The population is one of the elements of power that can measure a powerful country. If there is a higher population in a particular country it can help boost the economy. The higher population can engage with the production and other income methods which means that the country can economically grow.
But if the elderly population is growing in a country, it will create some challenges.
In recent census and statistics data, 12.3% of the Sri Lankan population are in the 60 or above ages which is the highest proportion of the South Asian region. How can this be affected for Sri Lanka?
In this post, I’m going to discuss how the growing elderly population affects Sri Lanka.
Low Contribution for the economy
As mentioned earlier, the population is a key element in the development progress in a country. But the growing elderly population is challenging for any country, especially for a country like Sri Lanka.
Due to physical and mental disabilities, and any other issues, the contribution of the elder population to the economic growth of a country can be low. In the case of Sri Lanka, the previous retirement age for people was 55 years and after their retirement, they did not contribute much to the economy. This can slow down the economic progress of a country, especially a developing country like Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, the pension scheme in Sri Lanka is also important here. There is a deep wish in most citizens in Sri Lanka that they should apply for government jobs due to its benefits like pension and social acceptance. As a result of that, there is a huge demand for government jobs among the young generation due to its privileges.
Increasing government workers means it increases the pension scheme and benefits. As a result, the government should pay a huge amount of money for a long period for government employees and as a pension after their retirement. In return, the contribution of the elder population to the country is low compared with the privileges.
As a solution for that, the government of Sri Lanka has taken an action to increase the minimum retirement age to 60. This solution has two sides, which means it can enhance the contribution of the elder population to the economy. But on the other hand, this can be limiting the chances for the young generation.
Poor Health care system
In a country that has an increasing elder population, there should be a good healthcare system.
Elders are more vulnerable to diseases and especially for Covid -19 Virus. A national survey conducted in 2014 by the Department of Census and Statistics in Sri Lanka shows that 55% of the total respondents who were 60 and over suffer from chronic illness. Not only the physical disabilities and diseases, but elders are also suffering from mental issues such as isolation and depression. In 2015, 683 elder people committed suicide.
In order to keep a healthy elder population, there should be a sufficient health care system with well-trained personnel, better technology, sufficient medicines, and types of equipment.
When comparing it with the developed countries, even though Sri Lanka has free Health care services, sometimes it can not meet the needs of the patients. Lack of new types of equipment, lack of medicines, poor hospitals in rural areas, usual protests in the medical sectors, expensive medicines always create a poor health care service in Sri Lanka. There are many people and especially elders who are suffering from these issues every day.
This can be a big challenge for Sri Lanka because, in order to maintain a healthy elder population, the health care sector should be more developed.
Elders caring services
We are living in a competition. People are running after money and goals for a comfortable life. As a result of that social system, people do not have sufficient time to spend with their families.
In Sri Lanka, parents give their home to the youngest child and live with that child. But this tradition now seems like changing and some children move out after their marriages, live abroad, or spend a busy life. On the other hand, sometimes elders do not like to change their usual habitat and move with the children. As a result of that, elders isolate themselves in their home or children send them to elders’ homes.
In recent years, there is a rapid growth in the no. of elder homes in Sri Lanka. As a result that, some people keep their elders in elder care services and pump money to care for them.
According to a report issued by Asian Development Bank in 2019, in 2016 the percentage of elders living alone in the Urban area is 17%, and in rural areas 10%. The report shows that the number of elders who are living alone in urban areas is higher than in rural areas because it can be due to the distribution of elder’s homes which are situated commonly in urban areas.
But the thing is, are those elders receive much attention and protection through Elders care services in Sri Lanka.
I have a personal experience where I went to an elder home. Even though they had food and other necessities (as we can see from the outside) at least they could not use an electric fan when their hall was hot, due to the electricity bill.
In the recent trends, there are two types of elders homes, those run by welfare societies or NGOs which are overcrowded and the most commonly used method, and secondly, Senior citizen apartments that allow independent living with all the facilities like in developed countries. Most Sri Lankans follow the 1st type which is cheaper than the 2nd type but faces many challenges due to the lack of facilities.
With the growing no of the elder population, Sri Lanka needs to regulate the eldercare service that meets the maximum needs of the elders.
No sufficient Benefit System
In most developed countries, there are many benefit systems for senior citizens in which they can cover their living expenses. In Sri Lanka, all government employees receive a pension after their retirement. But there are many senior citizens which are hardly suffering from economic suppression. Even though the government provides a small amount of benefit for them as a monthly allowance, truly it is not sufficient to survive at least a week.
When the elder population grows, Sri Lanka needs to address their economic issues as well.
In conclusion, Sri Lanka can take immediate and long-term actions in order to face this challenge. First Sri Lanka needs to address its health sector issues, especially improving the technology, manufacturing medicines locally and lowering the prices, and addressing the issues of the health care people in order to reduce the protests.
Secondly, Sri Lanka needs to introduce a benefits system for all the senior citizens which is similar to developed countries.
In order to prevent social isolation, volunteer works, crafts, and arts working, using them as advisors with their experiences can be promoted among senior citizens with a rewarding system that admires their services.
Most importantly, upholding the Human Rights of the Elder people, improving welfare services for elders, and making a peaceful environment for elders are very important to Sri Lanka.