To promote healthy and active ageing which are related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Social and Cultural Committee presented the detailed findings to the house on the issue.
Presenting the report, The Chairman Kinga of the Social and Cultural Committee said that the rationale behind such report is to fulfill the provision of constitution and to meet the SDG’s “Leave no one behind” agenda. He also pointed out that promoting positive ageing and bringing improvement to our elderly citizens shall also lead to Gross National Happiness in its true context.
After providing few notable backgrounds on the global scenario concerning the emerging issue of population ageing, the Committee Chairperson presented Bhutan’s scenario on the issue. “Total of 7.80 per cent of the total population in the country in 2015 were elderly people. As per the projections by the National Statistical Bureau, ageing population in Bhutan tends to increase every year and the current ageing population stands at 58,804 out of the total population of 779,666.
With such growth rates, Bhutan is expected to have the largest increase in longevity which is increase of 10 years within 25 years from 65 years lifespan in 2005 to 75 years lifespan in 2030 which will be ranked the highest in Asia.”
The observations and findings from the baseline survey on the senior citizens carried out by the Royal Society for Senior Citizens (RSSC), which was established under the Royal Command in 2011, showed that there are no facts and figures pertaining to senior citizens other than head count from the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan, 2005.
Of the total 101, 563 senior citizens, 73.8 per cent responded that they aspire to go for spiritual practices. While 18.4 per cent prefer to stay home with their families and 7.7 per cent of them would like to venture into business.
It has been found that almost about 98 per cent wished for health facilities near their dwelling and also wished for an establishment of old age nursing homes near monasteries to pursue their spiritual journey. The senior citizens also complained about the need to babysit children very often. The findings also provided that the retired monks were interested to continue their spiritual journey. It was also found that senior citizens dwelling in urban areas were more prone to non-communicable diseases than the ones staying in the rural due to the difference in their living styles.
In absence of any state sponsored system, aside from the initiatives by His Majesty The King through the kidu system, and help from CSO’s like Tarayana Foundation, the Committee presented around 10 recommendations in the house to improve the physical and emotional wellbeing of the senior citizens in the country.
The recommendations include designing policies and programs to promote the institution of extended family system to ensure social protection, strengthen geriatric care in Basic Health Units, clearly define the functions of tripartite social protection system like family care and provide home and shelters to elderly who have been ill-treated.
It also recommends aggressively promoting social, cultural and spiritual values among the citizens for positive conduct, provide leisure space suitable for the old and the disabled, and extend privileges and concessions for elderly in public services and provide training for special care givers.
The house endorsed all the recommendations with few alterations after a thorough deliberation by the members present.