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Help for the elderly extended

The government has approved a second phase of a pilot project in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces that will this time see professional caregivers rather than volunteers visit the homes of the elderly to assist with domestic work, hygiene needs and general companionship.

“Families are the first form of support for the elderly, which leaves them extra vulnerable if something goes wrong,” Sor Sopotra, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Social Affairs, said yesterday at the launch of the project, funded by HelpAge International.

HelpAge supports the elderly through older people’s associations (OPAs), an intergenerational network of self-organising groups that help older people live with dignity, Sopotra said.

Sok Seth, 43, chief of the Federation of Old People Associations, which governs a number of OPAs, said it was important to provide a network of support that extends beyond the family.

“OPAs serve as a second home for many of the elderly when they have problems or need support. We can send someone to check on the hygiene or health of one of our elderly,” he said.

About 120 OPAs with more than 7,200 members operate throughout Battambang alone, according to HelpAge, and the government hopes to expand coverage across the country.

“These associations can help when the government can’t,” said Toun Sovann, 65, head of an OPA in Mong Russey district.

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