CHOICES APLENTY: Malaysia offers a wide range of engaging activities and caters to a variety of interests
AFTER decades of hard work, most people looking to retire want to be comfortable and consider a variety of factors when deciding where they want to spend their golden years.
Common considerations include the quality of life they can enjoy, availability of meaningful activities to keep their days occupied and fulfilled, convenience of travel, and of course being close to family and friends.
For many Malaysians who have worked hard to shape the Malaysia that we know today, the country offers an ideal location to settle as they wind down and enjoy quality time with their loved ones.
A concern that many retirees have is what to do with all the free time that they suddenly find themselves with. Malaysia offers a wide range of engaging activities for the young and old at heart, and caters to a variety of interests.
Senior citizens who enjoy the arts need not look far to satiate their interests as Malaysia is home to an active arts and culture scene with performances and exhibitions that cater to all ages at affordable prices.
Individuals can view art exhibitions at the National Art Gallery, enjoy jazz performances at Alexis Bistro in Ampang, and for classical music aficionados, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the Dewan Philharmonik Petronas in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) Mall regularly, where tickets can be purchased for as little as RM10 a session.
For retirees who are not satisfied with just the activities offered within Malaysia, can exploit the country's geographical location which offers an ideal base for those who enjoy travelling due to its proximity to other Asian and Southeast Asian holiday destinations and cities, such as Bali, Phuket, Tokyo, Gold Coast and Auckland.
With access to budget airlines such as AirAsia, holidays are just a few hours away and at affordable prices, meaning that for many senior citizens in Malaysia, travelling can become a past time of choice.
Access to a good quality of life is another advantage of retiring in Malaysia. The country's appeal as a retirement destination is boosted by its landbank, infrastructure and relatively high standard of living.
The availability of large open spaces in Malaysia means that people are able to build landed residential properties at reasonable prices and within close proximity to all the conveniencies a city has to offer.
Recognising that your home is a major investment and that retiring in a comfortable property that you can call your own is something that many aspire towards, the government has worked hard to ensure that property prices remain reasonable even with the nation's rapid economic progress.
In 2013 Budget for example, the Prime Minister announced that real property gains tax (RPGT) will increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent next year, a move that is aimed at curbing speculation and reducing the risk of a property bubble in Malaysia.
The government has also worked to make it easy for Malaysia's senior citizens to get around, providing subsidies for them to travel on public transport.
To help support Malaysians in their old age, the government, as part of its Economic Transformation Programme, is also working to review the country's pension system with a joint task-force set up to design the infrastructure needed for the set up of a private pension industry.
Work on this has already started, and earlier this year, the Private Retirement Schemes (PRS) was launched to provide employees and the self-employed with an additional avenue to save for their retirement.
The PRS taps on investment products to build pension portfolios that help generate a steady cash flow for retirement.
Access to quality healthcare is also one of the top concerns for senior citizens and retirees, making the availability of healthcare amenities around their place of stay a key consideration. Malaysia today offers worldclass healthcare and at affordable prices.
The abolishment of the token RM1 for treatment at government hospitals and clinics implemented recently has made access to quality healthcare more affordable. This is a validation of the nation's efforts to ensure that our elders are well taken care of in their old age.
Senior citizens who require specialist treatment or hospitalisation at public hospitals need only pay a nominal fee. Retirement homes provide a viable option for the aged who are looking for both accommodation and healthcare. These homes have become extremely popular with those such as the Green Leaf Retirement Resort in Sepang, touted to be the "Club Med for oldies".
The home was inspired by a retirement home in Australia and boasts full medical facilities, recreation centres, and retail malls that encourage senior citizens to spend their golden years in a holistic environment, allowing them to stay active even after they retire.
As life expectancy in Malaysia continues to increase (average of 74 years in Malaysia), people will be able to enjoy more time with their loved ones after retirement. What this also means is that retirees now have a longer period to plan and budget for.
Providing access to affordable quality living, Malaysia offers a destination where one can live in comfort yet still enjoy access to a range of activities, clubs and entertainment, including a variety of attractive holiday destinations that are just a few hours aways.
For those looking to retire, Malaysia has the best of all worlds with the vibrancy of a bustling city, the open spaces of the countryside, a welcoming spirit of togetherness, and most importantly, proximity to loved ones. Malaysians planning for their retirement therefore need not look far to find an attractive destination to settle down as Malaysia indeed offers a holistic retirement offering unrivalled by others.