A new shelter for the indigent elderly – plus hundreds of new community-based associations for older people – is in the works under a national plan on ageing launched by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace yesterday.
In his speech, the premier emphasised that the policy is “a roadmap for a long-term goal”.
“It doesn’t mean we just care for elderly people now – the reality is elderly people have been taken care of since January 7, 1979,” Hun Sen said, referring to the day Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia to topple the Khmer Rouge.
The plan, titled National Aging Policy 2017-2030, was approved by cabinet ministers in August.
About 1.2 million Cambodians – or about 7 percent of the population – are aged 60 and older. As Cambodia’s life expectancy increases, the elderly population is expected to reach 5 million people by 2050.
Under the plan, the government hopes to expand retirement and pension schemes for workers, place medical professionals trained in geriatrics in every health centre and improve regulations against elder abuse.
The government will also consider free health care for senior citizens, according to the policy.
Tum Vira, executive director of HelpAge Cambodia, said older people have “many, many needs” but that two of the most important are income support and free health care.
As part of the plan, the ministry has also established more than 1,600 Older People’s Associations across the country – one for each commune.
However, Vira said, “the question is still how strong these Older People’s Association are”.
“If it’s a scam or you just fill in a form and there’s no services, then next time people hear about Older People’s Associations they will say, ‘Don’t go’.”
Toch Channy, a spokesman at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said the government is also constructing a centre for older people who are poor and homeless in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. The centre is “70 to 80 percent complete” and will house up to 300 seniors when finished, Channy said.
“In the centre we will provide them food, health treatment, exercise, and they can join clubs with other elderly people,” Channy said.
“They will be able to act like kids.”
Additional reporting by Daphne Chen