Wed, 21 Jun 2000

Govt to adopt program on the elderly

JAKARTA (JP): The government is preparing a program to enable people over 60 years of age to become independent and productive.

In line with the policy of having the elderly live within the family, a national program is being devised based on studies in Yogyakarta, East Java, Bali, Central Java and West Sumatra.

The program will start in conjunction with the International Day for the Elderly on Oct. 1, Harry Heriawan Saleh of the State Ministry for Transmigration and Population said.

Harry, the Deputy Minister for Population Quality, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the five provinces were chosen for their highest concentration of elderly people and diverse ways of dealing with the elderly.

To help fund the program, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) has contributed some US$400,000 with a promise of more to come, Harry said on the sidelines of a seminar on the elderly, held by the National Family Planning Board (BKKBN).

He added the upcoming program consisted of projects spanning five to 10 years, focusing on improving social welfare and security, health services, family and community support, life quality and improving the availability and quality of facilities for the elderly.

The increasing number of the aged has spurred the government to take action, especially because of the low social welfare, services and facilities for the elderly in the country.

State Minister of Transmigration and Population Al Hilal Hamdi said that by 2020 Indonesia would face an "aged population boom".

Those above 60 would grow to 29 million from 18 million in 2000, he said in his speech read by Harry.

BKKBN chief Khofifah Indar Parawansa said that placing the elderly in special homes should only be the resort for those without families, or whose families were poor.

"Our people still uphold the values of being together," Khofifah, also the state minister for women's empowerment, said.

Al Hilal pointed to the gradual change in Indonesian society, leading to more problems in caring for aged parents due to smaller families.

The changes were smaller families, the high mobility of the younger generation leading to elderly communities and declining psychological ties between generations.

Such changes compel the elderly to become more independent, he said in his speech.

"The stereotyped depiction of the elderly as a burden on the family and society must be changed to one of productivity and independence," Khofifah said.

She said that many people above 60 were still productive, fit, and had good memory, however many have had to retire at 55, given the retirement age for civil servants. Demographers note that half of Indonesia's elderly are still working.

Nessim Tumkaya, a UNFPA representative, said the option of placing the elderly in special homes in the West "provides a logical solution" in the short term, "but many problems have arisen from it."

He said he was happy to note that in Indonesia the elderly were integrated into the family where they could contribute their wisdom and experience. (10)