Anti-poverty banks to host care cen­tres for se­niors

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Akash Wi­dana­p­athi­rana

Care cen­tres will be set up at 1,074 Sa­mur­dhi bank branches next year to pro­vide recre­ational and ba­sic health ser­vices for the el­derly dur­ing the day time.

Sa­mur­dhi banks were set up to help re­duce poverty in 1995 but lacked proper man­age­ment and be­came politi­cised.

Dr Su­nil Jayan­tha Nawaratne, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the De­part­ment Of Sa­mur­dhi De­vel­op­ment, said the cen­tres would have equip­ment to mea­sure blood pres­sure and blood glu­cose lev­els. Books, news­pa­pers, and mag­a­zines will be pro­vided along with TV. In ad­di­tion, the el­derly will be able to play in­door recre­ational games like car­rom, chess, and cards.

“With the as­sis­tance of vol­un­teers, mas­sage ser­vices and PT ses­sions will also be held. There are plans to in­vite a doc­tor, too, to do reg­u­lar med­i­cal check- ups,” Dr Nawaratne said.

El­ders may also be pro­vided with lunch and tea, de­pend­ing on fa­cil­i­ties avail­able.

Dr Nawaratne said he hopes skilled el­derly peo­ple can even start small-scale ac­tiv­i­ties such as re­pair­ing elec­tric ap­pli­ances, or mobile phones.

“The as­sis­tance of var­i­ous gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in the ar­eas, in­clud­ing Sa­mur­dhi de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers, so­cial ser­vice of­fi­cers, and the Di­vi­sional Sec­re­tari­ats will be sought,’’ he said. He added the rel­e­vant cir­cu­lars will be is­sued soon.

Dr Nawaratne said the cen­tres will be funded with min­istry re­sources and do­na­tions from vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tions and also UNICEF.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­sus and Sta­tis­tics De­part­ment, there are 2.52 mil­lion el­derly peo­ple — those above 60 years of age.

By 2041, their num­bers are fore­cast to ac­count for nearly 25% of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment, the el­derly pop­u­la­tion is ris­ing as a re­sult of a num­ber of fac- tors, in­clud­ing, the low fer­til­ity rate, di­rect for­eign mi­gra­tion and longer life ex­pectancy. The life ex­pectancy has in­creased to 78.6 years for women and 72 years for men in 2012 from 77.2 years and 68.8 years in 2001. In 1946 the two val­ues were 44.7 years and 46.8 years, while in 1981 they were 72.1 years and 67.7 years re­spec­tively.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­sus of Pop­u­la­tion and Hous­ing in 2012, nearly 25.6% of the pop­u­la­tion over 60 years, was eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive out of which 1.2% was search­ing for jobs while oth­ers were em­ployed.

Sta­tis­tics also re­vealed that out of 556,960 peo­ple who were 75 or over 75 years old, 9.3% was eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive, out of that 3% were search­ing jobs and the rest were em­ployed.

Fur­ther out of the 74.4% eco- nom­i­cally in­ac­tive el­derly pop­u­la­tion, 16% re­ceived a pen­sion, while 0.6% were en­gaged in so­cial ser­vices ac­tiv­i­ties.

Shi­rani Weer­akoon, sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of So­cial Em­pow­er­ment, Wel­fare and Kandyan Her­itage, said the el­derly care cen­tre con­cept is com­mon else­where in­clud­ing South Korea and Sin­ga­pore.

But, in Sin­ga­pore, care cen­tres are tai­lor-made, bar­rier-free, more ad­vanced and run by well-trained peo­ple.

Ms Weer­akoon said two el­derly homes in Tan­galle and Kataragama will be ex­panded while an­other two in At­tidiya and Kandy, will be built on a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship ba­sis.

S. B. Dis­sanayake Min­is­ter of So­cial Em­pow­er­ment, Wel­fare and Kandyan Her­itage, said the pro­gramme aims to pro­tect el­ders from non com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases at least un­til 75 years of age. He said some el­derly peo­ple were ad­dicted to drugs and al­co­hol.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment, the el­derly pop­u­la­tion is ris­ing as a re­sult of a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing, the low fer­til­ity rate, di­rect for­eign mi­gra­tion and longer life ex­pectancy. The life ex­pectancy has in­creased to 78.6 years for women and 72 years for men in 2012 from 77.2 years and 68.8 years in 2001. In 1946 the two val­ues were 44.7 years and 46.8 years, while in 1981 they were 72.1 years and 67.7 years re­spec­tively. The as­sis­tance of var­i­ous gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in the ar­eas, in­clud­ing Sa­mur­dhi de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers, so­cial ser­vice of­fi­cers, and the Di­vi­sional Sec­re­tari­ats will be sought,’’ he said. He added the rel­e­vant cir­cu­lars will be is­sued soon.

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