Navigating the future of care for older persons in Malaysia by 2040: From community support to technological integration

Malaysia will become an aging society in 2040.

June 15, 2024

This blog is produced under UNDP Malaysia Accelerator Lab, authored by Rachel Yue (UNV); co-authored by Dr. David Tan (Head of Exploration) and Subash Jai Devaraj (Research and Writing Associate)


Malaysia is at a critical juncture in its demographic shift towards an increasingly ageing population. The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) projects a significant rise in the percentage of citizens aged 65 and above: from 8.1% in 2024 (1) to 14.5% by 2040 (2). This burgeoning elderly demographic will place unprecedented demands on the nation's care system.  

Meanwhile, financial readiness for retirement is alarmingly deficient. The Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) reports that 58% of its 54-year-old members, who are one year away from being able to withdraw all their retirement funds, have less than RM100,000 saved, less than half of the RM 240,000 need to generate a monthly income of RM 1,000 for the next 20 years (3).The combination of financial unpreparedness, a preference for ageing in place, and the high costs associated with domestic caregiving mean that many elderly will face difficult trade-offs as they age. It is imperative to ensure all seniors receive necessary care and support without imposing an excessive financial burden on their families.

Initiatives such as the Bantuan Warga Emas provide cash assistance (4) to enhance the financial well-being of senior citizens. Still, broader solutions are needed to meet the scale of the challenges ahead. The National Action Plan for Senior Citizens and the impending Senior Citizens Bill (5) demonstrate the Malaysian Government’s dedication to improving the elderly's welfare and rights. Also, gerontechnology—technology designed to address the specific needs of the elderly—could serve as a force multiplier in the caregiving sector, offering innovative solutions to support independent living and reducing the strain on family caregivers. 

Malaysia is at a critical juncture in its demographic shift towards an increasingly ageing population.

Ray Chan / Pexels
Preparation and Transition 
Strengthening Financial Stability

The EPF system already ensures that formal workers save a high fraction of their incomes, but low salaries prevent many from accumulating sufficient retirement savings. Measures such as a progressive wage policy could address this structural challenge in the long-term, but other solutions are necessary for those who have already retired or are nearing retirement.  

The fiscal reforms undertaken by the Malaysian government provide a window of opportunity to strengthen social protection. The Malaysian Government has redirected subsidies, initiated new tax measures, and increased cash aid to the needy from RM 8 billion to RM 10 billion in its 2024 Budget (6), and signalled that further reforms will continue. Developing a robust life-cycle approach to social protection can protect people in financially vulnerable stages of life, including minors, the income-unstable, and seniors over 65. These adjustments would ensure a sustainable support system for Malaysia’s ageing population through targeted assistance and increased tax revenues. 

Low salaries prevent many from accumulating sufficient retirement savings.

Mikhail Nilov/ Pexels
Expanding Care Infrastructure with Community Integration

There are currently 393 registered elderly care centres and 26 nursing homes (7), with estimates indicating between 700 to over 1000 unregistered facilities (8). Even with most families preferring to provide caregiving for the elderly at home, many facilities already face long waiting lists, and the demand will only increase in the coming years. Initiatives under the 12th Malaysia Plan aimed at fostering senior-friendly communities through activity centres (Pusat Aktiviti Warga Emas) and healthcare facilities are steps in the right direction (9). Recognising the severe shortage of elderly care facilities, Malaysia must also accelerate the development of care options.

Tax incentives for the conversion of property into licensed elderly care facilities could help to address the present shortfall. Meanwhile, enhancing affordable home policies for multigenerational families—especially in urban settings—would provide the living space necessary for families to care for their elderly. Further support for such families can come through community-based care programs that offer personalized care in their neighbourhoods, strengthen community ties and reduce reliance on institutionalized care. By employing trained residents in senior care roles, these initiatives also create job opportunities, fostering a culture of community-supported elderly care.  

Leveraging Gerontechnology for Personalised Care

Technology has great potential to enhance and transform elderly care, social protection, and health services. In Singapore’s Age Well SG initiative, S$3.5 billion has been dedicated by the Government over the next decade to active ageing centres to combat social isolation among the elderly (10). One element of this programme is the Enhanced Home Personal Care (HPC+) service (11), which uses technology to detect of falls and other incidents, enabling timely response. To ensure privacy, personal data obtained through this initiative is protected by Singapore’s Public Sector (Governance) Act 2018 (12), which imposes criminal penalties on public officers who knowingly or recklessly disclose data without authorisation or otherwise misuse the data.

Japan has made significant strides in gerontechnology, introducing interactive robots to ease loneliness and foster independence among seniors. Robotic pets that learn from interactions, recognize faces and respond with affection have proven highly popular with seniors. However, just because technology is available does not mean that it is accessible and acceptable. In 2021, an estimated 20 million senior citizens in Japan lacked familiarity with smartphones and digital devices. In response, the Government of Japan is collaborating with mobile phone companies to organize classes for seniors on device operation—with an ambitious five-year target of training 10 million individuals (13).  

