Indonesia is getting older.
Life expectancy has climbed to nearly 70 years for Indonesian women and 65 for men, and continues to rise.
Globally, Indonesia has the fifth-largest elderly population in the world; in 2010, the senior population was comprised of 18.04 million elderly citizens, or 9.6 percent of the country’s total population. According to the State of the World’s Older People 2002, Indonesia’s senior population is estimated to reach 28.8 million (11 percent) in 2020.
The United Nations has predicted that this figure may even reach 25 percent in 2050, or nearly 74 million elderly people (those above 60 years of age are categorized as elderly citizens according to an Indonesian law).
Social Affairs officials acknowlege the challenges that the rapid growth of the elderly population poses, such as inadequate health care services, lack of welfare provision and a legal framework that often does not specifically address elderly people.
And while many elderly people lead a happy, active and healthy lives, aging can put a strain families, especially lower income households.
While observing the National Day for Elderly People in Jakarta on Tuesday, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono reminded the nation that elderly people are not a burden on the public, but an asset to the community that contribute to national development.
“The elderly must not be regarded as the community’s burdens, because they are the country’s assets,” Ani remarked when receiving elderly people representing Indonesia’s 33 provinces at the State Palace.
The First Lady, who will turn 60 this year, mentioned some elderly national figures — such as Herawati Diah, Titik Puspa, Moeryati Sudibyo, Martha Tilaar and Haryono Usman.
She urged the community to care more for the elderly, saying: “although they are old, they can still develop their capabilities and share their experiences with the younger generation.”
A similar sentiment was voiced by Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri in Palu, Central Java, on May 22. The minister urged the community at large to participate in caring for the elderly.
“We still have 2.9 million elderly people who are being neglected. We want to see how far people’s family values and compassion can take them in their involvement in such community affairs. This spirit has to be cultivated,” he remarked.
Based on the Social Affairs Ministry’s data for 2006, around three million out of 16.5 million elderly people are considered neglected.
Salim noted that the widespread poverty among families presented a problem in caring for the elderly.
“We understand that there are families who are experiencing extreme poverty, but there needs to be an understanding that people are here in this world because of their elderly parents. It can evoke a sense of enthusiasm among them to care for their elders,” he said.
According to Salim, Indonesia has a large number of abandoned elderly people, and said it’s important to involve all sections of the community, and to seek help from the district government.
The management of neglected elderly people is one of the main responsibilities of the Social Affairs Ministry. Each neglected senior receives a social benefit of Rp 300,000 ($33) each month. The ministry not only runs several nursing homes, but also provides home care at family residences.
Bali is also planning to establish a senior citizen center to accommodate elderly people who wish to contribute their ideas to the society and the nation.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has lauded the plan to start a Senior Citizen Center, which will help the elderly people to feel productive and useful, said the governor.
Dr. Luh Ketut Suryani said that the government should take steps to improve the welfare and health of elderly people, because if they are neglected, poor and sick, they will most certainly become burdens to their families and the government.