According to The Star, 1 in 10 Malaysians will be over 60 years old within the next 3 years.
This is all just step 1 in an ongoing trend that will see Malaysia turn into an ageing nation sometime soon. This all begs the question: where will all of these old people go?
If their kids are unable to care for them, the obvious answer is to send them to a nursing home. But with the conditions of many nursing homes here in Malaysia, some may find it cruel to send their ageing parents there, and instead choose to take up the brunt of the care themselves.
Even if kids aren’t in the picture, the retirees themselves might be looking for a better alternative to live out their still active sunset years.
One can opt to go to the GreenAcres Retirement Village—as long as you can fork out upfront deposit of RM300,000 onwards.
You’ll find the GreenAcres Retirement Village out in Ipoh, Perak. The deposit charged is solely for leasing the house. Meanwhile, for every month that you stay in the space, you’ll be charged upwards RM371 a month, which includes operational costs for the village and access to facilities.
With that being said, you can still get the RM300,000 back in full, as long as you fill out an exit form and provide a suitable exit reason (like say, the senior citizen now requires full-time care and needs to be sent to a nursing home).
Why did they go with the leased deposits?
“If we were to sell the units outright, the units might later be rented, on-sold or transferred to people who are not of retirement age (e.g. young families, bachelors, students, etc). This would alter the character of the project and hence we chose a lease model instead,” said John.
Residents will get to live on an elevated space among lush greenery in a 5.26 hectare complex surrounded by the limestone hills of the Kinta Valley.
Residents are also welcome to grow their own herbs in a specialised area.
Meanwhile, special senior citizen designs include emergency call buttons, wider roads, lower (and bigger) switches, bathroom grab rails, seats in the showers, ramped entryways at the main door, step-less bathrooms, furnishings with wider and longer handles, and levers.
Levers everywhere—taps with lever handles, and even levers at the doors. The units also come partially-furnished.
What sits at the core of GreenAcres is a clubhouse that serves as the social and activity centre for the retirement village.
And this building features your expected amenities like a gym, multi-purpose halls, TV lounges and reading room to cool stuff like a 24-seater mini-cinemas and karaoke rooms.
On top of that, GreenAcres holds activities and facilities to stimulate the mind and body, which John doesn’t think is typically found in other options, such as condominiums and old folks’ homes.
Some of the activities include taichi, line dancing, morning walks and billiards.
This is all with the caveat that the elderly to be housed there can still live independently, and this allows them to maintain their independence for longer.
Housekeeping is also available as an optional paid service. There are also shuttles to take them around the area, and even to go and shop.
“The homes, as you will discover, are specially designed in consideration of what seniors need. With the help of our consultants who have many years of experience in managing and advising retirement properties in Australia, as well as our interior designers, we have equipped the homes with a wide-range of age-friendly features,” said John Chong of Total Investment Sdn Bhd, the organisation that runs the space.
In fact, the idea for the whole space came from John’s mother.
“I have dreamt of bringing such a lifestyle to Malaysia, and have taken every opportunity to visit and speak with people who work and live in retirement villages in Australia and America. My mother lived in such a village in Melbourne, Australia until she was in her 90s.”
– Madam Siew, GreenAcres Retirement Village
“From the stories I’ve heard and observed, I realised how satisfying it is to live in a retirement village, as it is a life of friendship in a caring and inclusive community.”
73-year-old Madam Siew Yin Leng nurtured the idea since 1992, after seeing the retirement villages in Australia, especially how they positively impact the lives of its residents.
And perhaps seeing the stereotypical listless, directionless senior citizens that we often see here in Malaysia, she felt that we could also benefit from having this type of retirement lifestyle not two heartbeats away from our doorstep.
Since Madam Siew had been involved in property since the 1970s, she chose to actualise her idea through Total Investment Sdn Bhd, which John calls their family business.
She runs the project with her son John Chong, the Total Investment Group Executive along with May Chong.
The team cites their main challenge of running GreenAcres as the creation of the operational & management policies, though their Australian consultants truly helped them out on that front with templates that they could adapt and tweak to suit our local tastebuds.
They broke ground in 2014, and since unveiling their first 26 units for phase 1, the team have seen interest not just from Malaysians, but also Hong Kong and Canada who would, as John puts it “retire comfortably”.
The full project will only be completed in 2021, and will cost approximately RM100 million in total, and offer 177 units for independent living.
Meanwhile, plans for the elderly that require more on-hand care are in the works for the next phases of GreenAcres.
The GreenAcres team are surprised that most of their residents came of their own accord.
We wondered if the team puts in any efforts to convince the traditionally filial Malaysians to part with their dearly loved family, and the answer is, they do.
“Our campaign includes giving talks, leading site tours and having press articles to raise awareness about the benefits of a retirement village,” said John.
Despite that, John noted that most of their residents come of their own accord after discovering of their overseas-inspired model.
“Many retirees have become open to the idea of living in a retirement village where they can age gracefully and with dignity.”
Since their project was written about in both NST and The Star, they’ve gained a surge of visitors and inquiries.
“But the sales process is not a quick one and it will take time for people to understand and commit to getting a unit in GreenAcres.”
The question is now: will this eventually become a viable solution for the millennial generation that, not only are having less children, but find it difficult to save up for home deposits in their youths?
After all, while GreenAcres is currently one of the more publicised few residential villages in Malaysia, but if more and more Malaysians open up to the idea, we might be looking at a retirement choice for many Malaysians in the future, regardless of whether they have kids or not.
And for that future, I say, it is definitely the time to start thinking about your savings if you want to retire gracefully.