The demographic transition is an opportunity for Malaysian businesses to invest in local gerontechnology solutions tailored to its population’s needs and aspirations. For example, smart home systems need features that cater to the elderly's needs, such as voice-activated controls in Malaysia's major languages. At the same time, the Government has an important role in ensuring inclusivity and data privacy, so that these technologies reduce rather than increase inequalities. 

Future scenarios

Here we explore possible futures of elderly care in Malaysia. From Community-Centric to Technology-Driven and Hybrid Models, these visions illustrate diverse approaches to support Malaysia's ageing population. These illustrate how community, innovation, and policy reform could converge to shape the support ecosystem for seniors. 

Technology-Driven Care  

Malaysia has transformed elderly care through the seamless integration of technology, with telehealth services at its core. These services offer remote consultations, health monitoring, and emergency response, reducing the need for physical visits to healthcare facilities and enhancing convenience and safety for seniors. Wearable health devices play a key role by continuously monitoring vital signs and health metrics, leading to early identification of health issues and reduced hospital admissions. However, challenges such as digital literacy among the elderly and concerns about data privacy arise. To address this, comprehensive support and education programs are held nationwide, ensuring seniors can confidently use these technologies. Additionally, stringent data protection measures, including personal data and protection law reforms are carried out and encryption methods are implemented to safeguard sensitive healthcare data. 

Technology services offer remote consultations, health monitoring, and emergency response, reducing the need for physical visits to healthcare facilities and enhancing convenience and safety for seniors

Edward Jenner / Pexels
Hybrid Care Models

In this hybrid scenario, Malaysia adopts a holistic approach to elderly care that combines technological innovation with community-driven support systems. While leveraging telehealth services and wearable health devices to enhance healthcare accessibility and efficiency, the emphasis is also placed on preserving the human connection and social interaction crucial for the well-being of seniors. Community engagement initiatives are strengthened, fostering intergenerational bonds and combating social isolation among the elderly. Volunteers serve as bridges between technology and human interaction, providing companionship, assistance with technology usage, and facilitating participation in community events. Moreover, the government implements comprehensive support and education programs to improve digital literacy among seniors and ensure their understanding of data privacy concerns. By blending the efficiency of technology with the warmth of community support, Malaysia creates a future where elder care is both technologically advanced and deeply human-centred, ensuring seniors receive comprehensive care and remain connected within their communities.


As Malaysia approaches a significant demographic shift, the need for comprehensive elder care strategies becomes urgent. Envisioned scenarios of technology-driven, community-centric, and hybrid care models highlight a future where elder care integrates innovative solutions with deep community values. This future prioritizes dignity, well-being, and active participation of the elderly. Immediate action is needed from the government, private, and community sectors to develop and implement policies and programs reflecting this holistic approach and aiming to create a sustainable, efficient, compassionate, and inclusive care ecosystem for its ageing population, valuing elders as bearers of wisdom and history. 

This is #2 of 6 blogs about Malaysia's future of climate and demographic shifts, ahead of the launch of an upcoming report, Transitioning Futures, Anticipating Change: Socioeconomic Futures of Malaysia’s Climate & Demographic Transition. Watch this space or follow us on social media for the report. 


  1. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). “Malaysia | Demographic Changes.” UNESCAP, n.d. Accessed May 7, 2024.

  2.  Department of Statistics Malaysia. “Population Projection.” Department of Statistics Malaysia, n.d. Accessed May 7, 2024.

  3. The Star. “One in Three 54-year-olds Will Retire With Below RM10k in EPF.” The Star, November 30, 2023. Accessed May 7, 2024.

  4.  Department of Social Welfare. “Older Person.” Department of Social Welfare, n.d. Accessed 7 May 2024.

  5.  Jun, Soo Wern. “Senior Citizens’ Bill May Include Penalties for Irresponsible Adult Children, Says Deputy Minister.” Malay Mail, March 15, 2023. Accessed 7 May 2024.

  6. Ministry of Finance. “Budget 2024 Highlights.” Ministry of Finance, October 13, 2023. Accessed 7 May 2024.

  7.  Malay Mail. “Establish More Senior Care Centres, Minister Tells Private Sector.” Malay Mail, July 17, 2023. Accessed 7 May 2024.

  8.  International Long-term Care Policy Network (ILPN). “The Long Term Care COVID-19 Situation in Malaysia.” ILPN, May 30, 2020. Accessed 7 May 2024.

  9.  Ministry of Economy, The Mid-Term Review of the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (Malaysia: Ministry of Economy, 2023), 6-11. Accessed 7 May 2024. 

  10. Singapore Budget 2024 Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr. Lawrence Wong (28 February 2024)

  11. Age Well SG. “Care Support,” n.d. Accessed 7 May 2024.

  12.  Smart Nation Singapore, Government Personal Data Protection Policies (Singapore: Smart Nation Singapore, n.d.), 02. Accessed 7 May, 2024.

  13. KYODO NEWS. “Japan Making Efforts to Bridge Digital Divide Between Young, Elderly.” KYODO NEWS, June 11, 2023. Accessed 7 May, 2024.