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Aging population ‘21 per cent’ by ‘50

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Two elderly women relax in their home in Kandal province’s Mouk Kampoul district. Hong Menea

Aging population ‘21 per cent’ by ‘50

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation urged the private sector and development partners to set up care centres for the elderly in Cambodia in response to the aging population.

The elderly are expected to reach 21 per cent of the population by 2050. However, despite that, the government has not yet established any policies related to senior care centres under management by the state.

The call came at a recent workshop on the care of the elderly, which was attended by development partners and the private sector, including 300 youths. The event took focused on training and disseminating skills related to geriatric care.

The ministry’s General Department of Technical Affairs director-general, Touch Channy, said the ministry has so far set up one care centre for the elderly in order to train additional human resources for the care of the elderly, but it was in no way sufficient to meet the needs of Cambodia’s actual senior population.

Channy said he expected that the private sector and development partners could join together in establishing these centres for the care of the elderly in Cambodia to meet their needs in the future, because the government has no policy or current plans for opening these centres run by the state.

“Our government cannot afford to set up nursing homes or senior centres because Cambodia has many other types of similar centralized institutions, and the trend of the United Nations is moving away from solving problems with big institutional centres,” he said.

“But the Ministry of Social Affairs and the government urge the private sector or development partners to join in establishing such care centres. Elderly people must receive care through a professional centre and if any organization or partner wants to open a care centre, we encourage that,” he added.

He added that in 2015 the number of elderly people in Cambodia aged 60 and over was at 1.3 million or about 8.3 per cent of the total population, and this number will rise to 11 per cent by 2030 and to 21 per cent by 2050.

He continued that the reason for the projected increases was a predicted decrease in fertility rates as education levels and incomes increased along with an improvement in life expectancy as healthcare access expands.

“Fertility rates decreased from 5.7 per cent in 1990 to 2.5 per cent in 2019. Life expectancy increased from 54 years for men and 58 years for women in 1998 to 74.3 years for men and 76.8 years for women in 2019,” Channy said.

Kondo Yoshio, director of Procast Co Ltd, spoke at the workshop and explained that elder care by professionals in “nursing homes” or “old folks homes” has not yet become a widespread practice in Cambodia, but the sector is growing in demand in many other countries and will here eventually, too.

He added that in Japan there is strong competition in the senior care sector in response to an increase in available resources to put to use for that purpose and the techniques used in Japan for caring for the elderly are considered to be the best in the world.

“To help Cambodia continue to develop, I really want to pave the way for the training of elder care human resources here. I hope that today’s workshop will help people understand how to care for elderly people and you will all be interested and can gain some knowledge, skills and experience about caring for the elderly,” he continued.

A third-year nursing student at a medical school in Phnom Penh, Ol Sotly attended the workshop and took part in the training activities on caring for the elderly. She told The Post that many elderly people in Cambodia were not receiving enough close care from their family members, partly because so many adults were working away from home or working long hours.

She added that when Cambodia has better human resources and professional care centres, it will enable some families to be more confident about providing better care to their parents.

“If we have services and professional care for the elderly it will be better for many of them who spend too much time alone right now with no caregivers, which poses many risks for them. As people get older it is natural that their bodies just can’t do some of the things they used to, so they can’t always live on their own,” she continued.

The Ministry of Social Affairs continues to implement the National Aging Policy 2017-2030 to improve the situation for the elderly in Cambodia by pursuing action plans, introducing policies and standardization documents and establishing mechanisms to increase policy efficiency for social services for the elderly.

The ministry has also established associations for senior citizens in all 1,646 communes in the capital and provinces to help solve the problems of the elderly and provide a mechanism that allows them to support and help each other, Channy noted.

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