Taking Care of Elderly International Day on Older Persons
1st October 2022
People worldwide are living longer. Today most people can expect to live into their sixties and beyond. Every country in the world is experiencing growth in both the size and the proportion of older persons in the population.
According to WHO, by 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over. At this time the share of the population aged 60 years and over will increase from 1 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion. By 2050, the world’s population of people aged 60 years and older will double (2.1 billion). The number of persons aged 80 years or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million.
Common conditions in older age include hearing loss, cataracts, and refractive errors, back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia. As people becoming older, they are more likely to experience several conditions at the same time.
In Pakistan as of 2019, almost 15 million people are aged over 60 which is 7% of the country’s total population. The proportion of older people is expected to double to 12% in 2050 with 40 million people aged over 60. As life expectancy is predicted to rise above 70, the issue of an ageing population is of increasing concern in Pakistan. Over time, there will be fewer and fewer working age people to provide economic support during old age.
The country has taken some positive initiatives to protect the rights of older people in terms of legislation. There are existing national and provincial policies for older people, such as:
- Senior Citizens Welfare Council established under Senior Citizens Act 2014
- Balochistan Senior Citizen Act 2017 for legal protection
- Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act 2017
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Citizens Welfare Act 2014
but there is a major implementation gap between policy and application: policies must lead to intervention programs for the welfare of older men and women across the country.
As far as protection of old age people is concerned Pakistan still lacks comprehensive coverage of old age people in terms of social, financial protection. Only 2.3% of the population older than the statutory pensionable age in Pakistan receive an old-age pension. Post-retirement health benefits are also major issue in Pakistan which needs to be addressed. If we talk about old age workers in informal economy than there are no social security and social insurance mechanisms which will protect them after their retirement. Pakistan in the wake of various disasters and shocks such as Covid and Floods needs robust life-course and shock-responsive social protection mechanisms.
Caregiving of Elderly People
Currently, Pakistan predominantly relies on co-residence with family and kin for elderly care. With most of the aged that co-reside living with their sons, provision of care extends from fulfilment of financial needs to health as well as emotional needs. As majority of the caregiving services provided by the family members of elderly and the caregivers are at risk of facing some physical, emotional, mental, and social pressures leading to mental distress and depression, particularly the caregivers who are providing care to the people facing the severe declines in intrinsic capacity.
To assess the distress and exhaustion caused due to caregiving, SPRC did a study to highlight the issue faced by the caregivers of elderly people in Pakistan. This study concluded that most predominant caregiver distress was due to emotional issues (50%), related to feelings of stress, depression, and strain on family relationships followed by social issues (47%), and physical health issues (46%). Sleeplessness, weight change, lethargy, back pain are also common health issues reported in interviews by caregivers. Interviews from the caregivers showed that caregiving put their social and psychological well-being at risk.
Feeling angry, self – isolation, become irritable to family members, friends, children etc. and losing temper are some social and psychological issues reported by caregivers of elderly.
International Day for Older Persons,1st October 2022
Every year United Nations celebrate international day for elderly people on 1st October. Theme of this year is “Resilience of Older Persons in Changing World”. The recent pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, with the past three years intensifying the socioeconomic, environmental, health and climate related impacts on the lives of older persons. In developing countries, it is important to make older persons more resilient towards the different shocks and disasters because they are more vulnerable age group. To protect elderly people, countries like Pakistan are in dire need of life-course social protection mechanism because a strong social protection system will improve the quality of life of elderly people.
Pakistan must consider the following arrangements for the protection of elderly people:
- Enhancing coordination between local administration and non-governmental and private bodies working for the older people
- Expanding coverage and simplifying pension provision to cover all older people including those living in rural areas which are greater in proportion
- Enhancing access to quality healthcare by adoption of WHO’s plan on health and ageing
- Providing adequate support for societies and families taking care for older people