Building an inclusive society for the elderly

Azlan Othman

On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin has delivered a message to mark the day.

“Alhamdulillah, October 1 this year marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons in Brunei Darussalam and is celebrated by all United Nations member states with the theme: ‘Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing’.

“Although Brunei Darussalam has not been spared from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud at how our elderly across the country has adopted and adapted to the new norms, as well as achieve significant milestones during the year, in various areas including the establishment of Senior Citizens Activity Centres in Belait and Temburong districts, with the strategic partnership of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd, as well as the launch of Guidelines for Senior Citizens Activity Centres.

“Others include initiatives that strengthened social protection and empowerment efforts, in line with the Plan of Action on the Elderly, whereby the proactive attitude, strong commitment and close cooperation from all parties, especially the Senior Citizens Activity Centres, organisations and associations for the elderly towards this Plan of Action, have very much contributed to its implementation and provided the desired impact; and implementation of beneficial activities organised by ministries, associations, volunteers and individuals towards the development and inclusivity of the elderly through a Whole-of-Nation approach.

“In line with the theme, we have been blessed with how the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and all levels of society have emphasised and prioritised social responsibility in ensuring the preservation of health and well-being, particularly for vulnerable groups including the elderly, to ensure they continue to be looked after and not be left behind.

“The introduction of the BruHealth app enabled authorities to monitor the elderly by utilising technology. It also connected the elderly to the outside world to ensure their well-being.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin

“On social protection, online payments of Old Age Pensions were introduced as an alternative by the government to deliver social services while mitigating the risks of infection to the elderly.

“The launch of the National Welfare System this year has eased the application process for the elderly and provided a thorough and comprehensive picture on the welfare ecosystem in the country. It ensures that such assistance is distributed properly and no one is overlooked.

“The government has also introduced in-kind support through the distribution of aid such as adult diapers and milk for bed-ridden elderly to help families who take care of the elderly in accordance to set guidelines.

“Through this approach, the Community Development Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) is continuing to collaborate with the Ministry of Health (MoH), associations and volunteers to increase the scope of the Projek Memeduli Warga Emas to take care, identify and implement health checks for the elderly.

“We also take pride in seeing the Bruneian community spirit, which became strongly visible during the pandemic, and grew more robust especially among the youth, to work shoulder-to-shoulder with other frontliners to ensure the welfare of vulnerable groups, including the elderly.

“More than 2,100 people from various ages and backgrounds sacrificed their time and energy at the COVID-19 Volunteers Operations Centre.

“The United Nations is also promoting the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) through the Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health to respond to the opportunities and tackle the challenges of the elderly in the 21st Century. Brunei Darussalam is no exception to having an ageing population.

“According to the latest data, those aged 60 and above make up 8.4 per cent of the total population (38,500 out of 459,500) in 2019, compared to 7.4 per cent (30,500 out of 411,900) in 2014, and this is estimated to increase to 28.7 per cent in 2050.

“We appreciate and strongly welcome the efforts of several partners, including government agencies, higher education institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and volunteers, to increase awareness of specific challenges that can affect the health and well-being of the elderly.

“Some of the examples include the Dementia Awareness Programme run by the MCYS together with the MoH and Demensia Brunei, and programmes to conduct research and increase greater awareness on COVID-19 among the elderly, conducted by the MoH with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

“Healthcare measures, physical and aerobic training exercises, gardening and handicrafts are some of the activities conducted with the Senior Citizens Activity Centres to improve health and inculcate active lifestyle practices.

“We also recognise the importance of empowering the elderly and supporting their needs for lifelong learning in an inclusive manner through programmes that develop capacity, skills and entrepreneurship. The MCYS, together with its strategic partners are committed to provide space and opportunities that will enable the elderly to start up and operate businesses in an optimum manner.

“In conjunction with the International Day of Older Persons 2020, let us strengthen our collective resolve as one nation to achieve a high quality of life for the elderly. By adopting and adapting to new norms, we can continue to design and implement initiatives in key fields including social, economic and cultural spheres for the benefit of the elderly, who should be looked after, cared for and greatly honoured.”