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Plan for aged rolled out but has ‘long way to go’

A grandmother plays with her grandchild in her veranda in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
A grandmother plays with her grandchild in her veranda in Phnom Penh earlier this month. Sahiba Chawdhary

Plan for aged rolled out but has ‘long way to go’

The Ministry of Health’s preventive medicine department yesterday released a national policy for elderly health care to address anticipated growth in Cambodia’s ageing population, which is estimated to reach 21 percent of the country’s total population by 2050.

However, there is no timeframe as yet on the implementation of what could be a “costly” policy, officials acknowledged yesterday on the sidelines of a workshop to disseminate the measure.

Dr Liu Yunguo, a representative with the WHO, which assisted in formulating the policy, said that in 2008, Cambodians 60 and older represented only 6 percent of the Kingdom’s demographically young population, but that figure is expected to nearly double by 2030.

By 2050, about 1 in 5 Cambodians will be 60 or older due to a decrease in family sizes and increases in longevity.

“While the potential benefit of active and healthy older populations’ contributions to society is enormous, ageing also comes along with challenges, such as rising burdens of non-communicable diseases, and the need for a different model of services including rehabilitation,” Yunguo said.

Kol Hero, director of the preventive medicine department, said officials still needed to develop an action plan for implementing the policy. “We have a long way to go,” he said. “We need to assess the needs on the ground and prioritise that. Our goal is to promote healthy ageing.”

Funding for the policy’s implementation would still also need to be secured, he conceded.

Experts yesterday identified key priorities such as an expansion of geriatric units in hospitals, training for medical personnel and providing support services for families, said Vivath Chou, with the WHO. Experts also stressed the need for rehabilitation to help the elderly stay active and live independently.

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