AHWIN Team Visits Malaysia for Outreach and Site Visits

March 19–22, 2024
Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

Staff from AHWIN’s NPO partner organization, the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE), traveled to Malaysia for a series of site visits and meetings with local research institutions and to spread awareness about the 2024 Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation (HAPI).

Meetings in Kuala Lumpur

The team began with a visit to the National University of Malaysia (UKM) to meet with  Professor Dr. Mohd Rohaizat Hassan, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Medicine. During the meeting, they discussed the current status of aging in Malaysia and trends toward greater utilization of home nursing care services. The team had a chance to learn about Professor Rohaizat’s work on infectious diseases, including the prevalence of zoonotic malaria in rural Malaysia and its impact on indigenous groups there, including older persons. The team also learned about the research he is currently conducting in Perak, the country’s most aging state, where there are some districts in which 16 percent of the population is 65 or older, as compared to the national average of 7–8 percent.

Meetings in Selangor

On the following day, the team visited the Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing (MyAgeing™) in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). MyAgeing™, which functions as a national center for research in gerontology, geriatrics, and gerontechnology, was one of the recipients of the HAPI Special Prize for COVID-19 Response in 2021 for their Capacity Building for Caregivers and Older Persons for Contactless Deliveries using Indoor Autonomous Robots during the COVID-19 Pandemic project. During the visit, Professor Siti Anom Ahmad, who was the leader of the project, briefed the team about the innovation and the improvements made to the technology. The briefing was then followed by an introduction to MyAgeing™ by the Head of Laboratory, Dr. Mohd Nazim Mohtar, and introduction to JCIE and HAPI by the JCIE Program Officer, Ms. Momoko Abe.

Next up was a tour around the institute, where the team visited five of the institute’s laboratories, which were the Rehabilitation Lab, Physical Functionality Lab, Ergonomic Lab, Food Preparation Lab, and the Living Lab. During the tour, the team had the opportunity to conduct a balance performance test using one of the tools in the lab, and observed four different room designs for care facilities for independent occupants, semi-dependent occupants, fully-dependent occupants, and occupants with dementia.

Meetings in Negeri Sembilan

On the final day, the team traveled to Negeri Sembilan to visit Wakaf Pak Ngah Atan, a Senior Citizens Activity Center (PAWE) run by MyAgeing™. As of March 2024, there were 89 registered members, and around 20 of the members came to welcome the team. The center is open on weekdays from 8am to 5pm, and conducts regular academic, fitness, and spiritual activities such as taichi, chairobics, and health talks. However, since the team visited during the holy month of Ramadan, all physical activities were postponed due to fasting, and replaced with spiritual activities, such as reciting the Quran. Before leaving, the team exchanged opinions and suggestions based on activities conducted by senior citizen centers in Japan.

The team ended their visit in Malaysia by having iftar (fast-breaking meal) with Professor Dato’ Dr. Tengku Aizan, the former Director of MyAgeing™.

Overall, the visit to Malaysia’s top research institutions and activity center has helped the team to have better understanding of the status of aging in Malaysia, which reached “aged” nation status in 2021 as per the population estimate conducted in 2023. Moving forward, the team hopes to further engage Malaysia in efforts to share best practices and lessons learned to other countries facing similar challenges throughout Asia and worldwide.