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Well-being of elderly at risk

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Cambodia’s elderly are emerging as a priority for policymakers, as it has become increasingly apparent they will affect the wider community and economy in a number of years, said the director of geriatric NGO Help-Age International yesterday.

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HelpAge International’s Annie Nut said the rapid increase of the proportion of those aged 55 and over – 8 per cent in 2012 to a projected 10 per cent in 2028 – and an increasing life expectancy was turning what used to be a “competing population issue” in youth-dominated Cambodia into an urgent concern.

“There is a lot of jump, a lot of elderly, so it’s about time to have proper studies and information to feed policy,” she said at a press conference yesterday in the capital to publicise the awarding of the Conrad N Hilton Humanitarian Prize to the international NGO.

HelpAge described the issue as urgent and said Cambodia has “little time” to prepare for an ageing population.

The poverty rate of those over 65 is 25 per cent and a significant number live in rural areas, the group said.

Nut highlighted that it was critical to examine and pay attention to the well-being of the ageing female heads of households, who tended to work in agriculture, have low literacy rates and care for the grandchildren when their children migrated for work.

Their well-being could potentially have wider impacts on society and the economy, she said.

Health statistics on Cambodia’s elderly were severely lacking, added Nut.

“Fifty-five and above that, [statistics] are invisible, it’s like there are no people over 55,” she said.

Besides economic and health issues, the elderly also face challenges in public participation, according to the group.

This was typical of Asian countries, where tradition dictates that the elderly not have much say in public life, said Nut, adding that it was important for policymakers to pay attention to geriatric issues.

“So this means the elderly have to live in the public space,” she added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cassandra Yeap at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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