Brunei sees aging population as a significant asset
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Brunei Darussalam sees its elderly people as critical stakeholders who strive for the development of the nation, said 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.
“We don’t paint a pessimistic picture of our aging population, rather we see them as knowledgeable and experienced people working with us to realize the Brunei Vision 2035,” he noted at a forum titled ‘New Frontiers in Social Research on Aging: Implications for Brunei Darussalam’, held at the Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Advancement (ILIA) Building of Universiti Brunei Darussalam yesterday.
“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 has always been looking at national social issues including the ageing population in the context of a whole-of-nation approach.
“The National Council of Social Issues led by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports reflects this commitment, in collaboration with other government and non-government agencies as well as relevant stakeholders,” the minister said.
“Our world today is changing fast which has led to many new emerging issues and old ones resurfacing. Like many countries, Brunei Darussalam is also experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older people in its population.”
“According to statistics from the Department of Economic Planning and Development in 2016, the age group of those over 65 is approximately six per cent of the total population, an increase by 0.1 per cent from the previous year.
“This is in line with the United Nations Development Program’s Asia-Pacific Regional Human Development report of the same year that placed Brunei Darussalam “in the middle of transition”. The report said that the Sultanate will continue to see a large jump in the working-age population until 2020, after which the increase will slow down and move towards an aging population. In other words, the demographic landscape of Brunei Darussalam is going to change soon,” the minister said.
“We note that often, many tend to attach a stigma in describing and categorizing the growing numbers of the elderly. Moreover, we see that much of the incredibly valuable work that we are undertaking is focussing on the development of the youth, who are undeniably our important assets in building and shaping the future of our country.
“But, we also need to acknowledge and attach the same importance for the development of our aging population. We recognize that the knowledge, experiences and skills of the aging population are valuable and irreplaceable. These are the real vital assets for the social progress of Brunei Darussalam, he noted.
“We have established Bestari Community Centre and Senior Citizens Activity Centre to establish a knowledge-based network between the young and the elderly. There is much potential for this and we hope to expand it further with the involvement of other stakeholders,” he added.
“The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, supports those in the aging population to develop an active, contributing and healthy lifestyle through arts and sports. We also encourage them to be volunteers and take care of each other.
“All these efforts are continuous in nature. Our main hope is that whatever programs and activities that are being undertaken, with collaborative efforts of everyone, will have a lasting impact on the future of our country. This is where the importance of this forum lies,” the minister added.
Meanwhile in his welcoming remarks, Director of Centre for Advanced Research (CARe) at UBD Associate Professor Dr Hoon Chang Yau said the aging of the population looms large as a social challenge in Asian societies.
“Japan was the first country that started to feel the pressure in East Asia, and in the coming decade, other countries in the region such as Taiwan, China, Korea, Singapore as well as Brunei Darussalam will all face similar challenges.
“The elderly population in Brunei Darussalam is projected to increase by 7.8 per cent in 2021. This will qualify Brunei as an aging nation where older persons are in excess of seven per cent of the total population.
“Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st Century, affecting nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services such as housing, transportation, healthcare and social welfare as well as family structures and intergenerational ties,” he noted.
Meanwhile, quoting UN’s World Population Prospects (2017 revision) in her paper presentation, Director of the Malaysian Research Institute on Aging, Universiti Putra Malaysia Professor Dr Tengku Aizan Hamid said that Brunei’s population aged 65 years or above will double from seven per cent to 14 per cent in less than 15 years (2023-2036).
“While adding years to life is now a certainty, societies in the region are still adapting to the implications of rapid aging and longevity. Social research is not only needed for evidence-based policymaking, but also to understand the multi-faceted consequences of aging societies on the individual, family and community issues on poverty and social protection, health and long-term care, intergenerational relationships, housing and living arrangements as well as work and retirement.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.