MALAYSIA is fast becoming an ageing nation. The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) estimated that, of the 32.7 million population in 2020 – 10.7% (about 3.5 million) are aged 60 and above.
At the same time, people aged 65 years and over has increased from 2.2 million in 2019 to 2.3 million one year later, forming 7% of the population. At this trajectory, those 65 and above are projected to double to 14% by 2044, making us an aged nation.
Against this backdrop, there is serious need to reconsider Malaysia’s ageing services. Merely increasing the number of nursing homes isn’t enough – there is also need to enable the elderly to “age in place”, allowing them to live comfortably in their homes with assistance.
This is precisely why the Khazanah Impact Innovation Challenge (KIIC) is in place. The initiative by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, organised in partnership with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), is set to grow and scale affordable services that support the Malaysian ageing community to age in place.
Nik Marien Nik Ahmad Kamal, senior vice president of Investments with Khazanah, tells Digital News Asia that KIIC aims to scale aged care businesses that are overlooked. There is need to expand aged care beyond nursing and ageing homes, as ageing in place has shown to be beneficial and allows the elderly more degree of independence and certainly, dignity.
But for them to age in place, there needs to be services and innovation. “They may still be prone to falling. They may still need help going to get groceries,” Nik Marien says. For many who have two income earners in the household, hiring live-in nurses is one way to allow for ageing in place, but oftentimes this is an expensive endeavour.
Being part of the value chain
Nik Marien would know. Her grandmother had aged in their home along with her retired parents and aunt, who hired a nurse to assist and care for the grandmother. She realised that the cost would not be accessible to most people.
The idea of KIIC is to seek innovative solutions to make aged care more affordable. “We’re looking to close that gap,” she says, acknowledging that while solutions like retirement villages and nursing homes are viable, it’s in expanding aged care options that is most crucial.
“We want to make sure that the option is available, and that the price is acceptable.”
In Malaysia, there exists a fairly robust ecosystem dedicated to address the ageing population. This ranges from healthcare providers, such as University of Malaya and KPJ Healthcare; to professional training institutions like Sunway University and Care Concierge.
Looking and understanding the value chain, Nik Marien believes that the role of building up more services for the middle-income class is still left for businesses owners. KIIC’s role is to challenge them to innovate.
Thus far, these businesses are centred mostly in the Klang Valley. KIIC intends to challenge them to, for instance, test their platforms, products or services in areas that they previously couldn’t with their own funds.
The winner or winners of KIIC stand a chance to receive an award of up to a US$72,800 (RM300,000) each in project development grant, and the lure of a potential follow-on investment by Khazanah.
“We’re trying to test to see if we can deploy things faster, and if we can have a higher rate of success in deployment,” Nik Marien says. This is why Khazanah is looking towards backing existing aged care businesses with at least three years of experience.
Being a niche sector, Khazanah believes that innovation is more likely to come from existing businesses that can experiment with the grant given.
Power through partnership
However, this is where their partnership with MaGIC offers more diversity. MaGIC, which has more experience serving as accelerators to early startups, comes in to help consider aged care businesses with at least 12 months of operation. “There are two parts to KIIC: the accelerator aspect, which caters to startups 12 months of age; and Khazanah’s scale-up, which caters to those who are at least three years in business,” Nik Marien explains.
“We’re using each other in a win-win situation,” she adds.
There’s more to the KIIC than merely funding. Khazanah has also partnered with Endeavor Malaysia to serve as mentors to KIIC participants, teaching them on how best to scale and expand their businesses.
Prior to that, however, KIIC and participating care operators will agree on some milestones to achieve. “If we decide to do a follow-on investment, they need to be at a stage where we are confident we can invest in them for the next 10 years to help them scale towards achieving their objectives, which is to make senior care more affordable and accessible,” Nik Marien notes.
She acknowledges that, as a whole, the KIIC wouldn’t be creating a massive impact towards the economy of the nation. “What’s most important, is the social value of what we’re doing. It’s more towards the social impact than the GDP impact.”With Malaysia’s status as an ageing nation all but inevitable, it pays to invest ahead.