The number of aged individuals in the world continues to rise tremendously as more people attain the age of 60 years, which is considered the beginning of old age. Statistics indicates that the elderly persons in the world represent 11% of the population and that the figure is expected to double in the next 3 decades (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2015). The increasing number of elderly people in the society is a great concern to both the government and other policymaking stakeholders since this population requires special care due to the health complication that come with old age.
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At old age, most people experience financial and other difficulties due to their inability to engage in productive activities. Some of the challenges that the old population faces include financial constraints, abuse, lack of proper medical care, and psychological problems due to isolation among others. Given that the elderly are resourceful in different ways, a change in policy is needed to ensure that the population’s needs are considered. The old people are highly experienced, and they have a lot to offer to the young generations in terms of material and non-material support such as useful ideas and solutions to crises.
The problems faced by this population are compounded by the lack of policies and projects directed at empowering them especially at their early old age state. The current policies and projects directed at addressing the needs of this special population group are not well defined, and this factor has seen most old people suffer unnecessarily. This paper will focus on the various challenges facing the elderly in society. In addition, it will offer recommendations regarding the kind of policies and projects that should be initiated in the next 50 years to ensure that the needs of the aging persons are addressed.
Affordable Health Care Provision
One of the most significant problems that affect the aging population is the lack of quality health care. Given that old age is associated with numerous illnesses due to reduced immunity, there is a need for a functional healthcare system that offers affordable quality care for the old. Health care should be made accessible to all aging people regardless of their financial status (Christensen, Doblhammer, Rau, & Vaupel, 2009). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health refers to a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, but not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (Manderscheid et al., 2010, p. 1).
The WHO insists that for the world to achieve a healthy aging population, preventative measures ought to be adopted by availing treatment for the sick individuals. According to the organization, disease prevention and avoidance of injuries at a young age contributes to good health during old age (Manderscheid et al., 2010). Based on this statement, it is imperative to formulate policies to prevent and treat diseases before they reach the acute stages.
In accordance with preventative measures spelt out by the WHO, awareness should be created among the public on the importance of avoiding practices that could lead to health issues later in old age (Silverstein & Giarrusso, 2010). Some practices such as smoking and drug abuse are the leading causes of old age health problems. Therefore, policies should be directed towards cutting down the consumption rates of these substances to achieve a healthy aging population in the future. The public should be educated on the health issues associated with substance abuse and trained on the best ways to quit such practices effectively.
Workplace policies should be altered to accommodate the principle of prevention of hazardous activities such as exposure to chemicals and other harmful substances. Injuries, which are closely associated with poor health during old age, should be averted in the workplace. Adopting such measures will ensure that the world has a healthy aging generation since most health hazards will have been eliminated. For instance, smoking is associated with chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Such illnesses are known to be prevalent among the old population. Therefore, educating the public on the connection between substance abuse and old age illnesses could be a major step towards achieving a healthy aging population.
Another area of concern regarding health care is HIV/AIDS, which is a leading cause of other illnesses due to reduced immunity amongst the victims. The community needs to be encouraged to practice safe sex to avoid the spread of this killer disease, which is believed to spread rapidly due to lack of awareness. Even though it is difficult to achieve zero cases of HIV/AIDs, it is important for the various governments in the world to partner with nongovernmental organization to provide education to the public regarding the need to practice protected sex. Statistics indicates that the disease continues to rise among the aging population, which poses a great threat to the global goal of achieving a healthy aging population (Hudson, 2010). Women are especially at a higher risk of contracting the disease than their male counterparts.
Research indicates that women above the age of reproduction rarely use protection following the assumption that protection is only meant for family planning (Connidis, 2010). This aspect illustrates the community’s lack of information regarding the importance of practicing protected sex. The same protective measure is echoed by the WHO, which attributes the rising number of aging population suffering from the disease to the lack of information regarding protective measures (Hudson, 2010). Therefore, governments should launch projects aimed at creating awareness about the disease to achieve a healthy aging population in the next 50 years.
