More focus on elderly healthcare

National 2 minutes, 34 seconds

BELAIT

BRUNEI's improving standards of health and the corresponding increase in life expectancy will require an expansion in geriatric healthcare to address the unique needs of an ageing population.

“All over the world… the elderly population is gradually increasing because of improvements in health systems plus the baby booming period (post World War II) generation has become older,” said Dr Muhd Nurhasanuddin Kelali, geriatric consultant at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital.

He was speaking to The Brunei Times at the launch ceremony of the Healthy Lifestyle Programme for Senior Citizens organised by the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital and Health Promotion Centre, with the support of the hospital's Senior Citizen Health Promotion Support Group (PENYULUH).

During a presentation at the ceremony, he said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had estimated that in 2050, the world's above-60-years population would breach the two billion mark — more than triple the 605 million data of 2000.

He stated that in Brunei, the same age group would double in population in a shorter time frame of 10 years from now (current estimates based on pensioner data puts the current total at 27,273).

This was against the backdrop of a life expectancy that had improved by two years since 2001 – today, a Bruneian man's average life span is 76 while a local woman averages 79 years.

Dr Muhd Nurhasanuddin said that advancing geriatric medicine would better equip health workers to identify potential risk with ageing people, referring to the “geriatric giants” as a main categorisation in the health issues of the elderly, which lists out signs and symptoms to look for such as immobility, incontinence, depression and dementia.

“It's not really a diagnosis but the common presentations of the elderly… they can have underlying medical issues: infection, stroke, heart attack. Normally, the elderly don’t present typically like younger persons; they rarely follow the textbook. So as medical doctors, we need to look at the causes, diagnose correctly, then treat.”

The consultant believed that the level of geriatric care in Brunei was good and would continue to improve with more training and exposure.

“There are special queues for elderly when they go for check-ups or to take medication at special counters… We have a geriatric clinic as well for specialist input. There are a lot of projects going on at the moment; unfortunately, manpower is a big issue,” said Dr Muhd Nurhasanuddin, who believed that future developments were likely to include the introduction of geriatric wards and community services such as house visits to the elderly.

He also admitted that for the time-being, Brunei would have to rely on foreign expertise to support progress in geriatric care, although he believed it was not a problem unique to the country.

The ceremony also saw the appointments of the new PENYULUH committee, with participants being invited to conduct free-of-charge health screenings.

Present at the event were guest of honour, Rostinah Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Sura Pahlawan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Tahir, acting director of Community Development at the Department of Community Development and Hjh Kertini Orang Kaya Paduka Setia Diraja Hj Abu Hanifah, chairperson of PENYULUH.

The Brunei Times