Transformation of a City: Identifying the gaps

There is a shift of population from the countryside to city, facts and figures by United Nation show that, half of humanity (3.5 billion people) lives in cities today and by 2030, almost 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

However, things come in pairs, elderly population also increasing rapidly all around the world. Imagine 60% of the world’s population who live and ageing in urban areas, are our cities enable them to live longer better?

According to the report titled East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth (2015), Malaysia is among the more urbanized countries of East Asia, and its urban population continues to increase rapidly.

Malaysia has 19 urban areas with more than 100,000 people: one urban area of more than 5 million people (Kuala Lumpur), two between 1 million and 5 million people (George Town and Johor Bahru), five of 500,000 to 1 million people, and 11 urban areas of between 100,000 and 500,000 people.

Urbanisation in Malaysia is an inevitable as we make headway towards a high income nation status by 2020. Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia is ranked among East Asia’s more urbanised countries and its urban population has continued to increase rapidly from 27 per cent in 1970 to 74 per cent in 2014. He said the government has decided on developing competitive cities as one of the game changers in the 11th Malaysia Plan. (NST Team, 4th March 2016)


Gap between development and the people

Dr. Thomas Tang, Managing Director of The Kuala Lumpur Centre for Sustainable Innovation (KLCSI) mentions “we have to accept the fact that Kuala Lumpur (KL) L is still a very young city. Its transformation from a rural area to a city only began from 1881 and technically it’s only 135 years old…… KL is moving toward to urbanization.

“We are looking at how to accommodate growing population, mobility, education, welfare, healthcare etc……”

Urbanization creates also creates disparity especially in provision of goods and services in various forms such as the property and housing thus making it unaffordable for certain groups of people. KL now is a mixture for people who already here and people who move from the rural area. Environmental change has made both new or existing city people experience the differences.

“For the elderly who already living in KL for years, they are going through the whole change. Things that simple in past have now become more complicated.”

What happening here is, the city incredible change have not catch up with the elderly, there is a gap between development and the ageing population.


We have to accept that there will be a large proportion of population over 60 year’s old, living in cities.

“Development should offer active ageing facilities, accessibility, and introduce the inter-generation aspect which able to cape with different generation.”


How to Transform?

Faced with an ageing population, how can we transform our city?

“A sustainable city is one that is resilient to current or future change whether physical change or social change. An age friendly city is one aspect of sustainability.” Said Dr. Thomas.

The rising up of aged population is not a regional issue but global phenomenon, which has the world experiencing it at the same time. United Nation have giving us some guideline in sustainable development to make our city better.

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nation, some of them need a long time to plan and achieve but some of them can make an instant impact.

“The main one is goal 11—Sustainable cities and communities. This goal talk about inclusiveness.” Said Dr. Thomas.


Inclusiveness cover a number of aspect:

As a Community 

No discriminate between different group, age, races and religion. It is about how you have integration with community where we respect, celebrate each other differences.

Recognize the strength

Rather than focus on the weaknesses, we should recognize the strength of our society bring toward sustainable communities.


“All the goals that listed down by United Nation are inter-related, it ensures that we have better living standards and conducive, environment for all the people who live in cities, He added.

Malaysia is a multi-racial country, there are different views in terms of esthetic when discussing living environments or even lifestyle due to the varied cultural backgrounds. How can a city transform itself to meet the cultural requirements and what are the distinct areas in which must be placed into the facilities?

“Inclusiveness is always the principal, respecting each other must play a fundamental role according to Dr. Thomas.

He further added that, as Malaysia is a mixture of different races, we need to provide spaces to different races based on their specific needs. Despite spaces provided for specific needs, those spaces are not to separate each other but to respect each other.

People who share same interest will feel more comfortable when engaging with each other. A common platform can be created in facilities to gather people with same interest, just like how we choose our co-curriculum during our school time.

“The common platform must provide substance which are comfortable to all the people such as football.”


How can we start?

Kuala Lumpur, as the capital city of Malaysia, and the city where most of the Malaysian younger generation choose to work and stay, does it moving on the right track to become a sustainable and age friendly city?

“No.” Dr. Thomas answered, “Because there is no policy to drive this in Malaysia.”

Like what we showed in Pic 1 above, the direction of city development and the ageing population do not match with each other. It will lead us to circumstances where the elderly will be abandoned by the city that they work so hard to build.

“We need to put regulations in place, and think about proper institutional for the elderly, but this is very reactive approach, because by the time people aged as the city keep develop in current direction (for the young), it will be hard for us to manage elderly expectation and needs.”

Dr. Thomas says that, the government have to take lead to create a framework and policy to encourage private sector to invest in this sector which have great opportunity in the future.

Dr. Thomas Tang


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