The attainment of a feasible solution to the needs of the aged population in the next 50 years involves addressing the needs of the youths. Therefore, it is important to address the health risks prevalent amongst the youths to avert the wellness issues occurring at old age. Governments in the world should partner with the private sector to provide a subsidized insurance medical cover for the low-income earners. This move will ensure that every individual has a life cover coupled with increasing accessibility to quality health care. This policy has been successful in the US where the Affordable Care Act requires every individual to have a medical insurance cover (Silverstein & Giarrusso, 2010). Similarly, in Canada, citizens are mobilized to save and acquire medical insurance covers, which are available even to the low-income earners through subsidization.
Out of Work Benefits Plans
The creation of awareness should be integrated with incentive programs aimed at encouraging the public to assist the aging population through the provision of special care. Such incentive programs could be effective if the government partnered with the private sector to introduce an out-of-duty payment plan for persons out of work. The payments would cater for the provision of care to an aged person in serious need of such care (Alley, Liebig, Pynoos, Banerjee, & Choi, 2007). Most people are willing to assist the aged, and such a plan would act as a motivation strategy to encourage more support in the backdrop of the rising number of aging persons.
Such a program has been operational in Canada, and it has worked well for the country. The plan offers benefits termed as the ‘Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits’ to employees who are away from work to provide care for an aged relative in emergency cases. Family caregivers are more important than any other source of care, and thus it should be encouraged through such incentives. The introduction of such a program in other parts of the world could encourage more people to continue providing care for the aging persons. Such a move would establish a culture of helping aged family members in the backdrop of the increasing number of aging population. Most old persons often suffer neglect from their family members due to their old status. Neglect is one of the major issues identified with the elder groups, thus introducing such a plan could be a major achievement.
Social isolation has been cited as one of the major challenges affecting the aged groups in society (Christensen et al., 2009). The problem is compounded by the fact that most aged persons are either bereaved or divorced, and thus they lead a lonely life. Loneliness affects the groups psychologically, which warrants a policy change to encourage active involvement of such people in community projects to deter problems emerging from such isolations. Projects targeting persons beyond 60 years should be launched at the community level. Seniors should be encouraged to participate in such programs to offer ideas based on skills and experience. Allowances should be paid as a way of encouraging them to participate and compensation for their time and ideas.
Care for the aging Persons with Disabilities
The aging population is composed of disabled persons who require special attention since their neglect would mean failure in addressing the problems of the aged (Silverstein & Giarrusso, 2010). To address the issue of providing care for the aged disabled persons in society, it would be important to address the issues of the disabled youth who will form the next generation of the aged population.
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Considering the expensive nature of addressing such needs, governments all over the world should initiate programs aimed at empowering the youths with disabilities and encourage their involvement in community projects. Some forms of disabilities are caused by chronic illnesses and in such cases, huge amounts of money are required to cater for medical needs. The global governments should launch a free medical insurance scheme for all the disabled persons in their respective countries. This move would ensure that the issues affecting the aging persons with special needs are addressed satisfactorily.
Education about the Financial Needs
Governments all over the world should come up with policies aimed at mobilizing the working and non-working aging population on the need to save and invest in real assets as a way of being assured of a sustainable income at old age. Financial restraints amongst the aged are part of the greatest challenges affecting the aged persons. Therefore, encouraging saving and investment may go a long way in dealing with the problems that are associated with aging. Education on investment should be carried out to encourage the community to invest in less-risky ventures to avoid losses.
Such education should be should be done at the societal level to benefit everyone in the community. In addition to investment training, the public should be made aware of the problems associated with old age and encouraged to adopt certain measures at a young age to avoid suffering from the same at the old age. The public could also be trained on how to save through pension schemes that provide retirement benefits for the aged.
Education about Abuse, Rights, and Services
Abuse is another significant problem that faces the old population in society. Unfortunately, minimal awareness is created on the issues revolving around abuse directed to the aged in society. Most old people are ignorant, or they do not know their rights as citizens of their respective countries. Therefore, the majority of old people face abuse from the young generation and in most cases, reports over such abuses do not reach the relevant authorities or the media. Abuse in this context refers to all types of mistreatments such as sexual abuse, assault, or other forms of vices directed to the old persons with the intention of instilling fear among them (Alley et al., 2007).
