The Edge Roundtable on Property 2013 | Investing in senior living homes: Eldercare requires a holistic approach

Broadmeadow Integrated Care Centre provides comprehensive eldercare services

FILIAL piety is a virtue in Asian culture where children are expected to take care of their aged parents. But young families these days hardly have time for themselves, let alone their elderly parents. Hence, eldercare has become a pressing issue in this country.

To mitigate this, the government is scouting for best practices from other countries, looking for a solution that best fits the Malaysian context. One of the experts it recently consulted is Serdar Baycan, the director of Melbourne-based Tectura Architects.

Baycan has 20 years of experience in master planning, facility planning, architecture, interior and urban design, designed healthcare and hospital facilities as well as senior living options. This is his fourth visit to Malaysia.

Speaking to City & Country, he says, “In the elder living development model, there are the retirement lifestyle villages, residential care and specialist medical services, and there is assisted living.

“So when we design a system, it is a continuum system. You have to understand all those because people have different needs at different times of their lives.”

Baycan: Important to have verifiable standards of operation and eldercare building standards certification.

Having studied the Malaysian demographics, he says that by 2050, both Malaysia and Australia will have an ageing population. The only difference is that Australia enacted its Aged Care Act in 1958, setting the stage for eldercare. Baycan believes that for Malaysia to ensure that its elderly are taken care of, certain standards need to be established.

“In terms of provision of aged care services in Malaysia, an important aspect is to put in place verifiable standards of operation for service providers and aged care building standards certification. This is something the Malaysian government is working on, which will result in an Aged Care Act, which Pemandu (the Performance Management and Delivery Unit) and the Ministry of Health plan to introduce, I understand, in the near future,” he says.

Pemandu comes under the Prime Minister’s Department and its main role is to oversee the implementation of and assess the progress of the Economic Transformation Programme and the Government Transformation Programme.

“In terms of location, aged care facilities can be located in all population centres throughout Malaysia and be integrated with the wider community,” Baycan points out. “I think the strength of very strong family ties in Malaysia can be utilised to give form and permeate the design process for better outcomes for Malaysia’s elders.

Design practicalities
The design of aged care facilities needs to consider the fact that seniors tend to suffer from loneliness, which makes creating spaces for interaction important for their spiritual and physical well-being, observes Baycan.

Hence, there should be intimate and communal internal and external spaces; interlinked accommodation with their own internal courtyards; communal courtyards and gardens to allow residents to walk freely; and a full spectrum of lifestyle facilities and services, such as wellness centres, natural therapies and sporting facilities.

Moreover, an aged care facility allows people who require more care as they grow older to move within it to receive the care they need. Ideally, the elderly should be allowed to live in their homes for as long as possible.

“In an ageing population, you don’t actually want people to be in aged care immediately; you actually want them to be independent as much as possible,” Baycan remarks.

This is referred to as “aging in place”, where a house is designed to cater for the needs of the elderly. For example, if someone is in a wheelchair or uses a walking frame, you need wider doors and corridors or if that person has arthritis in the knees, then the bathroom needs additional fixtures.

In Australia, there is a system to ascertain what the needs of the seniors are. Baycan says there is an Aged Care Assessment Service where a professional assessment team evaluates elders to determine eligibility and need for services, whether it be a home or for placement in residential aged care facilities.

Depending on their needs, there is a host of choices that can help the seniors, whether it is having meals delivered to their homes or encouraging them to be a part of a positive ageing programme to promote active living and connections with the wider community.

Malaysia does not have a comprehensive system like Australia, but it has taken a step in the right direction by researching best practices that can be modified for its unique multicultural society and ageing population.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 23, 2013.

Looking for properties to buy or rent? With >150,000 exclusive listings, including undervalued properties, from vetted Pro Agents, you can now easily find the right property on Malaysia's leading property portal EdgeProp! You can also get free past transacted data and use our proprietary Edge Reference Price tool, to make an informed purchase.