Based on the latest demographic trends, Malaysia is expected to be an aged nation by 2030 and super-aged by 2050. With almost 15% of the population expected to be older adults (aged 60 years) in less than a decade, significant challenges and opportunities will arise. The changing needs and increased demand of health care needs will require a transformation of our existing physical and social environments. Significant effort and resources will need to be invested to prepare a workforce that can cope with the changing demographic, shift societal knowledge and attitude towards ageing, and enable older adults to continue to contribute to their families, communities and broader society.
Led by the School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University has established a collaborative partnership with the Senior Citizens Club Subang Jaya in fostering a holistic approach to healthy ageing and well-being that includes physiological, psychological and socio-economic dimensions. The Senior Citizens Club Subang Jaya is one of the most active and dynamic citizens club in Malaysia; working closely with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia to reach out and enrich the lives of older adults in the community through social and personal development activities.
The Sunway University’s Ageing Health and Well-Being Research Centre, led by Prof. Dr. Alexandre Schaefer at Sunway University was established to foster multidisciplinary research and interventions that are focused on the promotion of a healthy lifespan development in South-East Asian (SEA) communities. Specific areas of interest will include (but not limited to) the well-being of older adults in Malaysia, the interplay between socioeconomic conditions and mental health, and strategies to build resilience against future pandemics and climate events.
Recognising the significant influence that the lived environment has on behaviour, risk exposure, health outcomes, and social inclusion, this academia-public partnership will focus on developing initiatives to develop a more age-friendly environment. A whole-of-society approach is needed to ensure that we enable everyone to live longer and healthier lives. The urban environment of Sunway city and surrounding areas will be our main field of activity as a representative model of urban SEA communities. Thus, co-designing this environment with the Senior Citizens Club Subang Jaya ensures inclusivity and relevance. Prof. Dr. Mahendhiran Nair, Sunway University Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research Engagement & Impact) shared his aspirations, “This collaboration is aligned to the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, the 12th Malaysian Plan and the 10-10 Malaysian Science, Technology, Innovation and Economy Framework, which will enable new opportunities for socio-economic growth through the development of an inclusive ‘silver economy’”.
One of the main projects will be to develop a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse longitudinal cohort of urban households, which could ultimately develop into a fully-fledged Health Demographic and Surveillance System (HDSS). An HDSS is an integrated system of long-term monitoring of both health-related and socio-demographic parameters of a specific population, which can provide long-term opportunities for a variety of interdisciplinary projects from various fields (e.g. public health, microbiome research, mental health research, development economics, large-scale natural behavioural experiments, etc.). In addition, the development of lifelong quality education opportunities for the relevant upskilling across the life cycle will be promoted to enhance societal productivity and the longevity of this increased productivity. The President of Sunway University, Prof. Dr. Sibrandes Poppema shared that through this collaboration, students at Sunway University will have a great opportunity to participate in the co-designing of their future, develop passion in championing niches of unmet needs, and shape positive attitudes towards ageing.
The School of Medical and Life Sciences of Sunway University hopes to harness the rich lived experiences, the dynamic enthusiasm and energy, and influence of our partners at Senior Citizens Club Subang Jaya to not only reach out to their members but other senior citizen groups in the country to ensure that the progress we make in building age-friendly environment(s) at Sunway city will benefit all communities. Nobody should be left out in this whole-of-society approach.