Raising awareness among the old will instill confidence in them and cases involving abuse will be reported to the relevant authorities for action. Raising the rights’ awareness among the population may be a major step towards winning the fight against abuse. This assertion holds because the current and potential abusers will shy from the practice in fear of facing criminal charges. Establishing a private helpline for reports of abuse could also go a long way in providing an immediate and future solution to the problem of abuse.
Educating the population on the right to engage in the community development projects is another step that could tackle the problems facing the old population. In most cases, the aged are not involved in community work. In addition, they are mostly stigmatized, which complicates their mental health (Connidis, 2010). Therefore, allowing the aged to engage in community projects will reduce the stigmatization feeling, which is evident among them and increase their confidence. The population should also be enlightened on the various programs initiated by their respective governments to benefit them. The lack of knowledge about the existence of such initiatives may be a major drawback to the process of alleviating the problems that come with old age.
Ensuring and Enabling Supportive Environments
Enhancing the welfare of the aging population is another significant move towards the realization of the goal of addressing the needs of the old population in the next 50 years. One of the ways of addressing welfare issues affecting the population is through the provision of affordable housing to all people in the world. The problem of inaccessibility of houses is chronic in developing countries as opposed to the developed nations.
However, in developed countries, the houses available are not accessible to persons with disabilities. Therefore, it suffices to conclude that the problem affects both classes of nations almost equally. Research indicates that the living environment of individuals is a great determinant of their welfare (Connidis, 2010). In light of this understanding, the provision of affordable housing for the aging groups could be a major step towards the achievement of the aforementioned goal.
Homelessness has become a social issue affecting most aged people both in developing and developed countries. Statistics indicates that about 500,000 people in the US do not have a permanent residence, and they spend their nights in the streets (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2015). This number is high and it is composed mainly of the aging groups whose interests need to be addressed if the country is to achieve its goals on addressing the needs of the old people in society within the next 50 years. The provision of permanent homes to the dispossessed individuals will avert security and health issues associated with the problem of homelessness.
Homelessness poses great security concerns and health issues since the victims are at high risk of contracting infectious diseases due to the lack of proper sanitation. One key need that has to be addressed to achieve the objective of eradicating issues related to the older groups in the society is health. Providing permanent houses for such individuals will go a long way in achieving this objective since it will reduce the chances of spread of infectious diseases (Christensen et al., 2009). In addition, the aging groups should be provided with job opportunities to enable them invest in real assets or save in the pension sector.
The lack of permanent residence among the victims denies them the privilege of seeking job opportunities since they lack permanent addresses. Therefore, the government should come up with policies that will facilitate the provision of permanent residence to the homeless. The government, in partnership with the private sector, should work towards availing mortgages to low-income earners to enable them acquire permanent residences.
Older adults represent about 11% of the global population, and the number is set to rise as more people continue to attain the age of 60 years. Old age is associated with numerous challenges that include financial constraints, neglect, and lack of quality health care services among others. Old age is also linked to mental and psychological challenges due to stress and other related conditions. Most elderly persons live alone, which may compound their psychological status. The increasing number of the old population is a great concern to governments all over the world since such individuals need special care.
Therefore, policy changes are inevitable to ensure that the needs of the special groups are met. Some of the changes that could be helpful in addressing the problems associated with old age include encouraging the aging population to invest in real assets to be assured of a sustainable income in the future. In areas of health, the government needs to promote awareness of the harmful old age effects of substance abuse among the youths coupled with the provision of affordable health care to all without discrimination. Addressing the issues affecting aged groups in the next 50years requires addressing the current problems affecting the young generation. This assertion holds because the current young generation will move into the aging bracket with time. Addressing the young generations’ challenges at this level will thus translate into the achievement of the outlined milestones in the future aged population.
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