Why senior citizens haven’t retired

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By Hafidz Baharom – The Malaysian Insight, 8 September 2017

ON September 4, the prime minister apparently said that Malaysia is ranked as one of the best retirement countries, even if “one or two” still refuse to do so. Well the truth is, there is actually a huge population that have chosen not to retire.

According to the Employee’s Providence Fund (EPF) annual report in 2016, there are officially 156,587 Malaysians working beyond the age of 60, roughly a third of them working beyond the age of 65.

Thus, “one or two” isn’t the most accurate figure, even if the prime minister wants to use it for a jibe at his political opponents. However, it does highlight a valid question – why are people choosing to work beyond their retirement?

First and foremost, the main problem that others have which my parents won’t have to go through is the need to consider the issue of not being able to afford retirement.

If you look at the statistics in the EPF annual report at the age of 66-70, the average EPF account would only have RM140,194 per person. At the age of 70-75, the average savings would be a mere RM189,541 per person.

How exactly are these figures supposed to be enough for a senior citizen to cope with living, and for how long?

With our life expectancy estimates in 2010-2015 at 75 years old, how does one live with RM140,194 for another 5 years?

Instead, senior citizens are told to depend on filial piety – the idea that kids will be able to cope with their spending habits when their parents retire. Perhaps we could do a poll and ask how many actually give an allowance to their parents, and how many actually still borrow cash from them in their twilight years.

Secondly, let us look at the background of senior citizens who are currently still working.

My parents are an example – and if there is one major reason why they are working, it is because they have gotten so used to it that being out of work makes them less healthy. Well, for one of them, it was also the breakfasts of pulut and ikan masin daily.

And then, there is the issue of them starting to talk to the cats.

All this being said, though, many senior citizens find themselves depressed after retiring, especially when they spent their working years dealing with everyday issues and then to be reduced to just simple housework. Case in point, Steven in this piece.

What he highlighted is also something I noticed when my parents took one year off, or even 6 months off. To put it lightly, my parents are workaholics – to put it not so lightly, they are insanely dedicated to their jobs because they love it and have done so for more than 40 years.

When you’ve been doing it for more than four decades, you would think that the mind, body and soul of someone would have made the stress and interaction of the office into their normalcy. Take that away, and you would in fact ruin mental and physical health.

Thus, how do other countries deal with this? How do they keep senior citizens busy enough to continue living a hectic, normal lifestyle which they would have had while working?

Well, for the Americans, they have the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) depending on political leaning. For the UK, there is Age UK and also adult education centres like City Lit.

For Malaysia, I am sure we have so many associations which ensure that retirees can have enough friends to keep them occupied – seeing as how my father himself keeps in touch with his Royal Military College (RMC) gang as well as both of them interacting with their Universiti Sains Malaysia alumni association.

But none of these occupy all their time, or even a major part of their time.

I do not agree with the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) in regard to getting senior citizens to replace foreign labour because that would mean getting our aged population to take up jobs in sectors that are unsuitable – I mean, do you really want to make our grandfathers, grandmothers and parents become trash collectors or work on a manufacturing line or a plantation for minimum wage?

Perhaps they meant the “expat” population in our corporate sector, which I would agree with.

But I must say that this whole idea that Malaysia is a great country to retire in, solely depends on who chooses to retire here, because I honestly don’t see Malaysians themselves arguing this point.

If anything, it would probably be a great place to retire dependent on currency exchange rates – especially with savings in the US Dollar, the Euro or the Pound Sterling. – September 8, 2017.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.