Getting Senior Care Service on the Right Track

A national document developed by the Secretariat of National Council of the Elderly (SNCE) to improve quality of life for the elderly is awaiting approval at the Management and Planning Organization
About 9.5% (7.6 million) of the population now comprises people above 60 years of age.About 9.5% (7.6 million) of the population now comprises people above 60 years of age.

Less than one-tenth of children support their elderly parents, according to head of the Iranian Geriatric Research Center affiliated to the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences.

“Hardly 2% of children support their parents in old age,” Ahmad Delbari was quoted by ISNA as saying.

“It only highlights the role and importance of devising effective and comprehensive geriatric care programs.”

About 9.5% (7.6 million) of the population now comprises people above 60 years of age. Delbari believes the current services are not adequate, and are in need of immediate and serious revision.

Geriatric care must be supported by the government. “The existing services are family-based, meaning almost all elderly people are accommodated by their families whose members pay for their healthcare, wellbeing and other services,” he said.

Elderly care has been aggravated over the past decade due to the migration of young adults, both women and men, particularly from rural to urban areas, in search of work. Globally, migration is a drain on the availability of adult caregivers; therefore older parents are left behind and have to fend for themselves, according to an article in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

There are also changes to family structures in modern times which are seeing the rise of the nuclear family, and a greater number of elderly family members living separately.

“Based on the estimations by the center for the next decade, families will find it difficult to carry out their filial duties or be able to manage elderly care, “ Delbari said, since shrinking families with fewer children will have to take care of old parents.

Some of the elderly who currently live alone expressed the advantage of an independent lifestyle in that they imposed less burden on their children, and that they could spend more time on their own hobbies. They also were less likely to be stressed by adult children or daughters-in-law who had different approaches to child raising or other family matters. But the disadvantages are apparent though, when senior citizens become frail and require daily support and care-giving.

Many families view separate or independent living arrangements of their elderly members as an additional burden in terms of time and costs when outside care-giving support is needed.

Mental health in terms of depression and dementia are also a reality of ageing and with an increasing rate in Iran, it discourages children from caring for their own parents.

Delbari took stock of a national document developed by the Secretariat of National Council of the Elderly (SNCE) to improve quality of life for the elderly and lamented its delay. “It has been going back and forth between the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Social Welfare for years.”

“Long overdue, the document will be sent to the Management and Planning Organization for approval soon,” he hoped.

  Grey Population

If proper plans for social and medical support of the elderly are not in place in a timely manner, the country will be undermined by the phenomenon of a grey population in the imminent future, he warned.

“We will have more elderly than children and youth and more people at the extreme end of old age than ever before,” as longevity increases and mortality decreases due to better healthcare.

As both the proportion of older people and life span increases throughout the world, workable plans and policies must be laid down to manage aging that demands infrastructure and institutions as soon as possible, he stressed. Implementing an integrated national program and policy for the elderly – with particular focus on health issues is critical and requires special attention.

 “The longer the delay, the more costly and less effective the solutions are likely to be.”

The national document includes plans to improve different aspects of elderly life such as leisure time, income security and economic empowerment. Currently, between 600,000 and 700,000 elderly are covered by the State Welfare Organization and 100,000 are under care in 24-hour subsidized centers and daycare homes.

The annual population growth rate for the general population is 1.3%, while the annual growth rate for those aged 60-65 is 6%.

It is estimated that by 2025, the percentage of the population 60+ will reach 12.3% and the percentage of those aged 65+ will reach 8.1%.

The majority of health problems among elderly people are non-communicable and chronic diseases which require lengthy and costly health services. As a result, preventive measures, health promotion and early treatment are of high importance, as these help save costs in the long term.

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