On 22 August 2019, HelpAge Cambodia organised a dissemination workshop on the research findings on the issues facing and the needs of older people in Phnom Penh. Seventy-four participants joined this workshop including government officials, development partners, NGOs, educational institutions, universities, representatives of the media and members of the Cambodian Ageing Network (CAN) from six provincial capitals (Kampong Thom, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh).
The Research entitled “ Needs and Challenges of Older People” was conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Social Affairs and other relevant ministries starting at the end of 2018. The research aimed to understand the needs and challenges of older people, especially older women and older people with disabilities in relation to health, economic, community engagement and policy gaps. Using a mixed methodology, the research results were obtained from 316 older persons, including 219 female aged 60 to over 90. The investigations queried the older population about their Activities of daily living (ADL) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) performance, disabilities, cognitive difficulties and depression, dietary nutrients, family health care and economic support, and examples of abuses. More in-depth analysis such as correlation studies were applied to understand the relationship between and influence of some variables.
- Physical wellbeing: the research showed that most older people in their 60s and older, especially older women and older people with disabilities, are at increased risk for developing non-communicable diseases. Joint pain, high blood pressure, diabetes made it difficult for them to perform daily activities.
- Mental wellbeing: the depression scale is quite high among the interviewed older persons. three typical depression factors among old-aged people in the study areas are 1) Chronic unexplained physical symptoms, 2) Memory loss, and 3) Behavioral changes (i.e. more often talking about death or isolation from others).
- Health challenges: the majority of older people’s health problems are caused by poverty, infections, malnutrition, limited access to quality health care, caregiver lacking knowledge/skills and time in caring for older people and lack of communications between the older and young people. Among those, poverty is the most important issue that prevents older people from seeking health and medical services.
- Economic: the main income source of older people depend largely on the support of family members (up to 71%) and low self-employment income. Some seniors fall into poor conditions as they get older because of the distribution of their assets to their children. Especially, older women are less likely to get paid jobs, most of them rely on family members almost twice as much as men because most of them do unpaid work, such as housekeeping, and grandchildren.
- Community Support: Older people’s associations (OPAs) are seen as part of health care support for older people. Those who are ill or home-bound appreciate visits from OPA member. Some found this helpful in their recovery. However, the research did not find a correlation between OPA’s activities and positive impact on older people’s issues. This finding is likely because most of these OPAs are newly formed by the government with very limited activities and resources.
- Policy gaps: Government has demonstrated the commitment to caring for their older people by developing relevant policies. The research highlighted the existing national policies such as the National Ageing Policy, National Social Protection Policy Framework, and the National Health Care Policy and Strategies for Older People. Their action plans are being designed. However, progress towards achieving the objectives remains slow due to limited resources and challenges coordinating between various responsible agencies.
In its conclusion, the research provided recommendations to the government and relevant institutions working in the sectors as follow:
- The awareness and older people’s issues should be included in education programmes from secondary to high school.
- The NGOs and stakeholders should continue to work and collaborate with the Cambodian Government through the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY ) to achieve the first priority of financial security for older people as prioritised in the National Ageing Policy.
- The government should continue to extend and improve better health services and accesses and encourages more specialised medical doctors to work in health centres and health posts where older people are seeking assistance.
- For a long-term reform, more specialised medical doctors are assigned to help diagnosis the symptoms of older people who seek services at health centres or posts.
- Assistive materials or equipment should be given to those impaired older people to assist them in their daily living.
- Non-contributory cash transfer programs should be developed and approved for the benefit of older people, particularly older women so that they are able to access health care and other social services.
- Continue to promote more awareness among the family caregivers about the elder abuses, depression and other mental health cares, so that they are performing their cares in more older-friendly manners.
- The stakeholders should work with monasteries to make use of these sites for the purpose of promoting a greater understanding of the needs of older people and for closer inter-generational relationships in their village.
- The study finding reveals that OPAs established by MoSVY do not perform very actively in providing more supports to the members. It is suggested that there be an evaluation study to diagnosis the issues and identify the solutions to optimise the roles and contributions of the OPAs.
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