Hubs proposed to facilitate future elders | Sunday Observer

Hubs proposed to facilitate future elders

4 October, 2020
Sri Lanka’s ‘demographic dividend’ will end in another 17 years File pic: Lake House Media Library
Sri Lanka’s ‘demographic dividend’ will end in another 17 years File pic: Lake House Media Library

As 20 per cent of the Sri Lankan population will comprise the elderly by 2030, Sri Lanka is in dire need of a proper plan to accommodate upcoming demographical changes, Head, Department of Demography, University of Colombo, Dr. Manori Weeratunga said.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the expert in the field of aging studies, said that ensuring the economic participation of the elderly is the biggest challenge Sri Lanka will face in the next decade.

At present, the total elderly population of the country is 12.4 per cent with 44 per cent male and 56 per cent female. Universally, the elderly are identified as those above 60.

Sri Lanka has a comparatively moderate life expectancy at birth. According to the 2012 population census, the life expectancy of the average Sri Lankan is 75 years (male - 72 years and female 79 years). It reflects the fact that an elderly person would live 15 more years on average.

“Therefore, our attention to income generation after the age of 60 is very important. If they are financially independent, they would not be a burden on the country,” Dr. Weeratunga said.

According to demography, there are three layers in the population which is common to all countries.

The population between 0-14 years is recognised as the child population while the age group between 15-59 is considered as the labour force. The population group 60 years and above is the elderly population. Dr. Weeratunga said that today Sri Lanka has a large labour force which is termed as a ‘demographic dividend’ in the discipline of population studies.

“Many Asian countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam achieved a substantial leap in their development using their demographic dividends,” Dr. Weeratunga said.

Sri Lanka’s ‘demographic dividend’ will end in another 17 years. It will eventually inherit a large portion of dependants after 2037 as most of the current labour force will be in the elderly population category by that time.

“That is why we need a proper plan to accommodate these demographical challenges” Dr. Weeratunga said. The senior demographer proposes a national level strategy to form elderly hubs to facilitate the elderly. Such elderly hubs will provide a wide range of services to the elderly, such as introducing income generation pathways, healthcare services and social security. She also suggests to create an elderly care service similar to a midwife service where a mobile service can be provided to elders with restricted mobility. In Sri Lanka, only one per cent live in elder’s homes and elders’ day care centres are becoming popular.