility and dementia [3]. Traditionally in ASEAN, children provide for their ageing parents, but due to the increasingly individualistic culture, few of the younger generation care for the many old.

Similarly, Australia is also facing a demographic shift – with over 15 percent of its people categorised as ageing at approximately 3.8 million [2]. Overall, Australians now enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Despite their age and decreasing productivity, the elderly contribute a vital part to the economy through their continuous engagement in the workforce and post-retirement. Volunteerism and community work is common in Australia and this ongoing social and economic engagement has  holistically benefited the country. Surprisingly, an Interim Report into aged care services titled Neglect pointed out the inefficient and incoherent service system in the management of these ageing populations, referencing appalling waiting lists, lack of due process, limited and inflexible system design and most importantly – high cost [6]. Nevertheless, the majority of senior citizens in Australia are comparatively more involved and committed to being more engaged in their own community compared to their ASEAN counterparts. However certain population groups still face some degree of social isolation and insecurity, such as those from lower socioeconomic groups and with poorer health [5].

The demographic landscape of ASEAN countries is changing rapidly and much of the valuable work is being focused on the development of youth, who are undeniably important assets of the region. However, the rise of ageing populations is equally crucial and should not be dismissed. Government agencies around the region alongside with their strategic partners and other multilateral organisations should give maximum efforts to ensure that these issues are addressed through the approach of inclusivity. Encouraging the establishment of older peoples’ networks to strengthen their capacity and promote connectivity with one another could be adopted in ASEAN member states. ASEAN member states could also introduce and further promote age-friendly communities in the region through a sustainable and accessible infrastructure that can benefit and enhance the way of life for these senior citizens. 

References

  1. ASEAN Secretariat (2015). KUALA LUMPUR DECLARATION ON AGEING: EMPOWERING OLDER PERSONS IN ASEAN. Kuala Lumpur: ASEAN Secretariat.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW]. (2018). Older Australia at a glance. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australia-at-a-glance
  3. Lee, L. (2018). Taking care of the elderly. Retrieved 9 November 2019, from https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/11/23/taking-care-of-the-elderly
  4. Sunusi, M. (2005). AGEING PROFILE AND AND POLICIES IN ASEAN. Presentation.
  5. Tanskanen, J., & Anttila, T. (2016). A Prospective Study of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Mortality in Finland. American Journal Of Public Health, 106(11), 2042-2048. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2016.303431
  6. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. (2019). Neglect. Canberra.