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Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Social challenges of an ageing population", by Nimal Sanderatne in The Sunday Times Economic. (extract)

Sunday May, 22, 2011
By Nimal Sanderatne

"In as much as the ageing population has serious economic and financial consequences, the human and social dimensions of an ageing society poses serious challenges to the state and society. A high proportion of the aged would require to be cared for in the coming decade when the proportion of the elderly population would exceed 20 per cent. Already there is evidence of inadequate health care and accommodation for the elderly.
The ageing of the population necessitates public policies to develop institutional methods as well as community-based facilities of caring for the elderly, gearing the health system to cope with the illnesses associated with old age and the revamping of social-security systems to generate adequate incomes for old age sustenance. These are serious challenges that require government interventions, public-private partnerships and community endeavours. The next few years during which these problems are not so serious, should be used to design the needed policies and programmes.

Institutions for the elderly
The caring for the elderly has been rendered particularly onerous owing to increased longevity occurring, at the same time as customary social values of caring for the elderly within the family household are weakening. This implies the need to expand institutional means of caring for the elderly. More homes for the aged need to be established. This could involve significant public spending, as most senior citizens would not be able to pay the cost of such services.
Cost-effective methods of institutional caring need to be developed with state and community organisations sharing responsibilities. Besides finance, new capacities for caring for the elderly require to be developed and human resources have to be mobilized through voluntary and community participation. There are many caring services that have been developed recently, but these are far too expensive for the vast majority of elders.
Adequate institutional capacities to care for the larger number of elderly requiring such facilities should be planned. These should include expansion of state facilities; increased state assistance to community and religious institutions, encouragement of community initiatives for elderly care, and incentives for private-sector development of elders’ homes for the middle classes and the relatively affluent. Organisations such as HelpAge, Sarvodaya, Christian churches and charitable trusts run elders’ homes. The inadequacy of these to accommodate the elderly is clear from the long waiting lists for entering homes for the elderly".


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Social challenges of an ageing population

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