Live well, age well


I REFER to the article “Malaysia heading into an ageing nation, says chief statistician”, published in The Star on July 15 (online at

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the percentage of older adults in Malaysia has increased from 6.7% in 2019 to 7% in 2020, naturally accompanied by a decrease in the percentage of the younger population. Although the pace differs, nearly all countries across the globe are experiencing an expansion of the proportion of their older populations. In Malaysia, our ageing population is estimated to double to 14% in the next 20 years.

People are also living longer thanks to medical advancements, improved living conditions and economic development. In 2019, a newborn was projected to live up to 74.5 years compared with 71.2 years in 1991. Malaysian women and men who reached the age of 65 in 2019 are expected to live a further 17.1 years and 14.8 years respectively. However, we have to remember that the expansion of an ageing society and the continuous increase in lifespans do not guarantee that the extra years equal good health and a good quality of life.

Getting old is inevitable but you can grow older healthily by taking good care of your mind and body. There are many ways to ensure physical, mental and social well-being that is fundamental to good health and a good quality of life in the advanced years. Here are five actions that can be taken.

First, start exercising! Engaging in a consistent level of exercise and being physically active can lower the risk of developing problems like heart diseases, cancer and obesity; it can also improve muscle strength to prevent disabilities that are associated with ageing, including frailty. Regular physical exercise can also benefit the brain by reducing the risk of memory loss and dementia.

Second, it is crucial to be mindful of what you eat because eating habits have a significant impact on your health. Avoid unhealthy processed food, reduce sugar and salt intake and eat more fruits, vegetables and other sources of dietary fibre. A healthy and well-balanced diet maintains health, provides energy, prevents diseases and, together with adequate physical activity, helps to manage and maintain a healthy body weight.

Third, it is never too late to quit smoking. Smoking tobacco has a detrimental effect on almost every organ in the body and predisposes one to many health issues such as cancer and lung and heart diseases; it also has negative effects on sexual health. People who stop smoking not only greatly lower their own risk of suffering from smoking-related diseases but also stop risking loved ones who would be affected by second-hand smoke.

Fourth, manage your health by seeing a healthcare professional regularly, and follow their advice on regular health screening, including doing blood sugar tests, blood pressure monitoring and cancer screening. Detecting and treating disease at an early stage and promptly enough can make a difference in the degree of disability and complications.

Last but not least, mental health matters! Good mental health helps you enjoy life, cope with problems and overcome challenges better. Know how to manage stress. And keep in mind that being physically active and eating mindfully can help to build and improve on good mental health. Social connectedness and participation in activities that you enjoy can prevent social isolation and boost mental well-being too.

It is never too late to start living a healthier life so you can age gracefully, happily and healthily. And if you think how you and I, as individuals, age will not affect society, then you are wrong. Society is made of populations, and a population is made of individuals. Hence, as individuals who are going to become a part of an ageing population, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are not going to spend our later years becoming ill and disabled and burdening our families, the healthcare system and the country.


Doctoral candidate, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine,

Universiti Malaya

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